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!

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Windows and Stone

Laurel, Maryland: A window in the old Laurel Volunteer Fire Department building. Here, I cropped the image to focus your attention on the window itself and not on the ugly power lines or pavement.

The original image was not level and had too many distracting elements.

I’m going through some of my older photographs and seeing what raw material I have for doing some creative work in Photoshop. I keep buying issues of Photoshop Creative and other art magazines and then I let them sit on my desk while I’m busy with schoolwork or other stuff. But this is the final week of my humanities class and I only have one more short assignment to work on, and I already feel like a kid of the verge of summer vacation.

I’m taking a month’s break before starting my next history class in June. I’m just about halfway through my master’s degree program in European history (another week!) and plan to use the final weeks of April and all of May to finish my novel and catch up on some other creative projects that I’ve started — one of which is learning Photoshop CS5 a lot better. So, now it’s time to dust off the electronic cobwebs from some of my digital files and get creative!

What I’ve done with these two photographs is extremely basic. With the window image, I had to straighten it so that the lines in the image were horizontal. I had taken the picture with a hand-held camera and the image was crooked in the frame. Plus, there were a lot of distracting elements in the original photo. This is one of those small things that you don’t necessarily see while you’re out taking photos, but as soon as you pull it up onscreen it looks awful. The trick is to start training yourself to look for these things while you’re out taking pictures so that you have less mess to deal with once you’re back at the computer, although sometimes you can’t avoid them altogether. You don’t want to spend all your time editing out power lines from your images!

I used the Image Rotation feature in Photoshop and manipulated the image by rotating it about 1.3 degrees counterclockwise. I had to play with the numbers a bit until it looked straight. I don’t know if there’s a protractor tool or not in Photoshop CS5, so I just winged it. I haven’t been using Photoshop for some time and I’m rusty with masking and some of the finely tuned controls, plus I haven’t learned most of the new tools in CS5 (I upgraded from CS, so it’s a bit of a shock to my system!).

After straightening the image I used Unsharp Mask and applied some sharpening, careful to keep the amount low enough so that I didn’t introduce major artifacts to the image. I cropped the image so the street and electric wires are gone, since they add nothing but clutter to the image. The result is that the window and the stonework become the center of attention. I also used Topaz Adjust’s HDR filter to bring out some detail in the stone. Take a close look at the original image and the edited image. There’s a great deal of texture in the brick and stone, and the glass has a much more reflective quality than it did in the original.

Here, I've given emphasis to the texture of the stonework by converting the image to black and white with the Topaz B&W filter plug-in.

For this smaller image of the building’s dedication plaque, I did very little except convert the image to black and white with Topaz filters. I liked the angles in this image because they lend some movement to the picture and make it a bit less static. And the horizontal lines aren’t so far removed from being level that the image seems unbalanced, either. Also, there’s an interesting contrast between the textures and shapes. The stone and concrete are rough enough that you can almost feel the texture, while the glass is smooth. The stones are irregular in shape but the square glass blocks with their vertical and horizontal dividers make for a strict geometric background.