The howling of the wind, the crashing of the waves, the flowers in the field

And we may take a glass together, the whiskey makes it all so fires our dulled imaginations..and I feel so near.. to the howling of the wind...

feel so near, to the crashing of the waves...

feel so near, to the flowers in the field...

I feel so near.   -Dougie MacLean

A Burst of Sun

 As I sat in my office today it struck me the last few days have been...sunny! Yes, sadly I'm inside most of the day, but luckily I have a huge window from which to enjoy the bright sun, especially in the afternoons, as it faces west. Lately, I've been addicted to sun bursts, flares, and generally either shooting right into the sun or enhancing the effect in Photoshop.

When there's snow on the ground, that sun is nearly blinding..but still beautiful. And now that the snow around here has (mostly) melted, the sun is peeking through the trees again, now unburdened with snow blankets, and shining light through windows, cleared of frost. Yum!
Above: "Sunlight after the Rain", for sale on Etsy here. This print was featured on the front page of Etsy earlier this week- yay!
Above: "Sewing Room" for sale on Etsy here

Above: "Someday", print for sale on Etsy here
So, here's to much more sun and more sunny days to come.. Enjoy your week!

Digital Textures - before and after examples (share yours too!)

One of the coolest things I learned to do when I got Photoshop last year was to digitally layer textures with my photos. Textures are just photos or digitally created pieces that you can blend in with your art or photos to create a completely different feel and look. My favorites tend to be ones that make my photos look aged, like canvases, or old photos.
I pulled together a few of my photos to show how easy texture work (simply copying and blending in any texture, lightly, in Photoshop) can change the way it comes across....I'll also share where some of my textures come from!  Note: there are thousands of ways to use texture, and these below are just some simple layering techniques. You open your file and the texture both in Photoshop, copy and paste the texture over your photo, and blend away. Use any blending mode and switch up the opacity to make the effect less dramatic if you wish. I sometimes layer multiple textures for different effects!

 Above, the first photo is simply a beautiful day at the beach in Rhode Island. I love the look of the zig zaggy fences, but wanted a more intimate and old fashioned I cropped the second one, and layered an "aged" looking, brownish gold texture in the darken mode. I like how it transformed the sky here.

Above, a simple shot of beach rocks, layered with a light creamy-yellow texture, lends an aged, sunny feel. It's incredibly subtle but I love the way it looks.

Above: a lighthouse in Maine. The first shot is the original layered with a light, bubbly sun flare. I love the rainbows and way it makes this look the way it did in my mind, after the sun comes out following a light rain. The second example is the same photo, cropped to show more of the foreground water. The water had very little detail and was slightly blown out, so adding a texture to just the water here (and selectively erasing the top portion) gives a lot of interest to the water, buoys, the blue color, and emphasizes the lighthouse being on a far away island. Without the extra texture, I felt like the water looked boring and was forced to crop it out.

Above, a sunlit autumn floral is ethereal and beautiful as is straight out of the camera. But with a light minty canvas texture, the flower becomes more like a drawing or textured painting. I worked in the texture to display darker around the flower and lightly erased it from the center outwards to bring attention to the flower and not allow the texture to completely erase the detail from its petals.

Above: an older photo that I really loved but was a little bored with (again!). In Photoshop, I used the magic eraser tool to "cut out" the pelican from the sky, then flattened the image so just the pelican was showing against a white background. Then I layered in this patchy, light turquoise texture in the background. I added a sun flare in the corner to emphasize the sunny day feeling and add some interest, then applied a "sunlight" texture in the corner where the sun is. This light, buttery yellow texture made the white light look more like sun and gave the photo a lighter feel.

Above: the original photo, a sweet early summer day on Cape Cod, was nice and serene. But on the right, I added a light blue bokeh texture (those little light circles)  and set it on darken mode to give a more vibrant feel to the sky and water and darken the white sand to a tan shade. I increased the contrast on just the bokeh texture layer to make the circles pop a little more in the sky. I like the dreamy, colorful result.

Above, right, a photo of Black Point, a rocky coastal area. The midday sun made the foreground rocks look white and the overall feel was very "cool". I applied a yellowish, brownish texture right over it to make it look more vintagey and bring interest to the strip of sky. I also used the selective highlight/ shadow tool to lighten the black rocks so they would pick up more of the warm texture. Now, the rocks have more warm color, and they look more alike. It looks like a totally different beach!

Well, those are just some quick and easy ways that texture has helped me, and I love experimenting with them, using them as overall layers, skies, backgrounds for animals, and so on. I find them mostly on Flickr, searching for "free textures" and making sure the ones I download are available for creative commons use. Here are some resources:

Joy St. Claire - My fave!  Joy is a wonderful photographer herself, but her textures are fabulous! She has textures to suit landscapes, still lifes, add a vintage feeling or enhance a plain photo. I used many of them in her Moderne set in my examples above.
Life N Reflection - Kristy not only sells her awesome textures, but shows you how to use them, too. Her blog is an awesome resource for texturing and digital photo work. 
Textures for Layers - a wonderful Flickr group! I've used and donated some textures from this group. Be sure to check the privacy settings and allowances before using a texture and be nice and share your creations afterwards- the creators of these textures do spend lots of time and creative effort making them!
Spectrum Textures -  you need to sign up, but there are some great grungy and industrial textures here. It's free.
2Textured - another free site where you may find still life objects and nature landscapes to add interest to your art or photos.

I'm developing a pack of textures that I made myself as well....I'll be sure to share as soon as I have it put together! :))

Color! I need it!

Yes, I do badly need/ want a tan, but I mean, I need color nature. It's about this time every year I stop wanting to live here for about 2 months. Gray skies, melty, muddy snow piles covered in car exhaust, birds too cold to come out, wrinkled berries everywhere..So I dug into my springy, summery files from last year and re-edited some old favorites for our enjoyment...just in case, like me, you are in need of a cheerful little pop of color...
I really enjoyed heading outside last year with my favorite macro lens and getting superclose to every flower I saw on the side of the road. Some of them ended up being questionable ("Mary- that's a weed!") and some exciting only for someone with a new lens ("Omg, look, I captured an ant's eyes!") But for the most part I love that I can get those little specks of detail, vibrant color and shallow depth of field without messing around too much with my settings. My macro lens makes the most mundane things look like art!

I love the symmetry of this one!
Black-eyed susans are everywhere by sunny!
Bright and cheery Gerbera daisy..don't the little stamens look like hearts?
Purple coneflower (echinacea) is also a Bee favorite.
A crocus is like a little hiding jewel and one of the first blooms of early Spring!
I remember last Spring, early, when the first day I had no need of a coat came by, I headed out to stalk local yards, desperate for color and beauty...Sorry, neighbors, if you see me driving by with my camera, but these are some of the beauties I was able to capture! I have no lawn, but this year I hope to get to a couple of parks and flower shows so I can learn a little bit more about the different blooms I see around town. Happy colorful day!

Fun with Birds and my new lens!

I've been toting around my new 300mm lens on weekends for those "what kind of bird is that?" sightings and occasional public bird feeder fun. Before I got this I was struggling to make out blurry blobs taken with my 105mm- so not enjoyable. I'm still learning, but it's incredibly hard to photograph birds! Anyway here are some of my shots from the last two weeks, species and location.

Tufted Titmouse, Mystic, CT
Red-tailed Hawk, Mystic, CT
Downy Woodpecker, birdfeeder at the Nature Center, Mystic, CT
Mourning Dove (sleepy!), Mystic, CT
Male Northern Cardinal, Trustom Pond, Charlestown, RI
Female Northern Cardinal, Trustom Pond, Charlestown, RI

Squirrel, stealing all the bird seed, feeders at the Trustom Pond welcome center, Charlestown, RI
Northern Mockingbird (thanks, Kristy!), South Kingstown, RI

White-throated sparrow, Trustom Pond, Charlestown, RI
American Starlings, at the Equinox Diner, Mystic, CT (yummy burgers there, BTW)

Mourning Dove, Mystic, CT
Nuthatch doing a tap dance, Mystic, CT
Black-capped Chickadee, Watchaug Pond, Charlestown, RI
Great Horned Owl, rescue inside the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, Mystic, CT
Downy Woodpecker (I think!), Nature Center, Mystic, CT
I also got to see my first ....Mole, crawling out of the ground near Trustom Pond. It was like a little gray mouse, but I couldn't see its face, he came out for some fallen birdseed and then disappeared... Not sure what kind of mole this is....  Here is the little guy...