2020 August

Collage for August 2020
A collection of images posted on Flickr this August 2020

As August began (month 6 of COVID) it was becoming clear that the devolved governments across the UK were moving away from the ‘follow England’ pattern that had been established at the start of the pandemic. The UK (England) government had been mishandling the pandemic from the start, being slow to react and ignoring the evidence of what was happening elsewhere in the world.
Scotland had suffered badly both in the spread of COVID-19 in the community, and especially in recorded deaths. So as England moved to lift the lock-down and ‘get the economy moving again’ there was a more cautious approach here. We remained in lock-down longer, until the indicators were clear that the virus was under control. But as August began the decision was made to get children back to school. We start the academic year some weeks before England, so we would be the first to see how the ‘back to school’ experiment played out in real life! It was a pivotal moment for us all, and watched with some trepidation. We have a small Primary School in our village, and older students travel to Turriff daily, so our village was deeply involved!

As restrictions lifted we remained in our own protective ‘bubble’ that hadn’t changed since March – we were free to travel to our local beauty spots for exercise, bur we remained largely self-isolating. Nothing had changed to make us feel we were less at risk. It was still the elderly who were dying! As we have no children or grandchildren, and no family living locally, it was ‘lock-down life’ that remained our new ‘normal’. So we sat on the sidelines and watched events unfold! August set a new pattern for us, following the daily coronavirus updates. both with our First Minister and online too. It was hard work, and took quite a lump out of our time …. but we wanted to know what was going on.

Continuing our lives as close to ‘normal’ as we could, I continued with my watercolour experimentation and learning.
I was faced with my usual problem, I have PVS/ME and that means my life is a balancing act between what I want to do and what my meagre energy will permit me to do. Do too much and the consequences are brutal – weeks bedbound as my body tries to regain a balance. Long Covid is just the latest manifestation of what has been dubbed ME or ‘Yuppie Flu’.
So with a head full of ideas about what I wanted to do with my watercolour adventure I started moving beyond copying Cezanne. I wanted to paint every day, so I planned to do a small daily sketch. A study of something close to hand (I have rooms full of objects I use in my photography) it would sharpen my ‘looking’ skills as well as my drawing and painting skills. I also wanted to take some of Cezanne’s pencil sketches and paint them. So I began!

sketch book pages
Daily sketch and Cezanne pencil sketch

If I was photographing snail shells, why not paint them too? And give Cezanne’s pencil sketch of a tree a more Scottish feel?
I so enjoyed it all, but found that my energy was exhausted very quickly when I was sitting at a table, painting. I began to remember why I had abandoned pastel painting in favour of photography. I could shoot in small bursts, and then lie down. Painting demanded I was sitting for a longer time, and using muscles in very precise ways.
Time to rethink.
So I had to take the painting much more slowly, and even reduce it to two or three times a week. Sad, but essential if I was to integrate painting into my life over the long term. So I found a way to make the most of the painting I could manage to do ….

Eggs blending photo and watercolour
Daily sketch eggshells and blend with photo

If I was photographing eggshells, then paint them as well. Then, when energy permitted I could make a blend of photo and watercolour … and get something new and creative using minimum energy!

landscape blending
Blending a Lensbaby photo and watercolour sketch

And a step further with the blending. A landscape that one day I might paint …. well…. I could combine it with a sketch and make a new artwork!
And finally my paint-filled month was rounded off with another idea. Again using trees from the local environment, but this time extracting them, and using their shapes to go in another direction. Using masking tape, and practising using wet washes, I began to create ‘ghostly’ trees.

tree into watercolou
Taking the bones of a tree and playing with it in watercolours

It might take weeks to explore an idea, but at least it was feeding my hunger to create, paint, and photograph! A world to explore that took me away from the world of the pandemic.

And finally, yes, we did manage to get out (with cameras) and enjoy more of the freedom to roam. I took my infrared camera with the most colourful ‘Goldie’ filter and shot the trees at Fvyie Castle loch.

infrared bench in blue
Infrared of bench in blue

Processing them into cool blues – and vibrant reds!

Goldie Infrared
Goldie filter infrared of trees at Fyvie loch

And so August ended with me feeling very tired, but very happy with the creative results. OK, it was baby steps, but the ideas were forming, and my first blundering steps were enough to encourage me to continue with my ideas!

on to September
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Flickr holds Elisa’s online Photo Gallery
© 2020 Elisa Liddell

What to do with an egg!

Empty eggshell
Making drama out of left-overs!

Following on from yesterday’s post of a discarded eggshell. I was looking for something more playful and experimental to make from the original image. Some photo-manipulation is called for – which means more play time in Photoshop!
Here I chose to add a macro shot of the inside of a plastic, multi-coloured slinky…

Inside a colours slinky
The original macro shot of a coloured slinky

But the full colour version would take the eye away from the egg. So I needed to make something more in tune with the existing dark background, but adding another dimension to the image.

Eggstra-ordinary
The Eggstra-ordinary combination of design shapes and colours

Hopefully it works – giving some visual interest to the black areas, and using the curves of the slinky to echo the natural curves of the eggshell.
The original slinky shot is on Flickr: here
The larger version of the photo-manipulation is on Flickr: here

Flickr holds Elisa’s online Photo Gallery
© 2019 Elisa Liddell

Failure revisited!

The final final version
And at last I am happy with the result.

or Can I make something out of nothing?

I have so many folders that I mentally label as “Failed shoot”. It’s a product of my habit of taking a few shots ‘just in case’ … just in case I later regret that I didn’t! I came across a folder from January 2018 just called ‘Pinks’. I was curious, it rang no bells, triggered no memories. Inside were just 5 shots. Then I remembered. I was putting away Christmas lights that we hadn’t used. And I thought I’d turn them on and maybe take a few shots before they vanished back into the cupboard for another year. In a hurry to finish the tidying up I put them together with a jug of flowers that was close by – and took a few shots.
The results didn’t impress me when I looked at them later on. The lights didn’t sparkle at all, they added nothing. The wall I’d placed the jug against was nicely neutral, but in my haste I’d overlooked the cast shadows. Rather disappointed I mentally stamped the folder “Failed”. Only 5 shots in all, so I didn’t delete them at once.

Later that year I brought the folder out of mothballs, and took another look. I wanted something to play with, to experiment with the newly installed suite of Photoshop plug-ins called NIK. And if I liked the image that emerged, I could use it with my Sunday group that specialises in post-processing to transform a photographic image.

collage of 5 failed shots
All 5 shots that I took that day, and marked as ‘failed’

step 1
Looking at the originals, I decided to try number 3. I didn’t want too many cast shadows, and I didn’t want too much of the table surface either … I might want the jug to feel like it was free-floating.
step 2
was to take it into Camera RAW, straighten it slightly, lighten it, and crop off the dark band on the left side. Then into Photoshop to play and see what might work to make something visually interesting out of the image!
step 3
was to launch the NIK panel. What might work? I selected Color Efex Pro 4 panel and then Bi-colour, as I wanted something to jazz the image up and bring it to life.

Choosing Color Efex Pro 4
Choosing Color Efex Pro 4
Bi Color applied in NIK
Bi Color applied in NIK

That looked like a promising start to making something new.

step 4
the top colour looked nice and rich, but it was a solid blue-purple block. Maybe it needed something subtle to break it up?
I’ve been collecting texture layers for a long while now. Flickr users are so generous, and make lots of beautiful texture layers available to fellow Flickr members. I also started to look at commercial collections for added effects. Design Cuts was the place that I began, as they offer bundles of discounted graphics and files, and I could try out different suppliers and see what suited me. My big favourite is 2 Lil Owls and from Denise I have some amazing effects, like light flares.
So I looked in my 2LO collection called Crazy Flares, which mixes light flares with all manner of textures. And I selected this one

2 Lil Owls Crazy flares
2 Lil Owls Crazy flares

These light flares needed to be overlaid, and then used in Screen mode for the best effect.

2 Lil Owls Crazy flares applied
2 Lil Owls Crazy flares applied as an overlay

That’s better! beginning to shape up!
step 5
was to save that image as a jpeg. I needed a single layer for my next idea. So I saved the PSD file as it is, then saved the layered image to start again. I opened the newly saved image as a Smart Object into a new PSD file as this allowed me to easily play with the Photoshop’s inbuilt filters … I wanted yet more light effects ;o)
step 6
was to apply the Filter -> Render -> Lens Flare effects. Because the image is a Smart Object I could access the effects window and adjust it easily to get the intensity, direction and actual lens simulation that looked best.

The final transformation
The final transformation – does it work?

Yes – that looked OK, and better than my starter image!
step 7
was to gently wipe out a little of the bleaching effect of the light falling on the petals – a little more intensity for the petals, please! So I highlighted the mask, and removed a little of the glare.

The final final version
And at last I am happy with the result.

And now I have something that has more interest than the original – there’s more going on visually. Colour-wise there’s an interesting play with the bi-colour division set up in the NIK. The final lens flare has added to the ochre tints in the lower half. The light flares and text texturing has lightened and added interest to the upper blue-purple half. And the flowers in the jug are the vertical that joins the two horizontal planes. Finally, the petals towards the top right of the image are balanced by the lens flare circles in the bottom left.
Maybe I’ll post it and see what happens … now I just need a name for it ;o)
So I posted it on Flickr to see what people thought – here

Flickr holds Elisa’s online Photo Gallery
© 2019 Elisa Liddell

Take away the colour? Why?

Landscape near Huntly, Scotland
Landscape near Huntly, Scotland. A misty morning in black and white

One from the archives, an early morning view travelling to Huntly, Aberdeenshire. The December light was casting long shadows, and the mist was slowly rising from the valley and the far hills. I love B+W photographs, but it still mystifies me – why is it so effective to remove the natural colour? So I’ve written about it as an article Take away the Colour trying to sort out what it is that so appeals to me. Not sure I’ve found an answer, but writing it made me think!
On Flickr you can find my B/W Tinted and Mono album
Flickr holds Elisa’s online Photo Gallery
© 2019 Elisa Liddell

Shooting chrysanthemums

Still life with yellow chrysanthemums
Still life with yellow chrysanthemums

One thing I love to do is to create still life images that are a little different. Here the yellow of the chrysanthemums went so well with an old, embroidered tablecloth that belonged to my grandmother. Two blossoms, in a small posy vase, set in the window, and finished with a few fallen petals. And shot from above, so as to show the design on the cloth. I added a texture from 2 Lil Owls to complement and reinforce the yellow tones that knit the image together. On Flickr you can find my Album of Chrysanthemum photos