Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Selective Color Transforms An Image

Monday, March 30th, 2015

Topaz B&W Effects selective color feature

Harbor Soulmates

Less is More

There’s the world of color photography and the world of black & white photography. Each is visually powerful in its own right. Yet there is another world of photography that can totally transform an image — the world of selective color.

In this image I used selective color to draw the viewer’s eye into the image. The red of iconic Motif #1 in contrast with the blue of the lobster boat Amie visually tells its own story. The tiny splash of color from the floating buoys in the water punctuate the image for a balanced effect.

Transformation Tool

For this image I used the Topaz B&W Effects plug-in to convert the image to black and white, and then selectively reintroduced the color to specific areas. The ease of the plug-in’s selective color tool made the process a creative pleasure. Tip! Crank up the Edge Aware slider to 1.00 when painting and erasing. Click here to learn more about the plug-in’s great key features!

Free Trial!

A great thing about Topaz Labs plug-ins is that you can download and use them for a free 30-day trial. Even better news is that the Topaz B&W Effects plug-in is currently on sale until March 31st, so if you like what you see, don’t miss the opportunity to get $20 off the regular price.


I love my original full color version of this image. As a matter of fact, I have a large metal print version of it above my fireplace. It never hurts, though, to look at your images from a different perspective and try something new in post production.

That’s how this image was born. As winter refuses to leave New England, I’ve been having a great time experimenting with my images — both old and new.

Thanks Mother Nature — and Topaz B&W Effects!

~ Liz


Determining A Photo’s Value

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

A Picture’s Worth…

How do you determine the value of a photograph? It’s a question photographers deal with every day when pricing their prints and services. On this day, however, I see the question very differently.


Three years ago today I lost my brother Rich to ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him.

When The Past Becomes A Present

Sometimes — even for a photographer — our most valuable photos aren’t the prints that have sold the most, or the ones that have won awards or been featured in magazines. Instead, they are captured moments destined to mean so much more. Like a 12-year old big brother sharing his 7-year old sister’s delight as she falls in love with a baby goat at the Catskill Game Farm. How I loved that day — and that Rich was part of it.


Brother and sister at the Catskill Game Farm in 1965.

Catskill Game Farm, 1965

Looking Back…

I look at that photo now and all of the wonderful feelings from that day come flooding back. It was such a fun time. I look at Rich’s face and see the kindness that followed him into adulthood. I look at a very young me in jeans and a red jacket sitting in the dirt with a smile on my face and see the first signs of the photographer I would later become.

I look at both of us together and see innocence, happiness and pure joy. More than anything else, I see a captured moment in time that now means the world to me. Much more than either one of us ever could have possibly imagined.

So with a bittersweet smile, I can easily tell you the value of this photo…


~ Liz Mackney

Wind Turbines Change The Gloucester Landscape

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

The Winds of Change…

My initial encounter with the wind turbines at Blackburn Industrial Park in Gloucester, Massachusetts, was last November when the first of three turbines was already assembled and standing tall at Varian Semiconductor. I was amazed by its enormous size and thrilled with the ability to get so close to it. It was easy to feel dwarfed by this fascinating structure. I know I certainly did.

Gloucester, Massachusett's first wind turbine

Standing 479-feet tall at Varian Semiconductor

Some Stats and Facts

While reading up on these newly iconic structures, I discovered a few interesting stats and facts about them:

  • The three wind turbines are worth an estimated $23 million.
  • They arrived by boat from Germany.
  • Blowers will generate 9 million kilowatt-hours of electricity
  • When the winds are 7 mph or less, the Varian turbine will not operate for economic reasons; when the wind speed is 56 mph or greater, the turbine will shutdown for safety reasons.

The Many Views of the Wind Turbines

One thing I’ve noticed since the wind turbines were activated is that you never know where you’ll see them. As I go about my every day life, I’m continually surprised to suddenly spot them from an entirely new vantage point. Here are some examples…

Blackburn Circle

Whenever I drive down Route 128 in either direction towards the Blackburn Circle rotary, I’m always awestruck by their appearance. They truly are tremendous, seemingly appearing out of nowhere.

If the wind has the turbines in action, I often find myself mesmerized by the steady rotation of their huge blades. There is something hypnotic about the spinning motion.

Wind turbines are now visible from the Blackburn Circle rotary.

The view heading north on Route 128 towards the Blackburn Circle rotary.

Gloucester Crossing

The parking lot at Gloucester Crossing gives you an entirely new vantage point to view the wind turbines. Being elevated allows you to look across Route 128 to Gloucester Engineering. Seeing the size of the wind turbine in relation to the building really gives you a relative perspective. It’s a great place to witness the arc of the blades in motion.

The wind turbine near Gloucester Engineering.

Looking across Route 128 from Gloucester Crossing to Gloucester Engineering


The first store you encounter to the left in the plaza is Petco. The blades of the wind turbines in the distance can make you look at the store twice, as an optical illusion makes the blades appear as if they are about to strike the store’s roof. You just have to stand at just the right angle to see it.

Wind turbines are visible from Petco at Gloucester Crossing.

Petco's roofline appears to meet the turbine blades


Drive a little bit further into the parking lot and you can see the blades’ perspective change over the roofline of the other shops.

Wind turbines are visible from the shops at Gloucester Crossing

Gloucester Crossing shops now feature a view of the wind turbines.

Stage Fort Park

One place where the landscape definitely took on a new look is the view from Stage Fort Park. Look across the harbor to Stacy Boulevard and the Fisherman At The Wheel Statue and you will see all three wind turbines standing tall. Their modern design is quite the visual contrast to some of Gloucester’s more historic architecture.

Blackburn Industrial Park's three wind turbines as seen from Stage Fort Park.

The wind turbines dot the landscape from Stage Fort Park

Other Places to Spot The Turbines

Several North Shore residents (thank you Thelma Ryan) have been busy keeping notes whenever they spot the wind turbines from a new location. Sightings have included the following additional places:

  • Marblehead Light/Crocker Park
  • Plum Island
  • Hampton Beach/Rye, NH
  • Little Neck in Ipswich
  • Merrimack River in Salisbury
  • Over Our Lady of Good Voyage Church (Prospect Street, Gloucester)
  • Dr. Smith’s Podiatry Office at 199 Main Street.
  • Osman Babson Road from Washington Street
  • Stop & Shop off Bass Avenue
  • Wheeler’s Point, Riverside Road
  • Essex Avenue towards the Boulevard
  • Wingaersheek Beach

Two Fascinating Videos

While writing this article, I came across two incredible videos that are a must see. Definitely check them out!

Applied Materials – Varian Wind Turbine Time-Lapse Construction Video

Blade Inspector — What A Job!

One Request…

If you happen to spot the wind turbines from another location other than the ones mentioned in this article, please post a comment and let me know. I’d love to add them to the list here.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the wind turbines are here to stay!

~ Liz Mackney


Editor’s Pick Gallery

New England Photography Guild Gallery




Changing Your Shooting Perspective

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Annisquam Lighthouse in Gloucester, Massachusetts, is one of my favorite places to photograph. No matter what the time of year, I frequently return to this location with camera and tripod in hand.

I’m often asked by new photographers how is it that I never tire of shooting the “same place.” My answer is simple. “It’s never the same place twice.”

Annisquam Lighthouse as seen from a distance along the coastline.

Distant view from along the coastline's edge

Capturing A Mood

As with all landscape photography, weather can greatly influence the mood or feel of an image. Bright blue skies, puffy white clouds, a storm front moving in, lightning, or fog can all add drama to the mix.

But there’s something you actually control that can change things up quite a bit — it’s your shooting perspective. How many different ways can you see and capture a single scene? Experiment. Try from a high angle and then from a low one. Move in close and then try from a distance. Watch for the subtle changes in light, shadow and texture as you move, and incorporate new elements that come into view as part of your composition.

Coastline Variables

The coastline offers a few additional variables that influence an image. Let’s start with the obvious — the tide. Depending on the time of day, you may encounter high tide with the beach nowhere to be seen. That can be a good thing! If it’s a stormy day and the ocean is feeling feisty, you might get some waves crashing against the rocks.

On the flip side, low tide can create — or reveal — all sorts of things. I often discover interesting patterns formed in the sand by the retreating tide. Sometimes when the sun is at the right angle, there is a reflection of Annisquam Lighthouse in the shallow water or in the wet sand itself.

Combine the tide with the ever-changing New England weather and there you have it — Annisquam Lighthouse is never the same place twice.

Annisquam Lighthouse as viewed from down on the beach.

Shot from down on the beach

Shoreline Terrain

I love the rocky shoreline of Cape Ann. Annisquam Lighthouse itself stands upon a rocky ledge at the north end of the Annisquam River. Access to many of the large rocks along the beach appears and disappears as the tide comes in and out. With each visit, I love discovering a new perspective from which to shoot.

Annisquam Lighthouse as viewed from on top of the rocks.

Shot from on top of the rocks

Time of Day

Sunset at Annisquam Lighthouse is one of my favorite times of the day. It’s important to note, however, that the angle of the setting sun changes throughout the year. I use The Photographer’s Ephemeris program (both on my computer and iPhone) to check the sunset’s angle on any given day. During November, the sun sets over the mainland near Wingaersheek Beach. In the summer, however, the sunset angle shifts to over the ocean.

Annisquam Lighthouse at sunset in November.

Capturing the sunset in November

As you can see in the sunset shot above, I had low tide, clear skies, the beach and a few rocky ledges to work with when composing my shot. The orange light was beautiful that day. It was what I chose to showcase as it filled the horizon, hit the lighthouse/keeper’s cottage, and bathed the rocks.

If you look at the very edge of the receding tide, you can see a hint of the lighthouse’s reflection. Just think how different this might have been if the tide was high, the sky featured some dramatic cumulus clouds, or the waves were crashing against the rocks.

All the reasons to come back again and again. As you can see, it’s never the same place twice.

~ Liz Mackney


Editor’s Pick Gallery

New England Photography Guild Gallery



Portland Head Light — Sunrise Perspectives

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Good Morning Portland Head Light!

I recently took a trip up north to photograph the Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. This sunrise adventure required me to leave Rockport, Massachusetts, by 2:30 a.m. to reach my final destination of Fort Williams Park by my favorite time of day — the blue hour. Was it worth getting up for in the middle of the night? You bet it was!

Portland Head Light at sunrise as seen from the south side.

Sunrise as seen from the south side

Location, Location, Location!

This was my first trip to Portland Head Light. What a great location. So many different vantage points from which to shoot. I had seen shots from other photographers, but I’m always interested in seeing what my eye favors. That means one thing — checking out every location.

My first shooting location was from the south side looking north. It was still quite dark outside, so I really studied things visually before deciding whether or not to hop the fence and climb out onto the rocks to shoot. My eye decided against doing so, as I thought that angle would make the shot too flat in terms of perspective. When I shoot buildings, I generally like to shoot at an angle that gives some depth to the structure.

Portland Head Light at sunrise as seen from the north side with Ram Island Ledge Light in the distance

Portland Head Light with Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse in the distance

I particularly liked this angle for a variety of reasons. First, it allowed me to get the depth that I wanted for the shot. The wooden fence also helps to guide the eye. Second, the blue hour was transitioning into a wider expanse of golden light. I wanted to capture that magnificent color across the entire framing of my shot. Finally, I wanted to include Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse, which is visible on the horizon. Its position further guides the eye into the distance while adding greater dimension.

Timing, Timing, Timing!

During sunrise, the light changes quickly and dramatically. If you’re not fast on your feet, you could miss a fantastic moment. I knew ahead of time that I also wanted to shoot the Portland Head Light from the north side looking south. As soon as I was done with the dual lighthouse shot, I folded up my tripod and headed north on the well maintained walking path. I followed the path along the rocky coastline and found my ideal location.

Portland Head Light at sunrise as seen from the north side.

Early morning light as seen from the north side

By the time I got to this side of the lighthouse, the early morning light was already transitioning to beautiful pastel hues of pink and lavender. On this morning, the tide was way out, helping to expose the rocky ledge and seaweed covered boulders down below. To capture the wide range of tonal contrast in the rocks, I chose to create a 3-image HDR (High Dynamic Range) shot, using an exposure bias of +1, 0, -1. Doing this allowed me to capture not only the beautiful color, but all of the coastline detail as well. The sailboat in the distance was the perfect addition to the scene, for it adds depth to the shot and serves to guide the eye.

As you can see, Portland Head Light offers quite the visual feast during the sunrise hour. It’s definitely worth the trip!

~ Liz Mackney


Editor’s Pick Gallery

New England Photography Guild Gallery


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