Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Purple Haze

The rain and wind haven't let up for days here, and although it makes it hard to get outside to mow the grass, the spring flowers are loving life these days.

The lilac bush we planted last spring is rewarding us with a handful of blossoms that smell like heaven.

And columbine flowers in shades of deep purple and magenta are spreading like wildfire in our front flower bed, even with the weeds trying to take their place.  Hang in there columbine...when the rain ends we'll come to your rescue!

I ventured out during a break in between downpours today to cut a few of these lovely blossoms to brighten my house and fill my senses.  There is nothing quite like the scent of a fresh lilac makes my heart skip a beat and reminds me of my grandmother who loved lilacs as much as I do.

I think flowers are medicine for the soul.  And though I would probably never fill my home with purple or even lavender furnishings or accessories, I still love the color and enjoy having my own little purple haze each spring as these regal colors fill my garden, and ultimately my vases.

Do you have a favorite color springtime blossom?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Behind the Curtain

Most of the photos I post on my blog have very little manipulation done to them in Photoshop, Lightroom, etc. while others get more of the full "treatment."  I have no qualms about talking an image and playing with it until I get the image on screen that lives in my head.

My last post, which featured pics of dandelions, had almost no tweaking done to each image.  I think I made a small adjustment to the contrast on a few, while most were just cropped so that the image showed more detail of my subject.

Yesterday, while sitting in my bedroom, I noticed the bluebirds happily landing on the big iron plant hook next to our fence and so I grabbed my camera in hopes of capturing one so that I could create a composited image with some cherry blossoms I shot more than a week ago...see photo above.

I can count on less than one hand the number of non HDR, true composited images (two or more images merged together to create one) I have created since I began taking pictures, but every now and then I have to urge to create one.

It's not that I think combining images is bad, or less than other artistic forms of photography...though some snooty, photography types might beg to differ...the truth is that combining images, when done well, is time consuming and hard!  At least for me it is, so until I dramatically improve my skill set, I will stick with single images for the most part.

So, a happy bluebird obliged and I was off to the races to create a bluebird and cherry blossom extravaganza! :)

In order to combine have to first start off with really good quality pics.  Even if you plan to add layers, use actions, etc. to create the finished image, I believe that there is no real substitute for good original images.

In the picture above I have cut and copied the bluebird from the original picture, rotated and cropped the original cherry blossom picture, and combined the two...all using Photoshop.

As you can looks like a photoshopped image...the bird has way too much sunlight on it compared to the blossoms...and the whole image looks very cut and pasted.

The next thing to do is to soften the edges of the bird to make it blend more seamlessly into the other image, and to mess with the exposure levels, temperature, saturation levels, and contrast levels to make the two images appear more as one...but it's not there needs layer masks and other tricks to help the two images marry one another.

Time for a few texture layers to be added, all the while, adding and removing the texture from various parts of the image to make them recede or pop out more from the image.  Here, the bird is still too bright and his left claw is way too in focus compared to the out of focus branch he's standing still more work to be done.

More actions and many more layers later...I probably have 30 to 40 separate layers on here by now, and a multitude of actions...but I'm getting closer to what I want.  It looks less photorealistic...check. The brightness of the bird is now gelling better with the paleness of the cherry blossoms...check.  And I've added some decorative swirls and distressing to make it look more vintage...check.

When I say actions...I don't often use the pre-packaged actions sold by various companies, though I have used them in the past, I find they don't allow me to fine tune things as much as I sometimes want.  I prefer to make my adjustments by hand, using various software, to achieve the results I want...but if you find that you love pre-set actions, then go for it!  The beauty of photography, or any art form, is that there is no right or wrong!

In this final image I am pretty close to the image I had in mind before I even snapped the bluebird shot, and I'm pretty satisfied with the finished product...though I often go back in sometimes weeks or months later and play a little more...just for fun.

The only difference between the last shot and the one before it is the addition of a french script overlay from one of the documents I brought back from the fleamarket in Paris.  I laid it on top of the image and then erased 100% of it off of the blossoms and the birds so that it appears to float in the background.  

I spent a few hours on this...and had I been going for perfection I could have spent days on one image...something the real pros of photo compositing easily do.

I hope that if you are nervous about trying your hand at any type of art, especially photography, that you will explore all forms of it and throw back that curtain to see what you can learn from behind it taking on what might seem like an impossibly hard thing to master!

This post is dedicated to my dear, dear friend Jim "Papa Jim" Williams who lost his long battle with cancer on Tuesday night.  He will be remembered as an amazing...husband, father, grandfather, friend, police officer, gamer, gentle giant, and above all else, gentlemen!  You will be missed my friend, more than you know! 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

It's a Jungle Out There

They say the pollen this year is going to be worse than it has been in years.

I have been hacking and coughing since I mowed our front yard last Monday...a week ago.

I don't normally have issues with allergies, though I seem to recall saying that same thing last year as I was sneezing and wheezing?!  And silly me thought I didn't need to wear a mask while mowing, but I was later proven wrong when I woke up on Tuesday morning, barely able to swallow and with itchy, runny eyes!

Needless to say I have learned my lesson...and with my new found wisdom, I have also banned myself or Mr. Tide from mowing the backyard until we get enough rain to knock down whatever pollen is causing our current discomfort.

As I gazed out for Earth Day today, on our own little piece of this earth, I realized that our yard is mostly weeds, and if we don't mow it soon, we'll likely lose the dogs in it if we're not careful.  The bunnies don't seem to mind though...lots of good dandelion greens to munch on out there!

I know they are weeds, but for now, I will have to learn to embrace them and pretend their seeds are tiny parasols for a Downton Abbey style bug lawn party!

Happy Earth Day!

Thursday, April 10, 2014


You know that feeling you get when spring finally arrives?

I'm not talking about those teaser days where you think spring has come, I mean that moment you really and truly know that it's here and you can break out your sandals and short sleeved shirts.

I felt that moment yesterday...and it was pure bliss!!!

I wanted to smile all day long, throw open my windows, and clean nooks an crannies in my house that haven't seen the light of day since many months ago.

Spring has the power to do that to us, it provides a heady mix of beauty and promise that can make even the sanest of people a bit giddy.  No wonder it has been the subject of so many sonnets and songs.

I feel like I want to savor every moment of this fleeting season, really stop and smell the roses, and anything else in bloom.

Ahhh...Spring has Sprung!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Prairie Style

The weather here is finally starting to hint that spring is on its way, daffodils are blooming, trees are budding out, and I feel excited for warmer weather and spring cleaning!

Along with a change in temperature, there are some other exciting things going on in other parts of  the world, that being the world of friend Fifi O'Neill is at it again with the upcoming publication of Prairie Style Magazine!

If there is one thing Fifi knows (actually she knows lots of things), it's about beautifully decorated homes, simple living, and casual elegant decor, and she is bringing all of that knowledge to you through the pages of her latest venture.

She recently sent me a preview of this beautiful new publication and asked me to share some snippets of it with all of you.  Below is just a sampling of what you can expect when it hits newsstands in May!

Because we all know that a picture is worth a thousand words, or in this case, sighs and drools, I will let the pictures do the talking.  Just be sure to scroll to the end of the post to find out how you can get your very own copy.

Are you sighing yet?!!!

Or do you prefer to drool?! ;)

But this magazine is about more than just pretty pictures and beautifully appointed homes found throughout North America.  It's a resource for creating the life you long to live, one where simple pleasures supersede high tech craziness, and one where living a life less ordinary is any but boring!

And if you're not quite ready to get back to the simple life, at least you can live vicariously through it's beautiful, high quality printed pages (over 144 pages my friends)!  Or find a few wonderful artisans along the way for those one of a kind gifts you want to share with others, or better yet, yourself!

At a time when we are all lamenting the loss of so many wonderful shelter magazines, why not support this great publication which is back by popular demand!

But don't wait, there are limited quantities and as you can see, it will sell out quickly.  You can pre-order by using the link below, and for bulk orders with a reduced rate, you can also click the link below.

Congratulations Fifi, and I wish you much success with this wonderful venture! :)

To Pre-Order a single copy for $9.99 CLICK HERE

For Bulk Orders of 10 or more at a reduced rate of $4.99 each, CLICK HERE and then click on the BULK ORDERS TAB.