Month: March 2016

Signs of Spring


A macro lens makes the tiny buds and leaves of early spring loom large, much larger than they actually are in reality. However, if you are as desperate as I am for any signs of spring, it’s worth grabbing a jacket and stepping outside in the rain with a camera and macro lens in search of spring. Over the weekend, I walked around the yard, moving in close with a wide aperture setting on my camera’s lens to capture these photographs. I think I’ve learned to appreciate these little details in life, especially after a long winter of cold and snow. I want my family to know how much I enjoy the coming of spring as I remove the clutter and focus on the details of the moment. Yes, I am one of those who also enjoys removing clutter as part of a good spring cleaning at home.

For my scrapbooking, I don’t think that photographs that are cropped in close are necessarily the best candidates for blending into a background. Sometimes, I just want to try a different look from my pages with extractions or blended photos. Often, I am inspired by the photography and art of others. One person who inspires me is ViVre. She makes beautiful photographs and then combines them on pages with just enough art to enhance and emphasize her photographs. Sometimes she uses templates to display her photos. There is always a clean, uncluttered look to her artsy pages along with her own creative flair for combining photos with artsy designs and elements.

This isn’t the first time that I’ve 2015-05-10_God'sArtistrybeen drawn to ViVre’s style of focusing on photos. I felt her influence as I created the page on the right last year. I share her passion for making photographs, capturing little details in life. I thought of her work again as I began combining the photos that I captured over the weekend to create the page at the top of this post.

I wanted an uncluttered balance between photos and art for this page. I would like to highlight three design ideas on my latest page that I think contribute to this look.

2016-03-26_SignsofSpringFramesRather than blending or extracting the branches or flowers I framed my photos with frames from Artsy Layered Template No. 125. I generally save Anna’s layered templates after turning off all the transfers, stains and textures so that I can see just the placement of the frames, title and spaces as I decide on a template design to use.


2016-03-26_SignsofSpringBackgroundFor the background paper, I recreated the design of artsy paper 4 from ArtPlay Palette Bask. I placed transfer 4 vertically and recolored it using a hue and saturation adjustment layer to support the color tones in the photos. Just below, I placed ArtPlay Palette Moments solid paper 6 and blended it with a layer mask leaving the white in the file’s background revealed.


2016-03-26_SignsofSpringFramedTransferFor interest on the page and contrast with my photos I clipped the layers Artsy Transfer Moments 1 to one of the frame masks. In between the transfer layers, I placed a butterfly on color burn blend mode, layers from Multimedia Branches No 2 and the word spring from BigWords Spring No. 1. All layers are clipped to the mask except for the butterfly, branch and art stroke.

Even with the addition of a few more elements to move the eye down my page, I have focused on the photographs with a relatively clean and uncluttered page design. I love the white space and tension in the minimal asymmetrical page design. It’s good to be inspired by another photographer and artist, especially one who combines the two mediums so well. Now, I think I’ll spend a little time this afternoon spring cleaning before making more photographs or creating another scrapbook page.


Inspired by a Photograph

One reason I continue to work on my photography is because what I learn about photography inspires me as I create artsy scrapbook pages. I don’t know if you read the post about my fascination with using aperture and compression to create blurred backgrounds, but the photograph on the left in which the ivy is in focus and the brick background blurred inspired the photo layering on this artsy page.


To create my background, I placed solid paper 6 above solid paper 3 from ArtPlay Palette Portiere and changed the blend mode to multiply at 100%. At the top right, I blended another photo of bricks that I shot into the paper with a layer mask. There is also a brush stamped on a new layer above all the paper layers.



Next, I blended the photo into the background with a layer mask. I stamped a brush from ArtPlay Palette Portiere on the lower right corner. Along the edge of the blended background photo, I stamped one of the images from New Orleans No. 1 in a  colored to match the bricks. I changed the blend mode, reduced the opacity and gave it a slight gaussian blur.


Below the the focal photo, I brought in all of the layers of Artsy Transfers Portiere 3. I turned off two art strokes, recolored the green stain and added a layer mask to the tape.




At this point, to create more interest and 2016-03-22_TuckedLeaves_4depth, I brought in the photo of the ivy. I duplicated the photo. To extract, I began with the magic wand tool, eliminating as much of the background as possible. Once I had eliminated what I could with that tool, I used that copy to create a layer mask for the original photo. With a small round brush, I refined my mask. Then I gave the leaves a shadow.

To finish my layout, I duplicated the ivy, rotated that copy and placed part of it on the right with a button to tack it down, title, date and place. I could have blurred the background photo more, but I didn’t want to lose the detail of the statue; instead I wanted the ivy to emphasize the depth in the corner where I found the statue and to add to the interest of my page. The idea of the ivy hanging in front of the came from a photo. How does your own photography inspire your art?





Do You Love Blurred Backgrounds?

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I would say that about ninety percent of the time, I photograph using aperture priority. Aperture refers to how wide the camera lens opening is set. It really is easier for me to capture kids in changing light with a camera set on aperture priority. I have an exposure dial on top of my camera that makes adjustments faster than adjusting the dials for manual mode. In addition, the eye instinctively focuses on what is sharpest in a photograph. When I use a wider aperture I can manipulate focus so that I get a sharp subject on a softly blurred background. To say that I love the look of a softly blurred background with a tack sharp subject would be an understatement. I have been fascinated with aperture since my first DSLR late in 2010. That’s also why I have used prime lenses almost exclusively up until recently; they have wider apertures. Prime lenses are the ones with the fixed focal length. Oh, I bought an 18-55mm f/2.8-4 zoom with my Fuji X-T1 two years ago. I have used it, but I never thought it was as good as my older macro lens for blurring backgrounds.

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However, last fall, following a discussion with Michael, a professional photographer teaching a class I am taking, I learned that there is something else that contributes to blurred backgrounds. It’s called compression. Basically it means that even if I am further from my subject with a longer focal length lens, the distance from my subject to the background doesn’t change. It flattens so that the background objects appear larger and closer to the subject. That creates some blur in the background.

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For the last four months, I’ve been trying to understand how this concept of compression works with an 18-135mm zoom lens, equivalent to a 27-206mm on a full frame camera, that I purchased on sale at my camera store. I have used it far more than any of my other lenses in the last four month, more than ninety percent of the time. However, for yesterday’s class, I decided to bring along my 60mm macro for comparison purposes. While my macro lens doesn’t focus as quickly, I didn’t think it would matter since the flowers I wanted to photograph weren’t going anywhere quickly. My macro lens does produce a beautiful bokeh with a wide aperture.

What’s my take away from experimenting in class? The zoom created some lovely blur when I zoomed out, especially when close to my subject. For the butterfly hanging from the ceiling above me, I used my zoom lens, 1/500 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400, 135mm. Did you notice the spider web on the antennae? Yet the background is softly blurred and the subject sharp at f/5.6. For the second photograph, I used my 60mm macro, 1/320 sec at f/8, ISO 1250. I wanted to see how much blur I would get up close with a narrower aperture. On the third photograph, I again zoomed out to 135mm, 1/320 sec at f/8, ISO 4000. Looking at the flower petals, I think I may have moved just a bit as I snapped the shutter button. (I’ll bring a monopod next time.)

For the images below, I used both my 60mm macro and 18-135mm zoom lenses. Can you tell which lens I used based on the backgrounds of these photographs?

The photograph of the orange orchids was taken with the zoom, 1/320 sec at f/5.6, ISO 2500, 88mm. The other four were taken with my macro. I still have a lot to learn, but I like the idea that I can blur my backgrounds by changing the aperture of a lens and by using the compression of longer lenses when zoomed out and/or close to a subject. I am going to tell Michael that I liked the Velvia film simulation mode too. The colors are more vivid than standard, but perfect for flowers I think. Yes, I still have lots to learn!!

Influence of Design Principles

I don’t often know how I want a page to look until I begin to play in Photoshop. I know it’s far more efficient to draw a sketch of a page before beginning to create. I don’t. That’s probably because I generally think about the photograph first, it’s orientation and perspective, when I begin to create a scrapbook page. However, just as often, the inspiration for choosing a photo comes from an ArtPlay Palette or .abr brush. That is the case for this page, Perfect Now.


When I opened up Anna’s new ArtPlay Palette Portiére late yesterday, I knew I wanted to use the transfer with brick and green paint as well as a brush from ArchiTextures No.5. Sometimes, it’s like that, I see a design element and it triggers an idea. That’s when I remembered a photograph of a brick wall surrounding some yellow glass pansies at a Craig M. Smith exhibit in a conservatory at Lauritzen Gardens.

Since my photo had a vertical orientation, I decided that would guide my page design. However, first, I tested out that transfer I wanted to use by placing it in the top left corner and then turned off it’s visibility. Next, I placed the photo on the left and reduced the size to better fit my 12×12 page. With a layer mask, I blended the photo into a solid paper from the ArtPlay Palette before stamping the iron gate brush on a new layer above the photo layers. I think of this brush as a second door suggesting an unknown and/or unconventional meaning to finding art behind doors.


I turned back on the visibility of the transfer and brought more light into my scene by adding FotoGlow Mix No. 2.


As I’m working, I think about design principles. In this case I needed to balance the weight of the transfer in the upper left corner. To do that, I added the frames from Artsy Layered Template No. 224 to my layout and adjusted their position to fit my vertical design. I clipped photos to the masks. The textbox is also a part of the template.


Another design principle I consider when scrapbooking is repetition. By adding a splash of yellow with an artsy stain stamped just above the transfer in the upper left corner, I repeated the color and created a diagonal line of yellow leading the eye across my page. By adding more yellow with a photo below the slide viewer as well as stamping a green stain on a new layer and placing an overlay in the lower right corner, I strengthened that diagonal line of yellow and balanced the weight of the transfer even more.


Over the foundation that I created for the framed photo with an overlay, brush, texture and slide viewer in the lower right corner, I added a cluster of small elements. Finally, I placed the word art and a beaded thread to finish off my page. I switched out the beaded letters in order to spell “now”.


So maybe it’s okay that I don’t draw a sketch of my page before beginning to create. While I may not have begun with a clear vision of my final page, what I know about design principles influenced my thinking as I worked on this scrapbook page.


Capturing Little Feet


I almost always begin creating a scrapbook page with photos. Often, my pages are inspired by family photos, like the photos I shared on the blog Wednesday from a walk to the park with Kate. My family wants to see photos and stories about themselves in print. It isn’t that I don’t create pages about other topics. I do. However, I think of these pages about family as a legacy that I am creating for the people I love.

To begin this page I blended the photo of my granddaughter crawling in the sand in the top right corner with brushes and my Wacom pen and tablet before blending the second photo of Kate, placing it so that it crosses the gutter of my two page spread. Finally, I added a photo of the shoes my granddaughter immediately removed when we arrived at the park. That’s where the photo story really begins, on the left side of my page.


Once the focal photos are in place, then I find it easiest to add frames for the smaller photos from a template, like the two templates from Spring Template Album No. 2 that I used for this two page spread. Actually, I often use templates as a guide for placing larger focal photos and as a source for smaller frames, text boxes and additional layers for my backgrounds.


To fill in the background once I had blended and placed all the photos on this page, I combined layers from Artsy Transfers Love Letters 2 and 4 along with an overlay and paint from ArtPlay Palette Love Letters. It’s not as complicated as you might think. I am working on a video tutorial to demonstrate my process for using artsy transfers. However, in the mean time here are my written steps:

  1. Open a .psd artsy transfer file, drag the layers onto my page above the paper and group while the layers are still highlighted in the layer’s panel by pressing command + g on my MAC (control+g on a PC)
  2. Work with just one group of artsy transfers at a time; turn off the visibility of other groups before I decide which layers of one artsy transfer that I think will work with the background photos and look I want for my page
  3. Turn all groups back on and adjust the position of layers, often moving them up and out of the groups, i.e. splatters and art strokes
  4. Experiment with layer order, opacity and blend modes. I adjust the position and mask layers as needed once I’ve decided which layers work best for my background


Finally, I add elements, journaling, a title and date. Actually, I usually work on the journaling while I am working on my page. That gives me time to think about and to revise my words in order to explain the details or thoughts not revealed by my photos.

My pages aren’t quick, but they really are simple. I enjoy writing and the creative process in Photoshop with photos. Think about it, I’m a a retired teacher and a grandmother. Why in the world would I want to hurry up and finish anything when I enjoy experimenting, learning and playing?



Little Bare Feet and a Tutu


The grass isn’t green yet, but warmer temperatures and very little wind made a perfect day for us to walk up to the park this morning. I am so glad that spring is finally coming!

You wouldn’t think a girl would wear a delicate tutu to play in the sand at the park. However, Kate insisted she needed a tutu as she dressed and a hair bow too. I wondered about that as she sat down to take off her shoes, dug in the sand with a shovel she found, placed buggers made of sand in the nose of a big frog and climbed the equipment. She definitely has a style and mind of her own. Today, she looked my way several times which made it easier to capture her expressions with my camera. She’s growing up quickly; her little feet won’t be in my view finder long.

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Programing My Wacom Tablet’s Function Keys

For those of us who participated in Anna’s class, PenPlay Live, a recurrent question about programing the function keys on a tablet prompted a lot of discussion. Before sharing my own current approach to those function keys, I should begin by saying that I never programed the keys on my older Wacom tablet, the small CTH-480, that I bought late in 2013. I doubt I even looked at the Wacom preference panel more than once or twice over the two years I used the tablet. I simply learned to use the pen with the tablet for extractions and detail work on masks, the task for which I purchased the tablet. However, that changed for me when I bought a small Intuos Pro on sale last November to use with my 15 inch MacBook Pro.

Now, unless I am typing text, I am constantly using my pen and tablet: in Photoshop, Lightroom and the Finder. For me, this tablet and pen are more sensitive than my older tablet although I do not think the tablet’s trackpad is quite as sensitive as my Mac’s trackpad. While some tablets have only four function keys, all tablet preference panels have the same options available for programing the function keys.


My small Intuos Pro has 6 function keys and a little wheel. Over the last three months, I experimented and programed the keys on my tablet based on what worked for me. I am used to a touch pad; I want that function on my tablet always available. Since I can always turn touch on or off inside the Wacom Desktop Center if needed, I changed the default for the top function key so that it would bring up the Mac’s Launchpad showing all the available apps to open. That function key opening the Launchpad is consistent no matter which program I am in with my tablet.

The screen shot above shows how I programed the six function keys in Photoshop. I go back and forth between Photoshop and Lightroom. I chose to program the second key essentially the same way for both applications. Photoshop takes me back to Lightroom. LightroomFunctionKeysLightroom’s second function key opens a copy of a jpg or original psd file in Photoshop for editing. The four other Photoshop function keys in the screenshot above are keystrokes that require two hands or a long reach if I’m using my keyboard. For example, I have to press shift + option + command + E to create a composite in Photoshop. Since I use this command every time I create a two page spread, I programed that for a function key. The other function keys are all programed with keystrokes that I use frequently. My objective was to program the functions so that I would be able to keep my pen in my right hand. I can access the control, option, shift and command keys with my left hand. My tablet has a wheel which I’ve programed to zoom in and out in Photoshop. For other applications, it scrolls up and down. FinderFunctionKeysFor the finder, I kept the Launchpad function consistent, but programed the other keys to open windows, create new folders, place something in the trash and empty the trash, all requiring both hands on my keyboard. Will this work for someone else, not necessarily. At the moment, it works for me. Each tablet user has to decide what works best for them. I do recommend that everyone open the Wacom Desktop Center to backup and/or restore your preferences to your computer. I was glad I had a preference backup when I updated my driver on Monday. Great class wasn’t it, now I need master all the concepts Anna presented!

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