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Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Be Kind to Writers!

You'd think that being a writer is all about two things:

1. Writing stuff.
2. Getting that written stuff published or at least read.

However, there's much more to it than that and I'll warn you in advance that I may get arty and soulful. To begin with, it's a helluva thing to even consider calling yourself a writer, never mind actually telling other people about it. Because, when it really comes down to it, every piece of writing contains a little bit of you in it – your memories, your perspective, your experience of the people around you, your hopes and also your fears.

It can feel like an indulgence to spend quality time away from loved ones and friends, especially when you're using that time to wrestle with people and situations that you've created in your head.

Reading also takes on another dimension when you’re a writer. What used to be a leisure activity now becomes a vital part of your craft. You still read for enjoyment, but you also look closely at style, plot, characterisation and all the other elements that already give you sleepless nights.

Try this one on for size: A writer is an artist.
You write fiction? Congrats - you're an artist.

There's also a deeper, inner level to this writing journey. Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way is a brilliant resource (among others) for getting into the soul of writing. I believe there is a part of every writer that is secretly – and sometimes overtly, on the page – grappling with the big issues of life, death, justice, purpose, love, freedom, etc.

Sometimes we not only express who we are on the page, we also explore who we wish we were. Read between the lines and it's as powerful as therapy and as real as it gets.

So, here's the thing: when someone tells you they've written something, or that they're working on something, treat them with kindness. When you give feedback, make it constructive – it's fine to say you didn't like it, as long as you say why. Feedback on what you enjoyed – and why - is also welcomed. However, tell the truth. And for the love of God, please try and avoid the word ‘nice’. It’s the writer’s kryptonite!

Some writers will not get the recognition they deserve. For some, the only feedback they'll receive is the snipey kind on ebook sites or forums. But wherever writers are, on that endless and invisible ladder of literary success, they stay true to their craft. Well, you wouldn't expect anything less from a writer, would you?

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Using Textures with your Photographs to Create a Painterly Effect

Once you have taken your photographs, uploaded them, edited them in terms of brightness, contrast, saturation etc, you may well feel that you have finished. But why not explore the idea of using textures in your photography to create a ‘painterly’ effect? This works particularly well with my own favourite floral photography, but it is equally useful with all kinds of subject matter. You are limited only by your own creativity!

Here are a couple of before and after shots:

In both cases, there has been no further editing other than a texture being added and the opacity altered to taste. The difference between the ‘before’ and the ‘after’ is subtle but - I hope you’ll agree - it works to enhance what is already there. And it is so quick and easy to do that it has to be worth a try. I have added a step-by-step guide to this technique below using Photoshop Elements/Photoshop but any software program that allows you to use layers should be okay for this. In all cases, please try to make sure that you first copy the original so you can work non-destructively. If you don’t like it, you can always go back to the original. Nothing to lose J

Applying Textures in Photoshop Elements/Photoshop

1.     Open your chosen photo in Photoshop. (If using Elements, make sure you are in ‘expert’ mode)

2.     Make sure your ‘layers panel is turned on and that you can see it on the right hand side

3.     Before you start working on your photo, make a copy of the ‘background layer’ by clicking Cmd (control on a pc) and J

4.     Now click ‘file’, ‘open’ and find the textured layer you want to use.

5.     Open the texture and click Cmd(control) A to select all, and Cmd (control) C to copy

6.     Now move back to your photo and click Cmd (control) V to paste and Cmd (control) T to turn on the transform tool.

7.     Using the ‘handles’ stretch the textured layer so it is the same size as your photo. Click on the tick once you have done that.

8.     Check that you now have 3 layers on the left: 2 background and one texture.

9.     Make sure that the texture layer is selected and play with blend modes until you find something you like. The best modes to try are normal, multiply, overlay, soft light and hard light.

10. You may like an effect but find it a bit stronger than you wanted. Now play with the ‘opacity’ selection until you’re happy. At this point, think more about how the background looks rather than how your subject looks.

11. Now we can start to remove some of the texture from the subject by adding a ‘mask’ (circle in a square icon on layers panel).

12. Select a brush a brush and move the ‘opacity’ to about 50%. This will remove some of the texture but will leave some behind so there is more unity between your subject and your background. Gently begin to brush away the texture. If nothing seems to be happening, check that your colour is set to black.

13. If you remove an area by mistake, you can either press Cmd and Z to undo, or change the colour to white, opacity to 100% and paint it back in.

14. Once you are happy with the result, click ‘layer’ and ‘flatten image’ and save in you usual way.

Extra tips:

Try using different subject matter and different textures. It’s very subjective so you may find that different choices work for you.

If something isn’t working as it should, it is most likely to be because you do not have the correct layer selected.

There are lots of free textures available on the internet. ‘Shadowhouse Creations’ have some, as do ‘2econd Skin’. Please read the terms of use on these and any others you may find. It is often the case that you may use them for commercial purposes as long as the image has been flattened so that the texture cannot be extracted and shared around.

It is very easy to make your own textures by taking shots of tree bark, concrete, peeling paint, grasses, leaves, water. A touch of gaussian blur and a bit of imagination can turn them into fabulous textures that you can use.

Google, google, google – if you prefer to be show how to do this, do a quick online search and turn up about a zillion video tutorials. And once you’ve mastered this, find another new technique to try. The learning curve is, thankfully, never-ending J

Please visit my Flickr page for more examples of textured flower photography:

Guest blogger: Sue Woollard

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Osprey - Nature section

Osprey - Nature section
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