Thursday 31 March 2011

Painted Texture - Jazz

I finally managed to get my painting stuff out and produce a hand made, painted texture, rather than a Photoshop one. It's fun to do and I've learnt a lot of great techniques and tricks from my fabulous painting teacher in the last 15+ years and I got a lot of inspiration and a few new tricks from the texture e-course (where I'm slowly catching up and am hoping to get through all the remaining lessons before the classroom closes next week). So, now I just have to start making more textures :-). It's good to take out those paints and brushes and use them for something a bit different.

What is quite new to me is the size of the paper, canvas, cardstock etc. I'm working with. I'm so used to a rather big canvas or sheet of paper, but for textures, that's no good. If it's too big, it won't fit on to the scanner. So I'll have to get used to working with about an A4 size now. The advange is that it takes a lot less working space, which is good as I have to work in my study/library/studio and have to be carefuel all the time not to splash any paint on the walls or carpet of a rented flat. I so wish to have my own proper little atélier one day...

So that's what I've come up with on a productive Sunday:

Not sure yet, really, if it's any good as a texture and with what kind of pictures to use it. It might actually be a bit too "strong" in its own way. Well, I'm still learning :-). But it sort of seems to work with this:

Feel free to download the texture here (or click on the texture image) and give it a try. And if you like, let me know if it's any good or not :-).

While working away at the texture, I've been listening to a CD which I rediscovered the other day and which is just perfect to listening to while getting creative with brush and paint: Choose your boots by Fredrik Lundin Overdrive. I discovered jazz relatively late and usually prefer the old jazz stuff along with any music from the 1920s and 30s. But there's some modern bands I really like.

My favourite track is "The long haul", but I couldn't find that on Youtube.

I've been racking my brain trying to find a suitable name for the texture, and finally, I've come up with one - I'm just going to call it "jazz" :-)

Sunday 27 March 2011

New texture - Autumn leaves (I know, I know...)

It's Sunday again, which means that I have the time and energy to spend some time at the computer working through some of the online classes and experimenting with creating textures. And that's what I've come up with, using several layers to create a texture. The layers are scans of book covers, old paper and a piece of hand made paper with leaves and dried flower petals in it, which is absolutely gorgeous.

One of the biggest problems with creating your own textures really is finding a suitable name for them. I'd like to try to avoid just giving them numbers, but deciding on a name just seems to take up at least as much time as creating them. Well, I decided to call this one "Autumn leaves textures".

Another great problem with a texture is the question of where to use it. The texture itself might be vey pretty indeed, but is it any good for being used with a photograph? And if yes, with which picture and in what way? This texture has much of an autumn feel, I think. I was therefore looking for some pictures taken earlier this year, with some brown tones. I found one which I thought might be suitable and gave it a try:

I think it works quite well and I like the sort of painterly effect of it and the bright whitish patches help to intensify the cool feel (this was taken in late January/early February on a very cold and grey day) and goes well with the snow on the roof.

Admittedly, this picture (and the texture) does not fit the spring season at all. At this time of the year, we're weary of the cold and the bare look of everything outside and welcome the warmer weather and each tiny little piece of fresh green and colourful blossom that appear outside. But unfortunately, I'm still without my camera *sigh* so all I can do is using my old pictures - and experiment with creating textures :).

If you would like to try it out yourself, feel free to download it here or click on the image of the texture above.

But oh I wish I had my camera back! I feel like I've been waiting for ages! Spring is early this year and it's been exceptionally warm in the last day or two and the trees are all rapidly beginning to bloom. The magnolia tree in my street will be in full bloom very soon, as will everything else - and I can't take any pictures of it all :-(.

So I'll just have to go on experimenting with textures in the meantime, I suppose. I've even started with a painted one and hopefully, I'll manage to finish it today and scan it next week. I've also set up my easel in my study and started working on a big canvas to make a new picture for the living room. I've slightly altered the colour scheme and the picture which is there now just doesn't really fit anymore. That's the convenient thing with painting - if you want a new picture, you can just paint one. It's much cheaper than having to buy something and it saves you the trouble of having to find the matching colours as well. And it's fun to do as well :-). It just takes some time...

Thursday 24 March 2011

* the secret of patience is doing something else in the meanwhile *

I'm still without camera and waiting, patiently, to hear from the camera shop that my camera is ready. I still have a little hope that they'll call tomorrow, which would allow me to go and pick it up Saturday afternoon, after my painting class. Which would mean that I'd be able to go out on Sunday to take some spring pictures. But then, I'm a born pessimist...

So I went through some of last year's spring pictures instead. I read about this colour palette idea on the Divas & Dreams blog and liked it a lot, and of course wanted to try it out myself, and as I can't take any spring pictures at the moment, it was the perfect thing to get some spring colours on to my blog :-).

I took these pictures nearly a year ago, just after I got my camera. It was the very beginning of my photographic journey and I was using the "beginner's" mode - landscape, close-up etc. I didn't really have any idea yet about how to handle my camera. Most of the pictures are really useless, and by going through some of them I managed to free quite some space on my memory drive :-). But some of them aren't really that bad at all. Just the odd lucky shot, I suppose :-). I'm so looking forward to getting my camera back and to taking spring pictures again and to comparing them to last year's and seeing the progress I've made since then and what I've learned in these last 12 months.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

1000 Cranes for Japan

Last week, I came across the new Flickr group 1000 cranes for Japan (this is just one, there are more of them, just have a look around). The idea is to make a virtual chain of 1000 cranes to show our support for Japan and the people affected by the terrible events of the last week.

The crane, one of the holy creatures and said to live a thousand years, is a symbol of luck, good fortune and longevity in Japan. According to ancient tradition, the person who folds a 1000 paper cranes is granted a wish.

Today, the 1000 paper cranes are also a symbol of the peace movement and opposition to nuclear weapons, after the twelfe year old Sadako Sasaki died from leukemia in 1955 as a result of the of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima, where she lived, in 1945. She started to fold a thousand paper cranes in hospital before her death to fight her illness (there are different versions as to whether she succeeded to complete the 1000 cranes or not).

Seeing and reading about the suffering of the thousands of people affected by the earthquake and tsunami and the threat of a nuclear catastrophe in Japan in the news leaves one feeling completely helpless. It is impossible not to be shocked by the events and feel deeply for the people, but there is little we can actually do to help from afar. One thing we can do, however, is to show that our thoughts are with them. And a little paper crane is one way of doing so.

You'll have no problems finding tutorials to show you how to fold a crane online. For example this one (in German): The very last step made me smile: "if it doesn't look like this, you've went wrong somewhere". Or look here or here, or just google it and choose one that suits you and start folding.

* * *

One of the things the events at Fukushima have shown me is how little I know about things I have come to take for granted (and I'm sure I'm not alone here) and how we depend on things we don't really know much/enough about and ultimately, over which we don't really have much control, at least not when things go wrong (although we humans seem to have an undestroyable illusion about being able to control nature, despite everything that went wrong in the past). I didn't really have much of an idea about how a nuclear power plant works. We are so used to turning on the heating when it's cold outside to have a warm home, to turn on the lights, the telly, the water kettle, to get hot water out of the tap without really thinking (and even knowing) much about it.

The threat of a nuclear catastrophe in Japan has raised heated discussions about nuclear power all over the world. Here in Switzerland, any pending plans for developments and constructions of new nuclear power plants have been stopped for the moment and maybe even forever. There's talk of turning off the oldest of the five plants in Switzerland at the moment and even about giving up nuclear power at all. That it is possible to do without shows, for example, Austria, where nuclear power is forbidden by law since 1978, after a national referendum (although it should be added that although they don't produce any nuclear power themselves, they do import/use some). I think that nuclear power will be a thing of the past in Switzerland sooner or later (probably rather sooner than later).

But what we need to be(come) much more aware of (again) is about how we use energy, and where it comes from. We have become much too accustomed to having enough electricity whenever we want it, and often use it even when we don't really need it and just waste it. It's high time we start rethinking our energy consumption, each and everyone of us.

Sunday 20 March 2011

One Little Word: Frustration

Oh my, I'm so annoyed and frustrated at the moment.

At the very end of last year, I came across the One Little Word class at Big Picture Classes and immediately signed up because it just sounded so great and inspiring (inspiration being my word for 2011). It's a year long class where each month, you focus on your chosen word by creating a collection of images and stuff connected with your word which you all put into a pretty folder. So by the end of the year, you'll have a folder full of stuff about your word and a pretty keepsake to look at again and again. I especially liked the fact that you were working with differently sized layouts which you could download and fill your stuff in and print out and which all fitted into specific page protectors.

My enthusiasm was quickly dampened a bit when I clicked on the links on the supply list. All the three basic things -  the album, the lovely thick paper and the page protectors - were all not in stock at the big online store (I'm deliberately not linking to them as I'm so annoyed with them at the moment). Okay, so I clicked on the "notify me when in stock" button and started working through the handouts, patiently waiting for the supplies to become available. At one point, one of the things was in stock - for about a day or two, then the next and then another. With shipping costs a minimum of $40, there was no point in ordering everything separately. But unfortunately, the three things were never in stock at the same time. At the end of January, I finally managed to order at least two of them, the album and the paper (and some other scrapbooking stuff) and I kept on waiting for the in stock notice for the page protectors.

After having waited for well over three months now, I tried to look up the product in the shop. I typed in some keywords and couldn't find anything. So I went back to the class supply list and got rather suspicious when I saw that the link was now gone. Instead, there was a sentence encouraging us to use our own supplies if we didn't want to buy the suggested material. After some researching I discovered that the page protectors had been discontinued. And obviously had been so some time ago, as they weren't even listed anymore in the shop. I was so annoyed that never bothered to let me know that the product was no longer available (after all I had requested an in stock notificaton by e-mail), let alone suggesting an alternative.

I'm also frustrated because the class goes on with the materials being based on those page protectors. The "we encourage creative adaptations. None of the exact supplies are required to participate in the class" stuff is really not much use if you don't have a choice. I actually wanted to use the exact supplies. It had been one of the things that had made the class so attractive for me that you could just concentrate on the content and didn't have to worry about layouts and about adjusting them, because you could just download the fitting layouts, fill in your stuff and print them out. I especially liked the folder with the many little pockets. You could print out pictures on little cards (or rather cut the paper up into little cards) and put one in each pocket.

But now I sort of feel left out. I can download the pretty layouts which most of them will be rather useless and I'm left on my own to figure out how to adapt them and make them fit, and all in unfamiliar American measures. I would have wanted to put all my energy into focusing on and working with my word rather than on adjusting layouts and on searching the mega store and trying to figure out which alternative to use.

My little word for 2011 is "inspiration", but at the moment I don't feel inspired at all, just annoyed and frustrated. And I don't really have any motivation to continue at all right now. I'm annoyed about having waited and waited and never having being told that the product wasn't available anymore (that's just poor service for me), about not knowing what alternative to use and about a class that is based on using a product that isn't available anymore.

I had really been so excited about this project when I started it, but at the moment I feel that it has just been a waste of money and time. I chose this image as my "beginnings" page. Because I wanted this year to be inspired to do all kinds of creative processes and projects and to spend more time with creating art, to find, or rather make, more time again for things like painting and calligraphy and so. Right now I feel that really, instead of wasting time at the computer fiddling around with layouts, I should really just get out the paints and brushes instead.

It seems that the "one little word" and I haven't been off to a very good start together. To be fair, it does say "for alternative ideas, check out the gallery and message board!". So there might be some useful information about alternative products and about how to use them instead but to be honest, I haven't had a look yet. Right now, I just don't feel like it. I just don't want to know anything about that whole business for the moment.

I'm sorry if that all just sounds very negative and all and about ranting on about it like that. I'll go and make myself a nice cup of tea now and see if I find some chocolate and try to calm down. I know that it's not really worth to get so annoyed about it like this. But there are times, when it's just these little trivial and insignificant things that get you down and make you feel miserable. I realise that I get annoyed and irritated about almost everything far too easily at the moment. I put it down to low iron level. I've been there before, and getting annoyed and irritated about anything and everything really annoys and irritates me no end. The problem is that it also takes your energy away to do anything about it, even the things that would make you feel better, like phoning your doctor to make an appointment. At least, it looks like that, after a good six weeks, the cause for it all seems to finally have stopped. But that's the problem with "chronic", it's never going to go away for good... But that's an entirely different story.

Wednesday 16 March 2011

A Bit of Spring

I've been complaining about the fact that there's nothing else around yet except a few snowdrops. And all the while, a field of lovely purple crocuses were right there, in the park. I only discovered them by chance when I took the route through the park after work last week. So I made sure to bring my camera the next day to take a few pics, both early in the morning and during my lunch break.

Early morning

I wanted to practice shooting in manual mode, but as I wanted to take "worm view pics" and didn't want to ruin my trousers and appear at work all muddy and dirty, I just changed to aperture priorty and put my camera on the ground. I quite like taking pictures that way because you can't really much influence the focus (unless you use the viewfinder, which more often than not, I find quite impractical) and you never really know how the picture turns out. Most of them are for the bin, but there are usually one or two quite surprising and cool.

Soaking up the sun

 The place was literally buzzing when I went back in my lunch break. Dozens of busy bees where flying from one flower to the next, diving deep into the flowers to collect the pollen.

I passed the place again today and the crocuses are now in a rather sorry state. But all around, on the grass, little flowers in all colours are popping up. I have to admit that I have no idea what they are, but they certainly look very happy and cheerful.

The two warm, sunny spring days are already over for the moment, it's getting cooler - and wet. But maybe, the rain will bring some more colour in a few days.

Sunday 13 March 2011

Grunge brush set & my first texture

I've been busy all evening - while watching Miss Marple solve mystery after mystery :-) - with creating a first proper set of brushes. I call them Seaside Grunge Brushes, because I used an image of some very rusty texture which I took last autumn on Torquay pier as a base. I haven't had much time yet to try them out and see if they're actually usable, but I'm nevertheless quite pleased with them :-). And now that I've got a first taste of making brushes, I certainly will do more of them :-)

Here's what they look like:

Feel free to download here (or click on image) and use them - and let me know if they're any good :-):

Of course when I had finished them I wanted to try them out quickly, so I created a simple brown background and started stamping them down - and out came a texture :-).

Again, feel free to download here (or click on image) and use it. I hope it's useful... I only tried it out once and very quickly to see if it worked at all:

I hope that I got all the download links right here. Let me know if there are any problems.
Well, making brushes and textures certainly is great fun, and not as difficult as I thought. It's fun to do them all in PSE, but I must say that I'm also looking forward to making some brushes and texture using good old paper and paint and other stuff.

Anyway, time to turn in, long day tomorrow... Have a wonderful start into the new week!

Snowdrops - and not much else yet

Spring seems to be coming slowly this year and there still isn't much out yet except snowdrops. I somehow expected it to be a warm and sunny weekend with trees starting to blossom and all sorts of spring flowers popping up out of the ground. But instead it was a particularly dull and grey weekend. There was a bit of sun at times yesterday, but all hazy and dull sky. I had planned to take loads of pictures, practising all the techniques and stuff from the new lesson of Mastering Manual Mode, but with this kind of weather, I didn't really feel like going out at all.

So instead I stayed at home mostly and worked through some of the lesson's in Kim Klassen's e-course (still hopelessly behind but at least making some progress...), playing around with texture layers and brush techniques (the rounded edges effect didn't really quite turn out how I had hoped...). And there's a Miss Marple Weekend at ITV3, and being a bit of an Agatha Christie and period drama fan (oh I just love the 1920s and 30s!), so yet another reason for staying in :-).

I hope to be doing a set of rusty grunge brushes later today. I took some great close ups of some rusty poles on the pier in Torquay last year. Well, we'll see how they turn out... :-)

Friday 11 March 2011

Doodle Brushes

I've learnt how to do brushes and turn them into a collection in Kim Klassen's e-course The Art of Texture (where, of course, I'm way behind. The class ended last week, and I'm only about half through. 3 more weeks time to finish...). But anyway. I've figured out (I think/hope) how to turn the brushes/collection into a Zip-file/folder and found a free file sharing website, 4shared, to make them downloadable. Of course I managed to register with a wrong e-mail adress (wrong country code ending, which is the thing that easily happens when you have too many e-mail accounts with too many different country codes and a "midget's brain" (Muggehirn, as  we say). It doesn't seem to be possible to change the e-mail in ones account. Ah well, it seems to work alright, I suppose I just won't get any e-mails from them. I think that once I start seriously uploading stuff for free downloads, I'll just have to create a new account. I certainly have enough spare e-mail addresses...

The brushes I made are just some doodles, and I don't really know how or where to use them myself, to be honest, and I don't expect that you'd actually want to download and use them. This is rather experimenting with it all and seeing if and how it actually works. So these are the doodles, they come as a collection in one ABR-file, which can be used as brushes in PSE (I created them in PSE8, so I haven't really any idea in which versions they can be used. I'm still learning...):

Anyway, here's the link for the download: Doodle or just click on the image. If you like, download them and try them out, and if you do, let me know if it actually works or not. As I say, it's the first time I'm doing this and I haven't really got a clue... It's all a big learning experience at the moment.

As I'm writing this I just realise that I might have made a bit of a mistake when creating the brushes. When selecting them and saving them as individual brushes, I think I should have made them a certain size, instead I didn't define the size of the selection tool. So I've no idea what size they are and they may just be far too small. Well, I'm afraid this comes from when one's just of a very impatient nature and never really reads through things/instructions/tutorials/one's own notes properly. Did I mention that I'm still learning and pretty much clueless?

But I hope to be able to make more of these brushes (and nicer/better ones), as well as textures, in the future and share them with you. I also have to see about a scanner. I used the one at work and I'm not happy with it at all. I don't know if it is just an old one, or not working properly anymore or, more likely, I just don't really know how to use it properly.

Thursday 10 March 2011


This week's theme for 52 of Twenty Eleven is "Vanishing Point". I spend a lot of time in trains, commuting almost four hours every day, so the railway tracks at the station close to where I work seemed to be perfect. There are three tracks but only one is used and there are only about 4 trains an hour, so it is quite safe to take pictures. It was a cold and frosty and also rather hazy morning, providing the right kind of light for the theme.

I was looking for a quote to go with this and in my quote's book found this one by American poet James Oppenheim (1882-1932):

the foolish person seeks happiness in the distance;
the wise person grows it under his feet

I should probably pin this quote to my fridge and read it every day and adopt is my mantra or something like that. I've been dreaming about moving abroad for ages but haven't managed yet to take the steps and more and more I think/fear that it will never actually happen. I must admit that I do tend to believe that my life would be better if I was living somehwere else, that I would be happier. That I would somehow be a different person, better able to be happy. And there are times when I feel that I spend my life in some sort of transit zone, forever waiting for the time when finally everything changes, when my life finally begins for good. But this is probably just a big delusion. We all know (in theory) that happiness comes from within, that it is a state of mind rather than a number of external factors. If we always wait for happiness to come to us from outside, and, even worse, rely on others to make us happy, we'll never really be happy. It's within us and it's up to us. Sounds so simple - but I find it one of the hardest things in the world to achieve.

There's a perfect German word which really sums up this feeling of longing to be in some other place: Fernweh. It's one of these words for which there doesn't really seem to exist an equivalent in English. When looking it up, I found another German term as "translation": wanderlust. Others are itchy feet and the travel bug. But these don't really fit. They all have a positive connotation; a pleasant anticipation of going on holiday, on a journey, to see the world. Something you plan, and then actually do - and return home from happy and content. Fernweh on the other hand has a more melancholic connotation. It's the feeling of longing to be somewhere else but not necessarily ever getting there. It's the opposite of Heimweh - homesickness, though in German, it's not a "sickness" but an "ache". It's this lump in your heart you feel, of something missing, an unfulfilled dream. Which might always remain just that. But it's up to us, if we allow those lumps to get us down or if we choose to be happy despite them.

I'm working on it...

Tuesday 8 March 2011

London Wildlife

I went through some of the many folders on my external memory drive last night and found some images I took last summer in London's Bushy Park after a day spent at Hampton Court.

In my guide book, it said that the park was full of deer and that you'd have a good chance to see some. It wasn't long after I saw the first deer grazing a little distance away. And there were loads more to come. It's really amazing how close you can walk past and take pictures of them. We have a lot of deer in Switzerland as well, but they all live in the forests and you hardly ever get to see them, at least not so close.

I had made the one or other attempt at processing them, back in summer, brightening it up, saturating the colours a bit, and so, but I didn't really know what and how to do with them (the originals are rather dull) and so I just gave up. But last night, I just felt like giving it another try. I felt that I finally knew what to do with them.

There was this group of fawns (is that the right term? and it's probably not 'group' but 'herd' or some other term one's never heard of before) lying in the shade of the trees in the evening sun (it was a very hot day). I just love those two on the ground on the left and foreground with their silly smiles on their faces :-).

Later on, there was a group of stags grazing quite close to the path. I took loads of pictures, first from far away and then closer and closer. I couldn't believe how close I could get to them - and none of them ever even lifted his head to look at me. Ignored me completely. I must say, I was rather glad about that though :-).

It was a lovely day out there at Hampton Court and in Bushy Park. And a lovely holiday, all in all. Amazingly, in the two weeks I spent in London, it rained only once, and that early in the morning, providing wonderful and dramatic clouds over the Thames and London Bridge in the afternoon. Apart from that, it was hot and sunny every day and I came home tanned and sunburnt - and with everyone looking very suspiciously at me when I told them I'd just come back from a holiday in London :-). I'm going to London again this summer. I've been there many times but there are still so many things and places to discover, and I find something new every time I go. I don't think I'll ever get tired visiting that city :-).

Monday 7 March 2011

~ rhythm ~

I've signed up for yet another course involving yet another 52 week's project, along with 52 of twenty eleven (where I'm again behind) and 52 weeks of no colour (where I'm just about keeping up). The new project is Picture Inspiration at Big Picture Classes. I enjoyed Picture the Holidays and Picture Winter but the daily prompts were a bit stressful and really just too much for me. But once a week should be manageable. I hope :-).

The course started last week and this (the second's) week prompt is rhythm. We were given a number of definitions and had to translate one of them into a picture. I chose the definition pattern of masses alternating with voids. I love bare winter trees (I only really came to appreciate them now, after I got my camera and finally learned to see), the mass of dark branches in all sizes and the voids in between them. I took the picture a few weeks ago, but I just thought it fitted the prompt so well and I did the processing today :-).

For week 1, we had to take a self portrait so that we could all see each other, as we are going to spend the next 52 weeks together. A good idea, of course, only that I don't really feel much like taking selfies at the moment. I have no energy at all right now (health issues...) and I'm tired all the time. I took some pics in the bath room mirror and then tried some b&w processing and added a framte, until I got a result I could halfway live with. I also added some Gaussian blur under the pretext of softening it up but it's really just an excuse to disguise the fact that the picture isn't really quite sharp but slightly out of focus.

Anyway, I'm really looking forward to the journey and I hope that I'll manage to keep up :-). I'm really happy about seeing many of the "girls" from Picture the Holidays and Picture Winter again in the new course and taking the journey with them. I know I'll find lots of inspiration in the class gallery. I also like the community spirit in these classes and I really hope that I'll manage to keep up with everyone's uploads and with commenting better than I did in the last two classes.

The quote is by Cecil Taylor, the textures and the frame are from The CoffeeShop Blog and Flypaper Textures.

Sunday 6 March 2011

A Little Bit of PSE Processing

Now this is probably old news for most of you reading this post, but I thought I'd post it anyway. Because I've been learning a lot about PSE8, processing and working with textures in the last few months and I always love to see how others do it. So I thought I'd share some very simple processing today with you, which l learned in those past few months.

I took some pictures of a bunch of lovely purple tulips I bought earlier this week. Actually, I did this for the Mastering Manual Mode class, where we're looking at shutter speed this week. But I'll write about this in another post.

Back to the processing. You can't really call it a tutorial, there are so many much better and cleverer ones around by people much more experienced than I am, knowing far more tricks. But it's always a learning experience nad there are so many different ways of doing things and achieving effects, that I think it's always interesting to see how others do it, even if it's very basic. You might always discover a little trick or step you didn't know yet. Happens to me all the time (but then I'm such a beginner anyway so it's not really surprising ;.) ). So this was the original picture:

Manual Mode, ISO 400, 1/400, f/1.8, exposure 0
What I didn't like about it were mainly the bits of green on the left side, where I had been too lazy to remove the plant standing on the window sill next to where I placed the tulips for the image. But luckily, I had learnt by now how to remove this things by using one the sponge tool to remove saturation and dark bits. I actually brushed away other parts of the background as well, especially the dark blue part at the top right corner, which at the end left me with an almost white background. Perfect for adding a texture. But before that I did a little bit of levels adjustment.

I then looked for a texture which would match the colour of the tulips, some soft shade of purple or lavender. I found the one I wanted in the "Baking with Mom" collection from Rita at The CoffeeShop Blog (this is a most wonderful blog which you have to check out if you don't know it yet. It has loads of wonderful textures, actions (which I still haven't worked out how to install *sigh*) and helpful tutorials). The "favourite apron" texture was just the right shade of purple/pink for my image.

I used the texture in three layers. For the first layer, I used blending mode "multiply" with opacity 78%, for the second "soft light", opacity 44% and for the last blending mode "multiply" again, with opacity 60%. This is really just experimenting around until you're happy with the result.

So here's a screenshot with all the levels. I always like to see these levels, and one of the very first things I learned in one of the e-courses was that when you save it in Photoshop's PSD format, it means that you're levels are preserved. I hadn't actually known that and had always just saved my images as JPEG after having done some adjustments (which at the beginning were only levels, saturation and contrast adjustments, because that was all I was able to figure out myself). I didn't really know what to do with that PSD format, as you couldn't look at the picture anywhere else than in Photoshop. My goodness, how ignorant I was :-). Anyway, here's the screenshot:

As you can see I also cropped it at one stage of the process. Actually, I did that after all the texture levels, which means that I might have cut off some of the texture. But in this case it doesn't really matter (and I haven't really figured out yet if PSE automatically resizes the texture if you crop it afterwards or if some of the texture is actually just cut off). Anyway, the cleverer bit would of course be to crop it before. As you can also see, I removed some of the texture on the tulips in all three texture layers. Apparently, in the full version of Photoshop and also in the latest PSE version 9, you can just add a layer mask which allows you to remove texture without actually erasing it, which makes it easy to put some of it back again if you removed too much. There's a trick for PSE8 and lower to "borrow" a layer mask but I find that in most cases, just simply erasing the texture is okay. And if you made a mistake, you just have to undo it and start again.

And finally, the finished picture. I quite like how it turned out :-)

Have a wonderful and inspiring Sunday!

Friday 4 March 2011

MMM ~ Week 4 ~ Assignment #2

Today, I finally had the time and energy to give last week's assignment another go. (Friday - isn't it funny how much more energy one suddenly has when one knows that one doesn't have to get up at 5.30 the next morning?).

I decided to take only the full stops this time, though I included f/1.8, because my lens doesn't go any lower (f/1.4 would be the full stop).

Ha, no problems uploading it this time, and the large size also works perfectly :-). I just love to see them next to each other and to see how the DoF changes. Even with just the 9, instead of the full 24 stops, it does still look cool. Yes, I definitely have to do more of these, with different subjects and in different light conditions. Such good exercices :-)

Thursday 3 March 2011

A bit of Colour

Just a quick post today, bringing a bit of colour into this bland and brown post winter/pre spring season.

Now I really love a good cold snowy winter, but winter definitely seems to come to an end for this season and although due to a cold and piercing wind, it is still freezing cold, there's definitely no more snow coming.

It's the kind of weather right now that I really don't like at all. It's all brown and dead outside, and with the sun out again now looking even more desolate.

This is the kind of weather I find rather depressing and apart from the one or two scattered snow bells, nothing new and fresh seems to be pushing through yet. I must admit that even I now start longing a tiny little bit for spring and all the colours it brings with it. And all the bees buzzing around the flowers, although I'm not looking forward to all the creepy crawlers which will soon be populating the flat again. Some of them are really cool to photograph though ;-).

So on this cold, bare, desolate though rather sunny day I went through some of the pictures that happened to be on my memory stick during lunch. I took them last autumn at the Eden Project in Cornwall, and they provide just the right splash of colour for this dull day.

I read a weather forecast in the newspaper for the coming spring/summer. According to them, it's going to be a very warm spring, with temperatures up to 30 degrees Celsius by the month of May. And for summer, they said that it is very likely to be another extremely hot and dry summers, like the one about 10 years ago. I remember that one still very well, I was living in a student room in the middle of Zürich's old town and for over a fortnight, the temperatures never went below 30 degrees Celsius in my room at all. It was not nice.

What a dilemma. I'm tired of the cold but with these forecasts, already I am not looking forward to spring and summer... *sigh*

Hmmmm, this was supposed to be a bright, happy and cheerful post, and now it seems to have turned into a rather depressing one... Oh my, how did that happen??

Tuesday 1 March 2011

Noodle Soup Addict

Hello, my name is Katja, and I'm a noodle soup addict...

I absolutely love soups. And most of all, noodle soup. I've been addicted to noodle soup ever since I can remember and have been cooking noodle soup on a regular basis for the last 25+ years or so. I also always have a supply of packs of instant noodle soups (nowadays you get great ones which don't even require cooking!) both at home and at work for emergencies.

When I was in my late teens/early twenties, I was famous for my noodle soup. I love my noodle soup to have lots, and I really mean LOTS, of noodles in it. I used to be exceptionally bad at getting the balance of noodles and soup right. I usually ended up with just some kind of wet noodles and next to now soup. 20 years ago, after a concert, when it was still too early to just go home and to bed but too late to really go somewhere else, someone would often come up with the suggestion: let's go to home to Katja's and have some soup! I remember one night, when someone had brought a friend along who hadn't had a taste of my soup before. When he looked at his bowl full of wet noodles, he remarked: "Either there's too much noodles or too little soup", at which all my friends cried "that's how it has to be, that's what's so special about Katja's noodle soup!!!".

These days, my soups have a bit more soup to them, but still more than plenty of noodles :).

~ a first-rate soup is more creative than a second-rate painting (abraham maslow) ~

About 20, 15 years ago, I used to cook noodle soup almost daily. When we visited relatives in Germany, my cousin suggested cooking noodle soup one night - she was as addicted to it as me. And then my uncle told me that my Dad, when he was about our age, used to cook noodle soup all the time. I never knew that, but it amused me no end - a hereditary noodle soup addiction, running through several generations and branches of the family :-).

My basic and established recipee for noodle soup can't really be called a recipe, it's more of a quick fix:

0.5 dl water
1 cube of chicken stock
a very generous helping of any kind of (soup) noodles
1 cube of frozen spinach
some pepper, soy sauce and one or two drops of sesame oil

This is quick and easy to do and just perfect for when you come home after a long commute on a full and cold train and in desperate need of something hot but in no mood for some elaborate cooking.

There are of course hundreds of variations of noodle soups and plenty of recipees around. When I have more time I like to make a big pot and add all kinds of fresh veggies and mushrooms (although I'm too lazy to do a real proper soup, I always rely on my good old chicken stock cubes).

I also like to collect recipes when I come across one which sounds delicious. As long as their simple and easy, like for example Nigella Lawon's Noodle Soup for Needy People or Thai Chicken Noodle Soup or Noodle Soup with Udon Noodles (oh, I love them!). Well, there are lots and lots more yummy recipes (indlucing many not from Nigella Lawson ;-) ), and I'm sure you also have your own special and favourite way of cooking noodle soup.

Hmmmmmmm, what should I do for dinner tonight? I think it'll have to be a nice bowl of hot and steamy noodle soop after this post!