Saturday, 30 June 2012

Ten Truths

On Day 13 at Beyond Layers, Kim challenged us to reveal ten truths about ourselves, and then create a fun photo to go with the revelations.

Ok, first I'll deliver the (at least) ten truths about me.

1. I never drink coffee. Only tea. My grandmother was a great coffee drinker and we used to go on picnics in the garden and drink coffee when I was a little girl. Okay, my coffee mostly consisted of milk and sugar with a dash of coffee, but by the age of seven I had had my fill. After that I have only had coffee if it really has been unavoidable. Luckily it very seldom is.

2. I love Dandie Dinmont Terriers. There has been at least one Dandie in our house for 21 years. Currently we have six Dandies, the eldest 15 of them years old and the two youngest ones 8 months.

3. Our dogs are wonderful though at times I too infuriating for words, like when they wake us up after mere five hours of sleep and insist on being taken out the very minute, or insist on barking all passers-by, or decide to have a barking fit on a quiet evening just because nobody is passing by. But I love them to bits.

4. I enjoy  travelling, either with or without the dogs. It's fun to pack the doggies in the car and drive somewhere, and it's lovely to be able to occasionally travel without them, too, preferably together with Better Half.

5. I am a great fan of J.R.R. Tolkien and Lord of the Rings. I used to read the trilogy through every summer for 20 years, but ever since the Peter Jackson films were released, I have only read the books once. The storyline and characters in the films have taken over. Frankly, I have lost count on how many times I have seen the films.

6. I do not watch films very much, but the ones I like I tend to watch again. Not twice. Not thrice. Over and over again. See above.

7. I love singing. I have taken singing lessons for quite a few years now. In classical terms, I am a mezzosoprano. I also sing in a 6-woman ensemble, our repertoire consists of barbershop, classic pop and some jazz standards, and I couldn't imagine life without the group.

8. I used to lose my voice totally with flu twice a year, just like my mother, but ever since I started learning proper vocal techniques this hasn't happened once. Knock on wood.

9. I enjoy listening to music in languages I don't understand. Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, to name a few. That way I can listen to vocal music even while I'm working on something that demands concentration without getting distracted by the lyrics.

10. I tend to do things in fits and starts. This goes for  Better Half as well... When the whimsy strikes us, we might suddenly decide to build a new flowerbed in the garden and do it all in a few hours, and then not touch something long-planned for weeks or months on.

11. I love hats. I don't wear them every day, except of course in the winter when one cannot go without, but far more often than others around here.

12. I am terrible at making choices. It takes forever for me to choose anything, from what clothes to wear and which tube of toothpaste to buy, to deciding the template to use for a scrapbooking layout or which photos to start processing. *sheepish grin*

Seems that I ended up with twelve, but that's alright. It was far more fun that I thought it would be, so thank you for the challenge.

Then to the fun photo. As the challenge included the word "fun", I chose this picture I took last year in June. I was sitting on a park bench, in the shade on a sunny morning of a hot day, and just for fun, I snapped this silly photo of my new hat and my leg and foot with a sandal. The picture has amused me a lot, I like it, and it is, after all, a picture of me. Kind of.

Morning in Park

Processing resources:
- texture Tone Texture 10 by Jerry Jones
- texture 118v2 by Sirius-sdz
- gradient Rivendell 13 by ElvenSword
- framing action by Chain

And here's a recipe card for that.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Ornamental Onion

Hooray, it’s Thursday and I finally managed to take part in the Texture Tuesday challenge again. It’s been a while, so happy to participate! The challenge this time was to use a flower photo with any of Kim’s textures.

I chose an ornamental onion, a tall and handsome Allium plant I photographed on 12 May this year in a garden in Dunfermline, Scotland. In processing, I used two of Kim’s textures as well as techniques we’ve practised on Kim’s Beyond Layers II eCourse. I’m so much behind on the course, but I’m catching up little by little, and I want to do each challenge, because I enjoy them a lot and don’t want to miss anything.

Ornamental Onion

Processing resources:
- textures Faved & Grey Day Slate by Kim Klassen
- a pink gradient from The Super Dooper Gradient Pack by Digital Phenom

Just for the fun of it, I thought I would create a recipe for this one. Or actually, not only for fun -- already now I notice that in some of the course challenges I have forgotten the steps I’ve taken. I’m sure this will help me review later on what’s good and what’s less good in the process or work flow, and perhaps that way I can also see what I have learned.

Making the recipe card was fun!  Resources used for the card:
- background paper Subtle White 7 by Jerry Jones
- gradient Rivendell 09 by ElvenSword
- fonts Snell Roundhand & Big Caslon

As a matter of fact, processing is never this simple... It’s not as if I’d just snap my fingers and say ok, this is what I’ll do. There’s a lot of trying out involved, browsing through numerous textures, then choosing one and, after a while of dabbling, deleting it when it doesn’t do something I’d like it to do, or does something I definitely don’t want it to do... But I’m making progress, it’s not all the time purely hit-and-miss anymore. I’m beginning to see what I’d like to end up with. Yay!

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Brush Lovin'?

Day 12 at Beyond Layers was about using brushes in Photoshop. Nothing really new there, I have created some for my own use and used quite a few - I love them in photomanipulations and also for scrapbooking. I have used brushes in scrapbooking layouts and also to create my own scrapbooking papers. I have used pretty swirl stamps on cards and to print pretty envelopes, too. But I still have to figure out their possible uses for photos.

Ok, you could do what Kim has done and create word art with quotes, but I see two problems with this: first, how likely am I to use a quote in a picture? Not very. During Beyond Layers I have already done that far more than I thought I ever would. It's just not my cup of tea. Second, how likely am I to use the same quote again? The chances for that are really minimal, and even then I would most likely want to use a different font. And the whole point of stamp brushes is that they are meant to be used several times, right?

Actually I'm asking myself, what possible use could I have for these stamp brushes in processing my photos? I can see but two possibilities -- they are really great for things like a watermark, I use one on all my pictures. Another option might be to use a stamp brush to frame a photo, I could see myself doing that. After all I've tried that before when creating icons. Anything else? I really don't know.

So I obviously didn't go brush crazy, but I did the Day 12 assignment anyway and used one of the word art brushes provided. Here's the result.

Shipboard Sunset

The photo was taken on 2 May this year, somewhere on the Baltic Sea. The sunset was really beautiful, and the thin stripe in top middle is a plane.

Thank you for the resources used:
- texture Raised Effect by Jerry Jones
- texture Paper Stained Light by Kim Klassen
- word art brush from Beyond Brush Set by Kim Klassen
- framing action by Chain

Monday, 25 June 2012

Eyes Wide Open

At Beyond Layers, day 11, Kim shared a texture called Shine and her recipe for using it, so I decided to give it a go. The photo was taken on a rainy day like this, when this butterfly had obviously sought shelter from the rain and stood in our living room window for hours.
Didn't follow her instructions to a T, though, since my photo was not nearly the same as hers. But that's what I mostly do with recipes when cooking, too - follow them up to a point and then do my own variation.

Butterfly in Window

Processing resources:
- texture Shine by Kim Klassen
- font Miama by Linus Romer

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Painterly Effect

Day 10 challenge at Beyond Layers was called Painterly Effect. The idea was to do more or less the opposite of what we have been doing so far (soft & subtle) and create a heavily texturized, painterly effect on a photo.

Having done photo manipulation for a few years, I found myself standing on rather firm ground here. Not as if I had nothing to learn! Kim did share some interesting new techniques with us, though, some of which I had never tried before. It's wonderfully refreshing to find new ways of achieving the same kinds of effects.

I thought it might be worthwhile picking one of my Scotland pictures for the challenge this time -- thinking about the landscapes there, painterly rather easily crosses one's mind. Here's the one, after I worked on it for a few hours.

On a Scottish Loch

For this one, I used a number of textures. I had an idea in mind, and to achieve it, I needed altogether four different textures and numerous other layers: black & white adjustment, several hue & saturation adjustment layers, levels adjustment, and the new one for me: smart filters.

Thank you for the processing tools:
- textures Old Painting 22 & Paint on Canvas II by Kerstin Frank
- textures Finale & Sienna by Kim Klassen
- a blue gradient  from Super Dooper Gradient Pack by Digital Phenom

I'm feeling quite happy with this. It was a fun exercise to do, and I am slowly catching up... ok, the others at Beyond Layers are be at day 20 today, but although I'm at times sorely tempted to jump ahead and join the fun, I'm going to do it the slow way, day by day, challenge by challenge.

Start to Finish

Beyond Layers Day 8 was another still-life challenge, to illustrate how surroundings affect the feel of our photos. The first part of the challenge was to create a mini-studio at home, if possible, and then set something up there.

Actually, this is something I experimented with in March. In the afternoon, the best light in our house comes from the western windows - the living room has lovely, antique yellow wallpapers, too, and the trickiest part is to manouvre a suitable piece of furniture next to a blank part of the wall. (That can be a challenge, though. ) But as I already already used the living room for the carnation photo, I decided to try another option.

To start with, I set up our dog-grooming table in the room where Better Half usually grooms our dogs. It's light-weight and easy to move. So far so good, but the surface is black rubber intended to prevent a dog slipping, and is definitely not photogenic. So I go about to find something to cover the table, and find Mum's old tablecloths. Perfect! The next step is to find something to hide the bookcase and dog crates in the room and to reflect the light. No screens in the house, but I carry a foldable laundry drying rack into the room, prop it against a chair and drape it first with cream-coloured curtains. They are too light and transparent, though, so I need to use some sheets under them. Voila! There I have my mini-studio, with no need to purchase anything.

The second part of the challenge was the composition. Here I did a lot of experimenting, and for this challenge I picked two photos of the series that I liked, with some dried roses and my grandfather's old cigarette box.

The third part of the challenge was to try out the photoshop techniques Kim instructed us in: gradient  mapping, hue/saturation adjustment layers, layer masks, including gradient masks, and selective editing. I have experience in using the other techniques, but the selective editing of hue & saturation was totally new to me!

So I played with these two pictures, and here are the results.

Grandfather's Cigarette Box

The resources I used for processing:
- action Sunshine by The Pioneer Woman
- textures Awaken & Happy Heart by Kim Klassen
- gradient Vintage by Kim Klassen
- a blue gradient from the wonderful Super Dooper gradient pack by Digital Phenom

Old Rose

Processing resources:
- action Lovely & Ethereal by The Pioneer Woman
texture  Paper Love by Kim Klassen
- a red gradient from the Super Dooper gradient pack by Digital Phenom

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Choosing Happiness

On Day 7 of Beyond Layers there was talk about happiness, and choosing to be happy, or going towards it, step by step.

Stopping to think about it, I have no need to choose happiness. Quite simply, I AM happy. True, there are these bigger and smaller glitches every now and then, but all in all, what about them? They come and go, and I'll survive them. I have weathered some storms and I am resilient enough to survive a few more. My life is good, I live with the love of my life, my Better Half is a wonderful person I love so deeply, we have a beautiful home and these occasionally infuriating but charming funny dogs, I enjoy my work, I have rewarding hobbies that have brought me many friends and even a few close ones...

Yes, I am a very happy woman.

On the lake on an August evening

Here I'm posting what in my opinion is one of the best photos I've ever taken. I shot it last August with my phone while we were -- well, fishing on the lake. I didn't catch a single fish, Better Half might have caught one, I think. It was rather late, there was next to no breeze and mostly we were just floating about in the cooling evening. I didn't feel like doing anything to the picture, I just added my watermark and the frames. I have no idea if it really is that good a picture, but for me it has the mood of that moment. Peace. Quiet. Happiness.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Time Capsules & Storyboard

The challenge for Beyond Layers Day 5 & 6 was easy: creating Time Capsules and making a storyboard, with ready-made templates.

Time capsules is a concept I love. Photography is for me in any case recording - recording everyday events, capturing moments. It's something I've learned from my father. He was a keen photographer, and of course took pictures at Christmas, in family parties and on holiday trips, when we toured Finland with my parents and sister, but that wasn't all. He also shot us kids in our everyday. I still treasure a particular series he caught of me and my cousin, aged about five, playing with a pail of water in our grandparents' garden and totally oblivious to being photographed.

When my mother passed away, we had a hard time finding "presentable" pictures of her for the funeral, although Dad had been photographing her for decades. It's customary to have this one picture of the deceased on a table, with a candle and some flowers next to it. In the picture the person is seated alone, preferably with a smile on her face, and that's it.

Well, there were loads of shots of Mum walking, working, dancing, fishing, swimming, skiing, gardening and very very seldom was she alone.  I asked my sister why we couldn't make a collage instead, showing Mum the way I remember her, active, but of course Sis wouldn't hear of it, because it's Not Done.

A few years ago I stumbled on digital scrapbooking on the Net, and realized this might be something for me. I'm not really into embellishments or quotes... what I like to do is tell stories, capture time. In 2010, I bought a small album and created a birthday present for my ever active better half, showing many of the things accomplished during the year, from one birthday to the next. I'm still quite proud of the little album.

But now to the challenge itself.  I decided to make a time capsule of the day the challenge was given, 3 May. On that day I journeyed from Rostock in Germany to Zwolle in the Netherlands on a coach tour with some students of mine. We left our ship in Rostock after 8 in the morning, and it was a 550-kilometre drive, so most of the day was spent just sitting on the coach. We arrived in Zwolle early enough in the afternoon to go for a long walk in town, though, which naturally resulted in a lot of pictures.

Early morning in Rostock. Pictures from the shipboard.
Template by Kim Klassen 

Driving across Northern Germany. Shots from the coach window.
Template by Kim Klassen.

Breaks along the Autobahn. Shots of the places we stopped at.
Template by Ginger Pixel. 

On the  road in the Netherlands, more coach window shots.
Template by Kim Klassen  
Sightseeing in Zwolle.
Template by me.

Walking in Zwolle.  More pictures of the town centre.
Template by Timounette.

Window-Shopping in Zwolle. Still more photos of the town centre.
Template by Flaneuse.

The thing I learned here was to make the outlook more uniform by adding a gradient map layer to the storyboards.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Vision & Blur

Beyond Layers Day 4 Challenge: Vision and Blur. It's about shooting photos with beautiful, dreamy blur.

Now, while studying the topic, I learned a new term - my camera is a point-and-shooter. Meaning, of course, that it's designed for simple operation, there's no changing the lens or anything of the kind. I also found out that it's not possible to blur the background like with a "better" camera/lens unless one is focusing on a (relatively small) object really close to the lens. Well, that's then it - if I want blur, I either focus on a small object, or produce the blur in Photoshop, and forget the advice about acquiring a better lens.

Earlier this spring, I did practical training on White Balance, and now, following Kim's suggestions, I also played around with the Exposure Value settings. Overexposing slightly is really a way to lighten up the image, but shooting outside in the garden, I also noticed that underexposing some really helped to pop out the colours of flowers from a general greenness. Hey, I'm learning!

Today I have three photos - the first one is a study in light I did in April. Shot in the afternoon in our living room, blur created by using the macro setting and by using texture, called Plaster Squared, by Kim Klassen, at soft light and using layer mask on the carnation.

texture Plaster Squared by Kim Klassen

The second is a shot of a lovely Dandie Dinmont Terrier statuette we bought at the World Winner Dog Show 2008 in Stockholm, if I remember correctly. The statuette is really a little masterpiece, it has an exactly correct Dandie look. With this, I had to do a lot of tweaking for the lightness, but I'm very happy with the result.

The Look
texture Phoebe by Kim Klassen

The third picture is one I took yesterday morning, and here I tried out underexposing the shot. Used a touch of an action called Lovely & Ethereal by The Pioneer Woman to finish it.

action Lovely & Etherial by The Pioneer Woman

But now, the sun is shining, the grass is growing and I hear the lawnmower silently calling...

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Me in Six Words

Day 3 Challenge at Beyond Layers was to write a Six-Word Memoir as published on Smith Mag site, or as I took it, to describe ourselves in six words. Six words. Well, after some scribbling I ended up with Laughing, loving, teaching, touching, doing, daring...

The photographic challenge was to add the 6-word memoir to a photo. Originally, I did just that, but somehow, with the photo I chose, the text looked out of place. There was simply too little room for it. So I thought, why not do a scrapbook layout with the photo and text? And I did, and it looks so much more like me now.

Texture Wonderful Magic by Kim Klassen
Template by N@te

The photo was taken on 28 July, 2008. It was my birthday, and we were coming home from the DDT Club Show in Imatra, and, if I remember correctly, decided more or less on the spur of the moment not to drive straight back to north but to take a day tour in South Eastern Finland. It was a wonderful sunny day, and we visited the beautiful Punkaharju ridge, the Kerimäki Church, which is the largest wooden church in the world, the Valamo Monastery in Heinävesi and the Iron Age hill fort in Sulkava. In this picture, Misaki is admiring Lake Saimaa from the hill fort (or the fisherman down on the jetty, or the boat on the lake, but anyway). It was quite a climb to the hill, especially for our low-legged doggies, as there were hundreds of steps to climb, but we really enjoyed it.

I did another take on the giraffes, too. Here they are. Not much has changed, except I lightened up the image, and I am far happier with it now.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Barely enough...

Giraffes - for Beyond Layers, Day 2 Challenge: Just Enough

I enrolled on this year-long e-course of Kim Klassen's in April, since it sounded awfully interesting - working with photos, textures and who knows what. I fully knew that I wouldn't be able to do anything about it for the first few weeks, since I was going to be travelling for the best part of May, and that meant April was going to be busy with all the preparations.   

Back home again, I'm trying to catch up now with the course.

Day 1 Challenge was to write My Creative Story, which will stay private at least for the time being. 

Day 2 Challenge is called Just Enough, and the idea was to keep it simple - a simple topic with plenty of negative space. Well, here's my attempt. The giraffes are standing above my Mac in our study. I used Kim Klassen's texture Awaken to lighten the image slightly.

I'm not too happy with it, though... and I know stills are going be difficult for me. But that's what this is all about, challenging myself! I seriously hope I'll come up with some better pictures later on.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Texture Tuesday - The Quote eDition

Haven't  been around for a long time to participate in Kim Klassen's challenges, so now that I had a little time in my hands, I decided I'd do something about it. The Texture Tuesday challenge this week was a quote and a texture by Kim Klassen - this time I chose to be minimal and included only one texture. (!)

Seagulls on a rooftop in Inverness, Scotland.
Thank you for the texture:
- "Happy Heart" by Kim Klassen

The photo was taken on the morning of 11 May this year, from my hotel room window in Inverness, Scotland. I followed the two seagulls there for a goodish while. They seemed to enjoy the place, pattering around there and occasionally finding a tidbit as well.