What Lies Beneath

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“Take only memories, leave only footprints.”  Chief Seattle

As a photographer I love to make  images that convey the beauty of the landscape. Images that make you go “ahh! I want to be there”, images to share the places I see that take my breath away. I maneuver my position and camera angle to exploit the best possible light, to create a snapshot of time standing still that you can step in to, smell the air, feel the breeze, hear the rustle of leaves, the lapping of water on the shore line and the varied calls of the wildlife that inhabit the terrain.

What you don’t see in the images is the is the ugliness that humans wreak on the environment. Recently, I took a much-needed break and headed out to one of my favorite places to hang out and photograph the nature and enjoy the wildlife that I am lucky enough to have just a few miles from home.  I see happy families fishing off the shoreline, people laughing, enjoying boats on the water, carefree groups picnicking and camping.

And I see trash. Lots and lots of trash.

I shouldn’t be surprised.  I do, after all take part in the clean up endeavors organized by CleanJordanLake.org  and have seen first hand the mountains of waste  that finds its way downstream ending up in our lake. What I don’t understand is the utter careless ambivalence by the very people who enjoy all that our lake has to offer, discarding their garbage as though it’s going to magically be swallowed up by the earth and do no damage.

Here’s a look at the variety of “species” I encountered.

trash, sunkist

Known for basking in the sun, it’s no surprise how this species got it’s name!

trash, McDonalds

Too many purchased species kept in captivity are discarded when they aren’t useful any longer.

fishingline, trash

This common nylon creature is deceptively harmless. Once it attaches itself to other unsuspecting wildlife it becomes a deadly predator.

Last year, a friend and I rescued a Great Blue Heron caught up in fishing line. All you need to do is Google wildlife rehab centers to see the magnitude of injured and killed wildlife affected by this every day.

trash

It’s not uncommon to find many different species of plastics gathering along the shoreline

trash, coke

An outcast from it’s group and typically travelling in packs of six, this unfortunate species has lost it’s soul mates.

I wish a lot of things…I wish there was a better ability by park authorities to police the litterers, I wish fast food chains could be fined or have to pay a tax to use styrofoam. I wish there was more incentive for recycling, although the preservation of our resources should be enough. I wish people weren’t so careless and uncaring. I can only make a small dent. I carry trash bags in my car to collect what I can and participate in organized clean ups but it’s a daunting and never-ending task.

Pick up a piece of trash. Clean up after yourself and leave the places you visit and enjoy better than how you found them.

So You Want To Try Textures?

Schoenbrunn, Austria

Schoenbrunn, Austria. 35mm film, scanned negative, textures added digitally.

I used to see images with beautiful texture overlays and think, wow I really want to do that! So, I set out experimenting to figure it out. A while after my early attempts I saw parts of Doug Landreth‘s workshop on-line that was a huge help, he’s a master at it!  Textures can enhance and change the mood of a photograph and it’s a fun way to create a different artistic presentation. For me it was a natural fit – I started out as a painter – playing with textures takes me back to that process. Sometimes it’s fairly simple – one or two textures blended with the original image and voilà!  Not every image works with texture, at least for me. Umm, yeah, I might have on occasion spent a few hours on something only to decide that it just isn’t coming together, or gone back and wondered “what was I thinking?” but that’s part of the fun and learning process.

I’m often asked about how it’s done and how I choose which textures I’m going to use so here is the simplest breakdown I came up with to get you started. All three of the following examples are super easy to do. Doug Landreth over at Photomorphis.com creates beautiful textures and all three of the following examples use Photomorphis textures. I’ve seen Creative Commons textures over on Flickr or you can make your own.  I take pictures of sidewalks, walls, paper, and purposely out of focus scenes. There’s really no limit. Oh, I should also mention I use a Wacom Bamboo pen tablet, nothing fancy, just the small basic model but it definitely makes for easier work.

Click on the images for a larger view and to see the layers palettes. So, In Photoshop I open the original image, duplicate the background layer and add the texture(s) I have selected as individual layers. If I have to stretch or manipulate the texture I convert it to a smart object first. The next steps are a lot of trial and error, experimenting with blend modes, masking, and opacity of the textures to get an effect I’m happy with. Keep in mind your texture is going to add color and tone to the image so sometimes that’s a good place to start when choosing. You can also add any adjustment layer to change the overall effect.

texture overlay

This was one of my very first attempts at adding texture. I really liked the industrial machinery in the image, but otherwise it was just boring and the perfect opportunity to experiment. I pretty much had no idea what I was doing except for understanding that blend modes and masking are part of the process. Diving in I found a texture I liked and just started experimenting with the layers – changing the layer order, blend modes, opacity, and combining duplicates of the background image. On this image I masked the background copy and using a soft brush, gradually and selectively allowed texture to show through. There was a lot of trial & error and starting over and “oh, I like that, how did I do that?” moments, but I eventually got the hang of it. Yeah, it might have been a good idea to watch a tutorial or two first but, jumping in blind is so much fun!

Pocket watch texture.

This pocket watch is super simple. One image, two textures and a little masking. I might try several different textures before I get the look I want. I could tell you I know exactly what I want the end result to be but more often than not I only know it when I see it.  This image though, I planned start to finish except which texture(s) I was going to use.  Simple layer masks, using a soft brush at about 10% opacity I mask out the texture until I like it. Sometimes I put the texture back on. Sometimes I start over…The reason I always save a .psd with layers!

 

Untitled-5

I started with the chartreuse texture with this one because I knew I wanted to add some green tones. I liked the texture but not the color on my image. When that happens I go into my files and choose another and just turn the layers off and on comparing the effect. Sometimes it’s a happy accident that combining the various textures works better than just one alone. More layers also add depth to the image that I really like. This particular image, I wasn’t sure of the direction I wanted to go and put it away for a while. Later, in Lightroom I made a few simple adjustments was all it needed!

*Note this screen shot of the layers palette here doesn’t show the blend modes of the textures, each are in multiply mode at around 50% opacity.

There are tons of techniques and  different ways to create effects, a quick Google or YouTube search will show you that. There is no right or wrong way so don’t be afraid to experiment. Be careful though, you may find yourself glued to your computer creating for hours! For me, one discovery always evolves into another. Who knows, you might even discover something completely different! Whatever you try,  have fun with it. Questions or comments? Leave them below in the comment box. I’d love to see what you come up with too so leave me a link!

 

The Hills Are Alive

The_Hills_are_Alive

A while back I scanned a bunch of film negatives and slides. Some of the negatives were scratched and/or faded, so restoration work is needed. Every time I’m going through files sorting I come across them, do a quick look through and find something calling out that inevitably sidetracks me. It’s almost always worth it. This is in Austria, the view from a castle up on a hill…