Archive for the ‘Rockport’ 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


Charlotte Calls My Garden Home

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

All In The Family

For the last couple of years I’ve had a garter snake living under the stone steps in my garden. I affectionately named him Charlie. Each spring I look forward to seeing him basking in the sun, as that signals to me that winter is gone and warmer weather is here to stay.

This year, I discovered someone new calling my garden home. I first spotted “Charlotte” on the far side of my yard on the edge of one of my borders. Having been out shooting flowers, I had both my camera and macro lens in hand.

At first I thought it might be Charlie, as I had seen him in this area the previous year. Once I got closer though, I could see this garter snake’s head to be smaller. I then assumed this one to be female and promptly named her Charlotte. Were she and Charlie a couple? Maybe. I knew I needed to say, “Hello.”

A garter snake curls to take a look

Charlotte curls around to take a good look at me

Introducing Myself

Charlotte was definitely wary of me as I approached her. Unlike Charlie who had gotten quite used to me, Charlotte didn’t know what to make of me. I gently spoke to her and kept a safe distance for a bit. I gradually moved closer, all the while speaking softly to her, and slowly coming down to her level. As trust was slowly building, she kindly gave me some great eye contact.

A close-up image of a garter snake's face.

Meeting eye-to-eye at Charlotte's level

I continued to speak gently to her  — always referring to her by name — but was mindful not to stress her out. After all, I was used to having a garter snake as a resident, but she was not used to me.

Knows Her Name

Every morning when I come down the stone steps, I always softly say, “Charlie… Charlotte… Good Morning.” From time to time a little head pops up to greet the sound of my voice. The first time this spring I thought it was Charlie. Since then, however, I’m sure it’s been Charlotte. Never have I seen the two of them together.

The other day when I was walking across the back lawn, I noticed something up against the porch lattice making its way through the grass towards the stone steps. Naturally I said, “Charlotte?”

A garter snake raises its head in the grass

Reacting to my voice

As you can see by her reaction to my voice, I think she clearly knows her name. Looks like my “animal whisperer” skills are still working.

~ Liz Mackney


Editor’s Pick Gallery

New England Photography Guild Gallery

How to Create A Fauve Fine Art Scene in Photoshop

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

Fauve fine art effect applied.

Fauve Fine Art Effect


If you’re not familiar with “Fauve Fine Art,” then perhaps this description from Wikipedia can be of some help:

“Fauvism is the style of les Fauves (French for “the wild beasts”), a loose group of early twentieth-century Modern artists whose works emphasized painterly qualities and strong color over the representational or realistic values retained by Impressionism. While Fauvism as a style began around 1900 and continued beyond 1910, the movement as such lasted only a few years, 1904–1908, and had three exhibitions. The leaders of the movement were Henri Matisse and André Derain.”

Family Influence

My grandfather was a wonderfully talented artist. He excelled as a painter in both watercolor and oils. I always loved his work, especially his watercolors. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized (through reading the Photoshop Fine Art Effects Cookbook) that his watercolors very much incorporated a Fauve Effect. It’s no surprise then why I was instantly drawn to this Photoshop Fine Art Effect.

Since I didn’t inherit my grandfather’s painting gene, I was very excited to learn that I could apply a Fauve Effect to my photography in post production. It was just a matter of learning the steps, which I’m happy to outline for you here.

Step-By-Step Instructions

Once you’ve selected the image you’d like to transform, the Photoshop steps are pretty straightforward. Note: For this image, I used Photoshop CS4. The filters and blending modes discussed below all come with Photoshop right out of the box.

So let’s get started. Here’s what I did, step-by-step, to create the Fauve Fine Art Effect shown above.

  1. Open your image in Photoshop and duplicate the image layer. Name the layer “Find Edges.”
  2. Convert the Find Edges layer to a line drawing by selecting Filter>Artistic>Poster Edges from the Filter Menu at the top of the screen.
  3. In the Layers palette, click on the “Create new fill or adjustment layer” icon (the half black/half white circle) and select Threshold from the menu that opens. Drag the slider until all of the color disappears and the line drawing looks how you wish it to be.
  4. Once the line drawing is to your liking, duplicate the original layer and then drag the new layer to the top of the layer stack and rename it “Multiply.” Now switch that new layer’s blending mode to Multiply, and slightly reduce the opacity. The image should now look like a line drawing that has been colored in.
  5. Now apply the Median filter to the Multiply layer by selecting Filter>Noise>Median. The purpose of the Median filter is to blend nearby pixels, therefore select a radius that is high enough to significantly distort the image in Preview. Note: For this image I used a radius of 20 pixels.
  6. With the Multiply layer still selected, activate the Move tool by clicking on it. Now hold down the Shift Key and use one of the arrow keys to gently shift the Multiply layer a few pixels in one direction. The goal is to produce a slight mismatch between the color and black lines so that it appears the image is slightly out of registration.
That’s how this Fauve Fine Art Scene was created in Photoshop.

So if you have the artistic heart of the great masters, but not their innate painting skills, don’t give up on your fine art dreams. Photoshop just might help you create a few digital masterpieces of your own.

Note: Prints of this image are available at my gallery on Fine Art America.

The Original

And in case you are wondering, here is what my original image looked like before its artistic transformation back in time.

Motif #1 Original Image
The Original

I must say that while I’ll never be a great painter like my grandfather, somewhere I do believe he is smiling.

~ Liz Mackney


Editor’s Pick Gallery

New England Photography Guild Gallery



March Brings The Full Worm Moon

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

The Full Worm Moon descends over Rockport Harbor

The Full Worm Moon bathes Motif #1 in moonlight

The Full Worm Moon Beckons

Yesterday’s moon was known as the “Full Worm Moon.” According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac: “The Full Worm Moon was given its name by the Algonquin tribes from New England to Lake Superior. At the time of this spring Moon, the ground begins to soften and earthworm casts reappear, inviting the return of robins. This is also known as the Sap Moon, as it marks the time when maple sap begins to flow and the annual tapping of maple trees begins.”

Ahhh… Hello Spring!

The Moon… The Sun… The Tide…

People usually notice a full moon on the rise while driving home from work, or sometimes through a window in the evening while watching television. When you’re a photographer, however, a full moon is an event. It beckons us. It’s pull is magical. We plan for it.

The Moon Doesn’t Just Rise

What many people don’t realize, however, is that moonset is just as exciting as moonrise. The deal breaker for some people is simply the time of day that moonset occurs. That time varies from day-to-day.

This year’s Full Worm Moon had me out the door at 5:00 a.m. I wanted to make sure I had allowed for travel time, parking time, walking time and setup time. The moon has its own schedule. It waits for no one. Better to be too early than too late when photographing it.

Rockport Harbor and The Headlands

This year in Rockport, Massachusetts, the Full Worm Moon was scheduled to set at 6:21 a.m. A quick check of The Photographer’s Ephemeris program showed me that the moon would set over the town behind Rockport Harbor and appear directly between the harbor’s two wharfs when viewed nearby from The Headlands.

Two Shoots In One

Sunrise was scheduled for 6:33 a.m. Again, a quick check of The Photographer’s Ephemeris program showed me that the sun would rise behind Straitsmouth Lighthouse when viewing from the opposite side of The Headlands. All I would need to do was be fast on my feet and get to the other side in time to set up for my shot. As you can see, the hustle was well worth it. The colors were breathtaking.

The blue hour of sunrise surrounds Straitsmouth Lighthouse

The blue hour of sunrise provides a beautiful backdrop to Straightsmouth Lighthouse

Know The Tide

The tide is also an important thing to check when shooting along the coast. High tide versus low tide can greatly affect such things as shooting perspective and reflections. Getting down low in a tidal pool at low tide will garner a shot much different from one taken from the top of a rocky cliff. Which is better? That’s up to you! I say try them both. Step outside of your typical shooting zone and see what new perspectives you can personally witness and capture.

Preparation — An Important Thing To Remember

When checking the times for moonset or sunrise, remember the horizon and surrounding terrain. Setting times refer to when the sun or the moon is no longer visible on the horizon. Rising times refer to when the sun or moon first becomes visible on the horizon.

To shoot the last of the Full Worm Moon here in Rockport, I knew that I had to be ready long before the moon actually set. I needed to be in position before the moon disappeared behind the elevated tree line in the distance.

The Full Worm Moon just before it dipped below the tree line in Rockport, Massachusetts.

Moonset is perfectly aligned between the harbor's two wharfs

My iPhone Apps

While some of the reference programs I used for this shoot (such as The Photographer’s Ephemeris) are readily available on computer, I like to have them with me at all times. That’s where my iPhone comes in handy. Here are the links to the specific apps I used to plan this shoot.

In Case You’re Wondering…

The next full moon is April 25th and it’s called the Full Pink Moon. If you’re in the Rockport area, moonset is 5:26 a.m., sunrise is 5:45 a.m., and low tide is 5:09 a.m.

And Don’t Forget…

Conversely, don’t forget to consider the times of a full moonrise and sunset. When both of these events occur close together, the shooting possibilities are again only limited by your imagination and perhaps the speed of your feet.

Warm weather is coming! No more cold weather excuses. Get out there and capture the celestial magic!

~ Liz Mackney


Editor’s Pick Gallery

New England Photography Guild Gallery






The First Signs of Spring Come to Cape Ann

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

Snow Melt…

After a feisty February of back-to-back blizzards here on Cape Ann, I was thrilled to discover the snow melt of the last few days revealing the very first signs of spring!  Considering an enormous mound of snow remains piled at the top of my driveway, the emerging growth and subtly changing color of various plants made my heart sing. February was most definitely a lion — and another 10-inches of snow last Friday continued the trend —  but I am very hopeful the rest of March will be a lamb.

Walk the Gardens

With my beloved dog following closely behind, I took advantage of the warm temps today and strolled my gardens. The first thing to catch my eye was the green hue beginning to fill the leaves on my azalea bush.

Azalea leaves show the first signs of spring.

Azalea leaves begin to turn color

Not too far away, bulbs were proudly emerging from the damp soil and up through the remaining bark mulch. The rays of the sun seemed to be urging them on.

Flowers stems emerge from their bulbs.

Flower shoots begin to emerge from their bulbs.

In another border that gets full sun, the last bit of snow that had been covering the plants melted completely the other day. However, it was only today that I could see the color of my lavender plants shifting from winter gray to a delightful sage green.

Lavender leaves begin to turn color as spring approaches

Dormant lavender begins to awaken

Not too far away — and perhaps influenced by the warmth held by my stone walls — were signs of rebirth from my several blankets of phlox. They certainly didn’t look like they were going to return to slumber any time soon.

Phlox begin to turn green as winter gives way to spring.

Phlox begins to come back to life

Even my stonecrop today looked antsy to get going. This particular bud seemed to be calling out to me — with his cronies in the background cheering him on. Their collective red has deepened a bit and seems a bit more vibrant.

A red stonecrop bud grows towards the sun

Stonecrop bud reaches out towards the sun

Taking A Chance

I may be tempting Mother Nature, but I can’t help but say, “Bye-bye winter.”  I am so ready for Spring!

~ Liz Mackney


Editor’s Pick Gallery

New England Photography Guild Gallery




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