Second Saturday Coming Up at the Race Street Gallery

Decoy, Copyright 2010, Fran Saunders

Tomorrow is Second Saturday in Cambridge. Take the opportunity to watch the new High Heel Race, and then take the gallery walk. Be sure you stop by at the Race Street Gallery and take a look at the work I have displayed there. And don’t forget to stop by at the Main Street Gallery as well to hear my good friend Phyllis Jaffe talk about her stunningly creative fabric hangings.

The photo shown here, Decoy, was my attempt to create an old painting style in a photograph. The decoy is our own, positioned on the top of a night table. The texture was added separately in Photoshop, with one used for the decoy and another for the wall.

Posted in Uncategorized

Now Showing at Race Street Gallery


Copyright Fran Saunders 2009

I took this photo at the Schooner Festival held in Cambridge each year.  These are the jib sails of a schooner.  The color copy didn’t look too interesting to me and so I converted it to black and white, added a sepia finish and finally, added a texture background.

Posted in Uncategorized

Race Street Gallery January/Februrary 2012

Copyright Fran Saunders, 2011

This is a mirror image. That is, one image was copied, flipped and then added to the original. As you can see, this method can sometimes produce dramatic effects.

I am pleased that this photo was selected as a NANPA Showcase semi-finalist; chosen as a finalist at the 30th Annual Spring Photography Contest, sponsored by Photographer’s Forum magazine and Sigma; juried into the PHOTO MONTH exhibit in Rehobeth and Lewes Delaware; awarded an honorable mention for photography at the Chesapeake College Art Competition; and noted as one of two Digital Photos of the Year by the Tidewater Camera Club.

Posted in Camera Techniques, Competitions, Exhibits

Gallery Exhibits

In the days ahead I will be featuring thumbnails of the images I have on display at my two Cambridge galleries: the Race Street Gallery and the Main Street Gallery. I hope in this way to keep family, friends and collectors informed of my available work. From time to time, I will also show you some of my new images. I have missed producing my blog, but have learned to KISS! As always, comments and questions are most welcome. “See” you again soon.

Posted in Uncategorized

An Adventure in Lensbaby-land

Sometimes producing a compelling photo is just plain frustrating.  Long ago I bought a Lensbaby, took a course from a guru, and just couldn’t get the hang of it.  Everything I produced looked like one big out of focus blob.  I hated having to hold the bellows in a certain position and of course, the minute I moved, my focal point was lost.  So, okay, out goes the Lensbaby 2 and in comes the Composer.  Fine, much easier to hold a spot; you just move the lens.  Let’s take a look at those photos….humpf….more blobs.

Okay, take the whole mess and put it away.  But you know I keep seeing those wonderful Lensbaby shots produced by the likes of Tony Sweet, Kathleen Clemens and Corey Hilz.  So, all right, let’s give it another try.  I enrolled in a second class and here I am. 

My instructors have the patience of saints.   I am that one in a million student who just doesn’t get it no matter what and drives you crazy with arcane questions that are obviously not going to help improve the student’s art.   Throughout it all, I am trying, trying, trying, but with very little result as yet, which only increases the frustration.

Nobody said this lens was easy to use, and they are right.  For one thing, you cannot depend on your camera to do any work for you.  The lens is completely manual.  You change the aperture by inserting a little metal ring into the optic of the lens with a magnetic tool.  THAT is easy.  You must focus manually, however, and there lies the biggest challenge.  Since the lens is made to provide bokeh, depending on your aperture (and your optic, but we won’t get into that) you may produce more of less of it with a sweet spot of good focus that may be large or small, with the wider apertures giving you a bigger sweet spot.   And once you start to bend that baby, the sweet spot will move around, too.

Baby-challenged people are urged to start with the glass optic and a wide aperture.  No bending allowed,  so you find your subject, compose, focus and shoot.  With no bending, the sweet spot is in the center, remember, so if you focus and then move the camera to recompose you’ve lost it.  And that’s pretty much what I have been doing.  It is SO hard to forget that you cannot recompose and I am not used to putting my subjects in the center.  What to do, what to do?  All right, I am not giving up. 

My first week I took hundreds of photos of all different things and liked none of them.  More importantly, I did not get a nice center sweet spot so I didn’t even nail the lesson.  I did get one nice shot, which serves as an inspiration to keep at it.  This is for Grace Marie, who asked for a recent image of our precious Labrador, Sam.   I was lucky, yes lucky, to get his eye in relatively good focus.  Oh, say hey, maybe the problem is with my eyes??? 

Dreamy Sam

Dreamy Sam, 8 x 12 inch photo
© 2011 Fran Saunders

Posted in Camera Techniques

Entering Juried Photography Contests

Hello, everyone.  This article is for Lynne, who asked me about photography competitions the other day.  There is so much to be said about this topic, much of it not my own, so I will be directing you here and there for the best advice. 

First, though, your best source of information about local photography competitions is your local art council/gallery/nature organization/and the like.  When you join the organization, sign up for the newsletter and they will alert you to all competitions of interest.  I really urge you to join these organizations because with budget cuts galore from the federal to the state to the local level, they are all starving for funds.  That being said, some may have free publications to which you can subscribe. 

Secondly, there are several “lists” online that will alert you to competitions, but you have to join them, and sometimes joining may cost a few pennies or more to get the best information.  Here are some that I know about:

If you know about others please let us know.

Very few contests listed are free to enter.  You can expect to pay from $10 to $35 and perhaps more, for the privilege of entering one or more of your images.   Remember, too, that although some contests, particularly those run by magazines are conducted totally on-line, in an actual exhibition you will also be responsible for printing, framing and shipping your item to the show’s venue.  So, this is not a cheap venture.

You also need to so some careful research before you spend your hard-earned money on a competition or two.  Most importantly,  be sure the sponsors are legitimate and that by entering you are not giving up the rights to your photos.  Read the fine print…VERY CAREFULLY…before you give someone else the right to claim your image for their own purposes.

I have read a few really good articles about entering competitions and urge you to read them for yourself.  Together they give a very good overview of the kinds of questions you need to ask yourself before you enter a  juried competition and will give you a flavor for what happens behind the scenes.

As for me, I enjoy the recognition these contests have given me.   Along the way I’ve learned a lot about how my art is perceived and evaluated out there in the big world and how that relates to my own intentions.  Not always the same thing to be sure!  So, if you decide to go this route, be prepared for many failures and hopefully some wonderful successes.  Good luck and be sure to share your news with us.  And don’t forget to smile: spring is almost here!

Almost Spring

Almost Spring, Photo 8 x 12 inches© 2011, Fran Saunders

Posted in Competitions, My Art

Kudos and Orbital Photos

I’m excited to report that my image, “Moody River,” was selected as a finalist in the 2011 Fine Art Photography Exhibit at the ArtSpace Gallery in Herndon, Virginia. The exhibit and reception are free to the public and I hope all my Virginian friends will take the opportunity to visit and see my work. The exhibit will run from March 1 to the 27th.

I urge my Eastern Shore friends to visit the Dorchester Center for the Arts where the 2011 Member’s Show is now open and will continue until February 26th. You still have time to see it, if you haven’t already done so. My image, “Orbital Daisy” received an Honorable Mention in the creative category. I am pleased that several of my colleagues from the Wednesday Morning Artists Group joined me in receiving an honor. Congratulations to Kay Jones, Lisa Krentel, and Pat Novella Hayes. I was in great company!

You’ve seen “Moody River” before, but I’m displaying “Orbital Daisy” for you below.

Orbital Daisy

Orbital Daisy, 8 x 8 inches
© 2011 Fran Saunders

Isn’t this an interesting effect? I learned about it from a Better Photo newsletter. Here are the steps involved:

  • Crop your image to an 8-bit square photo.
  • From the Photoshop menu, navigate to Filter/Distort/Polar Coordinates and click. Check “polar to rectangle” and then click “ok”.
  • Back to the menu, navigate to Image/Image Rotation/180 degrees and click.
  • Then again navigate to Filter/Distort/Polar Coordinates. This time check “rectangle to polar” and then click “ok”.

That’s all there is to it. Check it out. This is lots of fun, although you may have to play around a bit to find an appropriate image.

All right, on to other business. What would you all like to talk about next? Do you have a special topic you would like me to discuss? Do you have something you would like to share with my circle of listeners? Let me know…

Posted in Kudos, My Art, Post-Processing

Removing Textures from Part of an Image

Hello, all. Here I am with the final segment of our texture series. First we’ll explore how to remove the texture from parts of a photograph. Then, I’ll give you links to some online resources on textures that you will find useful in your own explorations into this creative effect.

You will remember that when we added a texture to an image it was placed on its own layer above the image layer. To remove the texture from a part of the image, we are going to create a mask. Adding a mask is Photoshop’s way of giving you a tool to help you hide or show parts of a layer, in this case the texture. This is an excellent tool for adjusting creative effects of any kind.

Here is an image to which I added an overall texture. You will see that it covers the entire photo including the subject leaf.

Leaf with Texture

Leaf with Texture
© 2011, Fran Saunders

Suppose I did not want to texture to cover the leaf? I would click on the texture layer in Photoshop. Then at the very bottom of the layers palette, the third icon in shows a rectangle with a white circle center. This is the mask icon. Click it and a white square will appear just to the right of the texture thumbnail on the texture layer. With this white mask in place, choose a soft appropriately sized black paint brush and start painting over those parts of the image where you wish to remove the texture. If you make a mistake, paint over the error with a white paint brush and the effect will reappear. In mask parlance, painting with white shows an effect, while painting with black hides it. And there you have it.  Take a look at the image above after the texture was removed from the leaf:

Leave with Texture Removed

Leaf Without Texture
© 2011, Fran Saunders

I hope you have found this series useful, and again, don’t hesitate to ask questions. If you wish to further explore using textures you may find the following websites helpful:

Totally Rad: This group’s “Dirty Pictures” software has many textures and come with software to ease selection and masking. You can even add your own textures to the software index.

Flypaper Textures:  Another fantastic site for textures. Their textures are sold in packages.

Pareerica:  These are free textures which you may use with attribution and link backs.

Don’t forget that you can do a Google search on textures and come up with many more resources. Have fun!

Posted in My Art, Post-Processing

Adding a Texture to an Image

Welcome back to our discussion on texture. This time we are going to add a texture to a second image. Presumably you have TWO photos in hand, one a processed photo of choice and the second a texture.

Here is my own “before” image:

Original Photo

Original Photo
© 2009 Fran Saunders

Step by step, here is what we are going to do:

  • Open your photograph in Photoshop. Make your post-processing adjustments.
  • You can work with any RGB image: JPG, PSD, TIFF, etc.
  • Note the resolution of your photograph (image/image size and look at the resolution box). Your texture should have the same resolution. So go ahead and open the texture to check the resolution. If they don’t match change one or the other (image/image size/type in new resolution/uncheck resample box/click okay).
  • Now you want to bring your texture into your original photo file. (File/Place/Select Texture File Name/Click Place). Your texture file is now overlaid onto your photograph. You should see a cross on the texture and notches at the corners and the mid-points of each line around the perimeter of your image. Drag the notches to resize your texture so it is the same size as your photograph and then click enter to complete the action. Your texture now fully covers the photograph.
  • Be sure your layers window is visible. Just underneath the tab that says “Layers” you will see a pull down menu box. Normally, the “Normal” name will be showing. These are the blending modes. Click the arrow to the right side of the box and you will see the long list of options you have to “blend” your texture with your photograph. Select one, say “Overlay” and click on it. Whoa, what happened to that photo?
  • How do you pick a blend mode? Yes, sorry, you need to experiment. Different photos and textures react differently when blended. Some have no effect whatsoever, while others offer dramatic transitions. Some that are particularly useful with textures are hard light, soft light, multiply, screen and overlay. But try them all so you know what they’ll do.
  • Many times after blending the effect will appear much too strong and artificial. In this case, look at the menu box just to the right of the blend box. This is the opacity slider. With your texture layer highlighted adjust the slider until you get the effect you want.

The real fun starts when you add more texture layers and adjust opacity to suit to create a truly unique look. If you do add additional textures, after you’ve place them you may wish to turn the layer effect off (click the eye to the right of the layer, click again to turn the effect back on), because sometimes your changes are really slight and may not be worth the larger file size that results from increasing layers. Delete those texture layers you do not want to keep.

In my own “texturized” image I used three different textures, along with my typical levels and curves adjustments. Here’s how it looks:

Texturized Image

Texturized Image
© 2009 Fran Saunders

We’re not really done yet, although it may appear so. Next time we’ll play with ways to remove the texture from parts of your image If you have any questions about what we’ve covered today, do not hesitate to ask, but be sure to save your work first!

Posted in My Art, Post-Processing

Post-processing for Textures

Although you can process textures in your image editing software the same way you process any of your other images, there are certain techniques that may help enhance your texture photograph.

Texture photos often require some basic clean up. You may need to straighten or crop them to give them the look and feel you are after. You may also find that flipping them horizontally or vertically may also help. Use your cleaning tools (spot healer, clone tool, etc.) to remove extraneous items that impose on the image. Straighten your image in Camera Raw (Lens Effects-Rotate) or Photoshop (Ruler Tool). You can also crop in either portion of the program.

Try changing your image to black and white or adding a mono or duotone. Sometimes, using the gradient tool to apply multiple colors can be intriguing. Most image editing programs have tools that can easily accomplish all of these effects.

Play with special filters, taking care to tone down the results where they appear harsh. While processing textures you can really let you creativity wander off where it will. Try different things to see what works and what doesn’t.

One thing you will find is that a texture image responds well to more rather than less contrast, but you don’t want to overdo it unless that is part of your design. You can adjust contrast in many ways, but the curves and levels tools should do the job. Try some of the presets if you are hesitant to experiment on your own.

Your texture should be in good focus. Soft textures don’t usually stand out well. Image editing software all have sharpening tools, but you can also purchase third party plug-ins that do a lot of the precision work for you. I personally use PK Sharpener and Nik Sharpener and highly recommend them to you.

Don’t hesitate to combine one or more textures to form a third. You can produce some really unique images this way.

Working with textures can be rewarding, but yes, it is also very time consuming to experiment with different effects. Still, don’t let that hold you back. There are no time constraints on your creativity and I urge you to spend a little time each week just trying different approaches with various textures. I guarantee you will eventually find one that really works for you and could put a whole new face on your photography.

Here’s another image I would like to share with you. Yes, the daisy was added, but not in Photoshop. The flower was simply placed in the background, which actually happened to be the body of a copper turtle that had a cut out design! I was fascinated, not only by the cut pattern, but on the texture of the wear and tear of the copper as well.

Daisy Copper

Daisy Copper, 8 x 10 inches
© Fran Saunders, 2009

Don’t forget to let us know if you’ve found some wonderful textures, and I’ll see you again next week when we’ll begin to look at combining textures with other images. If there are subjects you’d like me to explore with you in the future, please share them.

Posted in My Art, Post-Processing