Thursday Writing Prompt No. 143

“Sienna City,” one of my digital paintings.

It’s been some time since I’ve had the energy to sit down and write a blog post. Work has been tremendously busy and at the end of the day I find myself just staring at the TV or playing Guild Wars 2 or Random Mahjong and telling myself that tomorrow I’ll do some writing. Since I work full time as a copy editor I pretty much read all day and that type of work is intense; editing requires that I make a lot of decisions (you might not believe the angst that hyphens can cause for editors) and by the time five o’clock rolls around I’m mentally spent. At that point I chuck any unused hyphens in the recycle bin and shut down my office connection.

So, last week I was avoiding writing my zombie short story for Corrugated Sky’s upcoming third anthology by looking at the digital tools over at Creative Market. I picked up a set of Photoshop brushes called Cityscape. I spent some time “doodling” until I came up with a nice composition, and then combined my newly minted city with effects from Topaz Studio to create “Sienna City.” Art and photography are cross training for writing, since they are all creative endeavors, right? I mean, at some point you have to do something other than write, or else what can you write about?

So, what’s a city without people? For this week’s Thursday Writing Prompt, you get to describe Sienna City and its population. In 350 words, write a travel guide entry for tourists that will compel them to pack their bags and head to town. Think about the kinds of things you want to know about a place before you visit, but mostly, think about what is so compelling about Sienna City that people want to go there. Are the restaurants world-famous? Is there a special landmark or museum? Is it a shopping destination? Or does the city hold some special festival each year that pulls in tourists by the busloads?

 

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Getting the Right Slant

This tree at Great Falls, Virginia, shows great visual texture. The angle of the tree matches the angle of the rock formation across the river.

This tree at Great Falls, Virginia, shows great visual texture. The angle of the tree matches the angle of the rock formation across the river.

I spent an hour or two today fussing with my new light setup, but I haven’t found a good place to put my photo tent yet and I still need to get the wrinkles out of the nylon background fabric. I’ve already ironed it once and frankly that sort of thing just isn’t my cup of tea: one nickname that I’ll never aspire to is “domestic goddess.”

I’m setting up some materials for a post on lighting but that’s for another day. Tonight I sorted through some older photos to see what would be a good inspiration for a blog post.

This tree at Great Falls, Virginia, caught my interest when I visited there a few years back and I was trying to get the texture of the bark and the rocks in the foreground. What I didn’t notice until I was going through the photographs later was that the angle of the tree matches the rocks on the other side of the river.

If you look you can see cracks through the rocks where geological and weathering forces have worked on them. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that the tree branch is nearly the exact same angle as the rocks, but it makes for an interesting composition.

This photo was taken while I was on a hike and I hand-held the camera, so the focus isn’t very sharp. The colors in the image are pretty bland, but that’s the way they were in real life, too. And that’s the problem with photos of subjects like this — they tend to be so monochromatic that they might as well be black and white photographs.

And actually this one might be better as a B&W image, so pardon me while I go off to Photoshop and try a few variations to see if I can make this image any more interesting.

So here we are. I’ve made two quick variations on the original image, both using the Topaz Black and White Effects filters, to see how they will change the image. The one on the left is a cyanotype version. It’s very moody but I would like to have more brilliance in the white caps on the water. There’s not enough variation in the tones to make the image really good, but this reminds me of some of the duotone images that I’ve seen in old textbooks and encyclopedias. The image on the right is called eggplant, and it does have a slight purplish overtone. Again, the water is muddy and there aren’t enough bright spots to make the water sparkle.

The original photo isn’t very appealing, despite the interesting lines in the composition, and the two images below could use more work to bring out some highlights. But it’s interesting to see how the color difference changes the feel of the images. The blue one is almost sinister, but the brown one shows off the texture of the wood much better.

Same tree and rocks, but with Topaz B&W Effects Teal Dynamic filter applied.

Same tree and rocks, but with Topaz B&W Effects Teal Dynamic filter applied.

And here it is with the Topaz B&W Effects Eggplant Dynamic filter applied.

And here it is with the Topaz B&W Effects Eggplant Dynamic filter applied and a black border added.

Midnight Writing

Holiday decorations, New York Avenue, Washington, D.C. I took this photo in 2015 with a point-and-shoot infrared camera, then applied filters for a more artistic interpretation.

Holiday decorations, New York Avenue, Washington, D.C. I took this photo in 2015 with a point-and-shoot infrared camera, then applied the Topaz Adjust cross-process III filter in post-processing for a more artistic interpretation of the scene.

I slacked off writing last week and didn’t get very much done, so I had to do some late-night writing on Sunday to keep up with my weekly word-count goals. I know it’s too easy to fall behind and then not be able to catch up, and this past year’s NaNoWriMo I found myself continually treading that path between staying on par and falling behind. It was one reason that I found this last challenge so difficult. This year I’m determined to keep up my word count on a weekly basis so projects don’t get dragged on from one week to the next.

Last week I watched a Lynda.com video on food photography. It was pretty interesting and I especially liked some of the tips that the presenter had for setting up light reflectors. He used a floral frog, which is a metal or plastic circle with a bunch of pins stuck in it, like a porcupine. Of course I went to the hobby store this weekend with the idea of buying one and was unable to find them, so I ended up buying a set of six fancy place card holders that were clearance-priced.

They’re fairly heavy and they have a coil of wire designed to hold papers or cards, so I think they’ll work for holding the reflective papers that I have as long as I don’t use a large sheet at one time. On the plus side, if I keep them with my camera gear I won’t stick my hand into the bag and get stabbed the way I would with one of those metal floral frogs, so maybe it was a good thing I couldn’t find any of them!

I’ve been getting into cocktails and I have some ideas for taking photographs of the drinks, so I bought a bunch of printed papers to use as backgrounds for the photo sessions and some metallic-coated papers that should work well as reflectors. I have tomorrow off work for the holiday, so I’m going to take the time to do some creative photography and writing. I’ll post whatever works, but I suppose I’ll have to drink the failures. Get rid of the evidence, and all that. Ah well, all creatives must suffer for their art!

Main Street Photography

Main Street in Laurel, Maryland, looking east. I applied effects with Topaz filters to give a surreal look to the image. No cars were removed or harmed during the photo shoot.

Main Street in Laurel, Maryland, looking east. I applied effects with Topaz filters to give a surreal look to the image. No cars were removed or harmed during the photo shoot.

I want to get back into photography. My camera gear has been closeted far too much, and I have been holed up in the house way too much. I’m telecommuting full-time now, which is great for some things but not so much for others. And I’ve gotten so fed up with traffic around here that I just don’t want to go out. There has to be something to draw me out. Years ago I would go out driving just to explore, but we have so much rubber-stamp development there’s really no point driving 20 miles just to see what’s 15 miles from your house. Yawn.

There aren’t a lot of vistas around here, either, so taking landscape photos is a bit difficult. But I am interested in doing some urban/architectural photography. I went out to Laurel’s Main Street several years ago to take a series of photographs for a class project. It was a rainy day and traffic was incredibly sparse, so I took advantage of it to take this rather desolate-looking photograph. I like how the road leads the eye to the horizon, and the adventurer in me wants to travel that road and see what’s up ahead.

Today is overcast and now I’m wondering if I could find something that interests me enough to take some photos with emotional vibe, but I don’t want to drive that much. There are plenty of buildings here, just so much of it is generic uber-development that it doesn’t seem to have any soul. But there are some odd shops along Route 1. Maybe I’ll pry myself away from my desk and step outside, despite the 23-degree weather. Yikes!