Black and White Peony Treatment & Vintage Theatre Curtain Background

•August 17, 2017 • 10 Comments

Have to say sorry for jumping back into the Peony shoot. I promised someone, now cannot remember, that I’d maybe put drapes for background on the arrangement instead of grungy texture. They are elegant enough to justify being neighbors with a hint of lush vintage theatre drapes. Maybe the flowers take center stage? I played with it in color but when Leanne Cole had her weekly Monochrome Madness, I thought I’d see how the idea looked in black and white and liked it enough to share there. The flowers are the main thing not to be upstaged as it where by those gorgeous curtains, so I moved the layer around and darkened out the center detail just enough to have it seem the table with flowers was just happened to be nestled in a corner with curtains.

The vintage drapes were found a the site of a Deviant Art artist..EveyD….right HERE ! Clicking on her curtains will get you there too. She has the image in a variety of colors…they all look amazing but I was partial to the colors below. Right, I turned them into black and white, oh well!!  If any one is looking for interesting backgrounds or textures, you might check out the artists at Deviant Art as so much is shared there for you to experiment with. Just be careful to read any rules the artist might have on commercial use vs personal use depending on what you want to do with your artistic work that utilized their stock. That site is also excellent to find Photoshop brushes as well as backgrounds and textures.


Gorgeous Vintage Theatre Curtain aren't they?

Have fun with your images...whether Photoshop, Lightroom, NIK Filters....whatever you have. I love our digital darkrooms!!


Red Tulips with Carnival Bowl, Shells and Wine Glass

•August 13, 2017 • 19 Comments

Last weekend’s continuing experimentation with low key still life settings seemed to come with both more experimentation but also less fluidity with flowers and the arrangements. The peonies were just so inherently lovely and easy. I have about three setting arrangements that I thought worth spending some time on and this was the first that I started with. Once again I purchased the flowers at Whole Foods and bought a tropical bouquet and the package of tulips in red. The tropical group were interesting but I wasn’t really fond of them in the end or maybe just didn’t have the right vision for them. In this particular arrangement I did fill in the tulips with three of the tropical plants which were not just compatible with the tulips but matched in color almost too perfectly.

As last time, the top image has little bit of texture added in for depth. I like the black backgrounds but sometimes it seems a little too flat with only lighting to give any depth or roundness to the image. The second image is the basic capture shot with normal lighting, contrast and clarity adjustments.

Other elements include a beautiful piece of my mother’s carnival glass collection which shines there on the far left in the image. Moving towards the right you will see my Murex haustellum with its long siphon canal. The shell was one of my more exciting finds while diving circa 1970. I was good at recognizing shapes and even though what stuck out of the sand looked much like a twig, a little fanning revealed the wonderful specimen which I did prepare as such. The little white shell with the extended ends is in an allied cowry group but I do not have its name at present. Then the  cone shell, a pashmina scarf I bought in Egypt and the roemer-like wine glass actually filled with actual wine which I actually did drink ultimately. Why not be authentic? I enjoyed employing the scarf as its shine and texture added it own light to the setting.  I noticed with old masters things lots of table cloths and tapestries draped on tables. Draping things is not my long suit and so was just happy it didn’t slide off the table. Well the glass of wine helped hold it in place.

I hope you enjoy this effort and I will show at least one other of the compositions and see what seems more appealing to others or if the groupings work really.



Peonies Still Life – First and Last

•August 7, 2017 • 9 Comments

Before going on to my next still life effort (which has tulips and some tropical flowers) I felt if I didn’t work a little more on the peonies that they would languish unattended for a long time. So naturally decided to share and get input.  I posted a couple onto my Alamy stock site, which though unproductive so far still puts some work out there. The two selections here are from different ends of the spectrum as far as shooting order is concerned. The first you can see the peonies aren’t opened up very much and are placed in my favourite pewter vase with a sea shell motif and a slender glass insert for water. The arrangement is intended to look elegant and simple. The background was the black felt again but I added a little texture and light to the background for depth and interest and looks somewhat velvety I thought.

The second image below shows the flowers in much fuller bloom and were taken the day after the image above. I thought the difference was dramatic as I watched the flowers change from hour to hour. Peonies really do get very fluffy. This image is an all out oil paint filter experiment as I thought the peony petals lent themselves well for such a soft treatment. I thought the effect could use a little more punch and so used another Photoshop filter, once called craquelure which accented the painterly edges and lit them up a bit and was consistent with the painterly objective. I find that craquelure is an interesting filter that rarely gets utilized but can be a great companion to some other paint effects. I think the softness of the peonies and delicate color would work nicely on a high key treatment too. Another day another lesson!


Forgive any redundancy with the peonies but wanted to share them anyhow!!

I may have mentioned that I purchased the peonies from Whole Foods and that I was told they came all the way from Israel.



Peony Still Life & adding background

•August 2, 2017 • 13 Comments

Generally when I try and add background texture to images I tend err on the side of not being too heavy handed or heavily dramatic. So I hope the look has a nice effect rather than being close but too underdone. It may be too dark depending on  the viewing monitor. Assuming the treatment looks attractive to others at all. I promised more peonies from the experimentation last weekend so here is another.  As you can see this arrangement features only the natural leaves which belong to the peonies and not with the addition of the podocarpus with its gray blue berries to fill in some spaces as in the previous post.

For this arrangement a flower has been dropped onto the table but no seashells in the arrangement. The lower image is the capture shot with minor lighting/darkening adjustments. The top image maintains the low key quality of the image but has a couple of texture layers giving the flat black background some depth and dimension. I added a texture  pattern that looked like a cracked wall with all kids of crazed lines in it. The crazed layer I had at 100% opacity but with color dodge for the blending mode. For a given texture normal mode will be a flat looking color but color dodge will lighten the colors in pretty ways. The other layer was a greenish layer with shades of green dark on the outside and graduation to very light in the center with edges that looked like old cracked paper. This layer I chose to use a blending mode called ‘divide’ which brightened the earthy faded greens to lively bluish tones. You have to play with blending modes. Once you see what one does, you can create looks just by painting colors on a layer and choosing blending modes and opacities to get the look you want.

You can of course change backgrounds to what ever you want if you are willing to do the work of cutting out your flower arrangement (or subject) for example and sliding in a background and then working to blend them. In a case like this I chose textures which could disappear into the black without doing any cutting out of anything. Just blending and masking out a few cracks that didn’t need to be on the flowers or leaves. I wanted the texture to look like it was behind the flowers rather than texture on the flowers….although you do that if you want a painterly look all blended as one.

Now after all that, I hope that the look shows up enough and looks interesting. I did not want to upstage the flowers only give them some depth.




Peonies with Thatcheria and Spider Scorpion Conch – Low Key

•July 23, 2017 • 9 Comments



Today just sharing a single image of some low key still life experimentation,,,,mainly because I am too wiped out to really look at the various images I had to choose from. Terrible admission I know. This just to say you might see more Peonies! For today’s effort I went to Whole Foods and bought the peonies and some long stemmed roses, but having spent the time with the peonies the roses’ only job was just to sit and look pretty. Additionally, I thought the arrangement needed some greens and figured the outside Podocarpus hedge might be good to try and was pleased with the bonus of some blue berries on the branches. I placed the flowers in the same spot as I did the shells and sunflowers last time….in the corner next to the sliding glass doors. I did not use the light room in front of a dark room or the window shade material as before with the vertical pattern; today I tried taping black felt cloth to the wall in hopes of getting light absorbing material with no noise contamination in the background.

I think the felt helped with the intended low key look and so I concentrated on the positioning of the flowers and other elements. Other elements include the Lambdis Scorpius (Linneaus 1758) shell (otherwise called the Spider Conch or Scorpion Conch) which I collected many moons ago in the Philippines and also that elegant Thatcheria from last time. I chose the Scorpius because the spidery edges seemed to contrast with the super soft peonies. It was always one of my favourites.  All that happened in Photoshop with this one was just to bring down the light a little bit with the Neutral Gradient Filter and enhance contrast a bit. No oil paint effects just natural flowers.

I’d like to take a moment about the glass vase I put the flowers in. The interesting green glassware was found for a song (1.99) at Tuesday Morning. What it looked like to me was a Roemer Wine Glass which I had seen pictures of . Here is a little bit of history on Roemer Wine Glass. Of course my little wine glass/flower vase is not from the 16th Century but has a look I liked. Those little blobs of glass stuck to the cylindrical base are called prunts. This is actually my new word for the day and here is Wikipedia to the rescue….”A prunt is a small blob of glass fused to another piece of glass. Prunts are applied primarily as decoration, but also help provide a firm grip in the absence of a handle. Prunts may be impressed into decorative shapes, such as raspberries, blackberries, or lion’s heads. Prunts are a common stylistic element in German glassware, such as the rummer and Berkemeyer styles of drinking glass.


PS: I hope to get better at this and have found still life work a lot harder than it looks, between the ambient light, controlling the background, getting  good depth of field on the camera to get all the flowers decently in focus…they are not lined up on one plane really. Oh, and not to mention arranging and rearranging the flowers and green things. Oh, and that felt and the masking tape do not get along, ever so often it would come undone….better method needed. 🙂  Tape got along with the wall ok though.

PSII: Learned another lesson this evening about peonies…..wait a day after you buy them…you should see the peonies are getting more beautiful by the second…all are opening up and the buds too. And, they smell great. Guess you can tell it is the first time I have purchased this kind of flower. Perhaps I photographed them too soon!! Wow!!

Sunflower & Shell Still Life & Pattern Lesson

•July 4, 2017 • 13 Comments

Sunflower & Shell Still Life

I felt compelled to share one more effort from yesterday’s still life experimentation. While there are many things I like about this, it demonstrates  a big lesson which comes up from time to time for me. And, that is using not a textured background but rather a patterned one. It is always easier to add pattern later than deal with pattern inherent in a shot such as roof shingles for example. While thinking of things to do for a dark or black background for a low key image….which I lean toward low key with most things…instead of the dark room with lighted object in front, I put a window shade fabric on the wall with masking tape thinking I’d have more control. And it is an ok idea and might work well with  a solid matt light absorbing material to mimic shadow. But once you introduce pattern you end up with wavy lines when scaling which I don’t like dealing with. At 100% no problem but it doesn’t look well at other settings. So if, and you will, you see some pattern lines, it is from the vertical pattern of the sunshade material I tried.

So naturally I played with this image anyway…go figure. Since I keep wanting to make things look like a painting, I did use Photoshop Oil filter here but combined it with poster edges and played with the vignette lighting. I also had a problem getting the sunflowers to behave and face the way I wanted.Who says flowers are cooperative. The are a bit like cats, beautiful but with a mind of their own. I should also add that I was putting things away when I placed the flowers and shell elements on the sewing table and just liked it.

Call out to Brian Bixby….see in the right corner…. I have a walking stick….not with a dragon head but a bird….and mine has a sword inside!! I will be a dangerous old lady one day real soon?!! And, since Jacintha has magic…ahh even more so!

Happy Independence Day Everyone!!



Precious Wentletrap – Epitonium scalare (Linne’)

•July 4, 2017 • 12 Comments

Precious Wentletrap Shell Operculum View


I probably have not opened my 1965 edition of Shells of the Western Pacific in Color vol. I by Tetsuaki Kira (chairman of the Malacological Society of Japan back then)  since college. After all I re-located to the Atlantic Ocean Shell habitat after that. But, here is Tetsuaki’s description the family Epitoniidae: “Many species of this family are found in Japan. The shells are generally thin and white, and characterized by the turreted spire, ornamented by many varices either plate or thread-like. In a few species, the whorls are only loosely coiled, and are isolated from each other. These staircase shells are one of the favorites of shell collectors because of their neat style and rarity.”

And, more specifically on this shell: Epitonium scalare (LINNE’): “The shape and structure of this  shell is most exquisite. It is moderately large, and white in color, with a faint fleshy tone. The whorls are loosely coiled, leaving open spaces between them, and sparsely bear thin and high varix-plates which are connected with those of the next whorls at the inter-whorl spaces. The umbilicus is widely open, and the spiral can be looked into through its inside. A round aperture has a reflexed margin, and is closed by a dark purple operculum, which is horny, round and paucispiral. Distribution: Honshu and southwards, at 20-30 fathoms. This splendid species was originally recorded from China Sea.”

This is the shell that was once considered very precious, rare and highly desired by collectors who would spend great sums to have one. Naturally when an object, especially a collector object such as shells or coins, is uncommon and demands a good price there will be counterfeiters. The story goes that the exquisite artistry of counterfeiters in China was discovered when a collector dropped his shell and found the pieces were not of calcium carbonate but rather of rice paste. Now the shells are not rare at all but the rice paste counterfeits are. I can only imagine how lovely those rice paste sculptures probably were with the lovely artistry that China is well known for.

But, for us no matter how common, the form of this shell is wonderful to examine and the light and shadow on those coiled tubes is of such an organic geometry as to make one wonder at the beauty present in the world at large.



Precious Wentletrap Posterior View with spiral flutes



Precious Wentletrap Side View



PS: I love scientific description, whether Audubon describing his birds or Kira here describing shell architecture, the words are always unique and lovely and ring through time as we examine our modern examples.