August was a real challenge for getting out and doing birds. I did make it out a few times and learned way more than I want to know about shooting in bright, harsh light but most of the month was spent at home in the a/c. We had some awful heat including one record-breaking day when the temperature topped out at 109F (that is 42.7C for the international set).
I had a list of creative projects for the month. Some were just housekeeping: adding more memory (I have 32gb now !!!) and reorganizing my backup external hard drives. Both the RAW photos and processed .psd files for Photoshop are huge. I do assign keywords and delete non-keepers but it still eats space. My plans to add a second 2tb hard drive did not work out as I hoped. Dang.
And the rest of the time I made art. This is referred to as "playing with my pictures" since you just try different techniques and experiment.
What did I come up with?
Bill Maroldo and I were at the ponds behind Bryan Beach on one of those days when "scattered showers" were predicted and then we practically had floods. We were out in the mud flats doing wading birds, but still keeping an eye on the weather. I looked back at this small bridge over the two ponds and thought about Rome and aqueducts and took a few shots.
Then at home, I started playing around. The sky got enhanced with some other turmoil cloud shots I had, and I worked on the tones and colors to get more of an Italian glow. All the trash and distractions were removed with Photoshop Content Aware and then I added some green marshy effects in the foreground. This is why I keep so many images; they come in handy for composites and making art.
This exact spot had water up to the top of the culverts by mid-afternoon.
On the way to buy new toys at Microcenter we stopped at the Williams Tower next to the Galleria. The fountain was packed with visitors and kids, but I found a open lobby at the back side of the tower under a drive through. After straightening the image and adding some tonal effects, the symmetry and leading lines looked great.
But it needed something more.
Why not #putadeeronit ?
And one day Bill found a new technique we both have been having a lot of fun with. It is rather simple process but always surprising. Photoshop allows you to work in layers. You can blend these layers in different ways, make them more or less transparent and even process each layer individually. I have done that before, but this adds a twist.
This technique is used with focus-stacking to control depth of field, but it can be used with different images. Choose to let Photoshop put several photos in a stack. Then let the program Auto-blend the layers. It will choose only the sharpest areas of each photo and blend them seamlessly. After that, you can do cool things with filters and other post-processing.
Maybe you remember my infatuation with brick buildings last year. This is from that series but combined with a new one of the Williams Tower (formerly known as the Transco Tower). I added some Fractalius and Photoshop Oil Paint to emphasize the lines.
All of these photos (and others) are on my new Fine Art America page and are for sale. That was another of my summer vacation projects. It is a bit like social media as you have to have the right tags for shoppers to find your work, and there are contests and groups you can enter to increase the chances your photos are noticed. For instance, the above brick time-travel photo was featured on the Greeting Cards for all Occasions site. I am still pondering what occasion this could be suitable for.
But it is fun to do new things. And I was experimenting this afternoon with the Auto-blend feature and it might be useful for birds, too.
I had tried to manually combine several of the Long-billed Curlews a while back and the results were disappointing. This Auto-blend process only took a few seconds to do. Getting two birds in focus like this is really difficult in the field. I am going to try this technique with long-legged shorebirds. Hmmm...
What did you do on your Summer vacation? Did you beat the heat? Are you anxious for fall weather to arrive? You know we get a Fall Migration and I will be showing you some of the birds that pass by on their way south, and a few of our winter visitors in coming adventures.