Posts Tagged ‘New England’

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


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12 Tips To Improve Your Flower Photography!

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

Flower Photography Cheat Sheet

Now that Spring is officially here, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about ways to improve your flower photography. My gardens are already beginning to sprout here in New England, and it won’t be long before flowers are blooming and vibrant colors are swaying in the gentle summer breeze.

Summer color loves diffused light

I’m often asked how it is that I get the flower shots that I do. What is it that I look for and what does my creative eye see? I’m happy to share that information with you and offer some helpful tips on how to improve your flower photography. First, however, let’s look at where you might be going wrong.

Common Mistakes

There are several mistakes that new photographers often make when shooting flowers:

  • Shooting down on a flower from a standard viewing distance produces a typical “snapshot” image.
  • Shooting at high noon in bright sun produces harsh lighting and washes out color.
  • Not removing distractions, such as dead leaves or stray twigs.
  • Always shooting from the same angle or perspective.
  • Not thinking through the overall composition.
  • Cropping too tightly in camera.
  • Shooting too close with the lens you are using and thus being unable to focus.

Answer This Question…

Do I think of my camera as taking great pictures, or do I think of myself as creating great photographs? There is definitely a difference. Your answer determines where you go from here.

12 Helpful Tips

If you want to be in control of the images you capture in the garden, but aren’t quite sure on how to do that, perhaps the following tips will be of some help.

Tip #1 — The 360 Rule

Really evaluate your shooting perspective. Basically check out the flower from every angle, including above and below, as well as by circling its circumference. Light, shadow and background all change as you move around the flower, as do the intricate details of the flower itself.

The back of a flower often has interesting detail all its own

Tip # 2 — Composition

When you see a group of flowers, study them collectively as well as individually. How flowers are positioned and grow in relation to each other can often be the foundation of a nice composition.

A flower's position in the garden can influence composition

Tip #3 — Selective Focus

Decide what element you want as the primary point focus. With a tight group of flowers, you might want to draw the viewer’s eye to a specific flower. I chose to do just that with this image, by creating a shallow depth of field for the background, and soft focus for the surrounding outside flowers.

Keeping one flower in sharp focus draws the viewer's eye

Tip #4 — Depth of Field

Controlling the depth of field (that which remains in sharp focus) makes all the difference in the world to flower photography. Therefore it’s important to remember these four factors that affect depth of field:

  1. Your f-stop number (The smaller the number, the less that is in focus; the larger the number, the more that is in focus.)
  2. The focal length of your lens. (When you’re zoomed in, you’ll have less depth of field. When you’re zoomed out, you’ll have more depth of field.)
  3. Your distance to the subject. (The closer you are to the subject, the less that is in focus; the farther away you are from the subject, the more that is in focus.)
  4. The subject’s distance to the background. (The further away the subject is from the background, the less that is in focus; the closer the subject is to the background, the more that is in focus.)
Note: All four of these factors interact with each other to affect depth of field. Consider them when composing your shots.

A shallow depth of field showcases the flower and blurs the background

Tip #5  — Close-Up & Macro

Flowers feature very intricate details. What better way to showcase these details than with a close-up or macro shot. It’s important to note that while a macro lens can really up your shooting game, you don’t need a dedicated macro lens to get a close-up or macro image. You can always crop an image afterwards to create a close-up or macro perspective.

The details of small flowers are not always seen by the naked eye

Tip #6 — Welcome The Rain

Don’t be too disappointed when the rain comes to spoil a sunny day. On the contrary it may be exactly what you need for a special shot. Sometimes you don’t need a steady rain. I’ve found that a quick passing shower can really enhance things.

Sometimes a spring shower can be your creative friend

Tip #7 — Spot Focus

What to focus on when shooting flowers is only limited by your imagination. You can shoot an overall garden scene, a group of flowers, a single flower with a shallow depth of field, or you can really call attention to the finer details by spot focusing on a single point to draw the viewer’s eye. That was my thought for this image, as the colors of the flower were the perfect frame to showcase the texture of the stigma.

Spot focus can draw the eye to a specific detail

Tip #8 — Fill The Frame

Certain images deserve to fill the frame during composition. Such was the case when I saw this large sunflower. I loved everything about it — the color, the texture, the background, the curve of the petals. I chose a square crop to showcase this pristine, symmetrical flower. It proved to be a good call, as I later had this image made into a large ceramic tile. The dimensions were perfect.

Fill the frame with the most important elements

Tip #9 — Flower Stages

Flowers grow in stages. That makes for multiple photo opportunities. I like to continually check my gardens to see what stage a particular flower is at. Do you have any idea what this emerging bud later turned out to be? If you guessed sunflower, you’d be right!

Different stages offer multiple shooting opportunities

Tip #10 — Top Down Perspective

As previously mentioned, shooting down on a flower from a typical viewing distance can produce bland, boring images. However, getting close to the flower (either physically or by zooming in) can totally change the composition and make for an interesting photo. The striped, curved petals on this variegated crocus guide the viewer’s eye to the central point of focus.

Shoot top down to showcase pattern and detail

Tip #11 — Soft Focus

In the garden certain flowers by their very design are a perfect match for soft focus. The shallow depth of field in this image again helped to showcase the flower, but it was soft focus that complemented the natural softness of the delicate petals. Everything working together is what makes this image interesting.

Certain details are meant for soft focus

Tip #12 — Incorporate Garden Visitors

We are not the only ones who wait for the gardens to bloom. Some winged friends become the perfect accent to a colorful flower. Dragonflies are some of my favorite visitors to capture. I actually think they enjoy my company, for they follow me around the garden all summer long.

Garden visitors love the flowers too

Practice Time

It’s early in the season, so you have plenty of time to practice these tips. You can even get a jump on things by picking up a potted plant such as tulips, positioning it in the garden, and experimenting. Best of all, you can then transplant the tulips as a colorful addition to your garden.

Bonus Tip! Keep practicing and don’t get discouraged. Every photo teaches you something. What better classroom to practice in than the garden on a nice, warm day. Sounds good to me!

Happy shooting!

~ 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


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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


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New England Photography Guild Gallery




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


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New England Photography Guild Gallery




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