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Light Pixie Studio – Sharyn Richardson » Preserve your memories | fine art portraits that tell a story | photographs and paintings by Sharyn Richardson | Light Pixie Studio | What do you want to remember? | worldwide

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First morning out!

Wasp moth, species Ctenucha virginica

Click any image to see them all full-sized.

It’s the 18th of March and there’s a white-out snow storm happening. By now the crocuses should be up and basking in sunshine while enduring nighttime cold. Instead we have rafters of wild turkey by the dozens parading in the side yard with heads deep in snow seeking grass for their gullets. By now Jakes and Jennys should be courting behind the backs of possessive Toms with their steely gaze and harem hens. Rare to see them so close to the house but the snow cover is less deep here and they’re hungry. So am I, but for warm air and blue sky instead.

According to astronomical definition, spring equinox in 2013 is two days from now and it doesn’t look promising. The daylight and night shadows may be nearing equal length but rebirth and renewal seem a long way off. I’m waiting for the springing forth of light and life that means the new season is arrived. I want the snow and ice to melt, frost to come out of the ground, and for winter to let go.

As I look forward in anticipation of real spring, these are images from last year. Click one for a Lightbox gallery to see them full-sized. First is a Black swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes, the state butterfly of Oklahoma. Some people call it the American Swallowtail for it is indeed common throughout. Its black with yellow markings is highlighted with spots of intense red and metallic blue. It survives like other swallowtails by a nasty taste that comes from concentrating flavors of what it eats and with a foul smell emitted from a Y-shaped organ near the back of its head. I found this patient creature drying its wings after emerging from the crysalis on its first day out.

Next is Hyla versicolor, a more colorful name than Gray tree frog. Indeed it is commonly gray or green, splotched or not, and it changes color for camouflage. Obviously, it’s not in its nature to match coral paint and so we see a vain attempt that makes it even more apparent. And then there is the brilliantly shining golden eye! Gray tree frogs have big toe paids to help them climb after their insect diet. This fellow on a window ledge was boldly singing its tra-la-la to attract a mate. Three days later he was still there, persistently hopeful.

Last is Ctenucha virginica, a broad-winged wasp moth of Midwestern marsh and meadow. The range is expanding westward and is recently established to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. En masse they arrived on the porch last spring though I found this cooperative fellow eating wild parnip in the meadow. It was dewy early morn that left me wet to the shoulders from wading through tall grasses. In late spring I head out to clean the meadows of invasive wild parsnip, yellow rocket, and several varieties of dock. Ambitious and obsessive to make things better than I found them, I carry a camera always as it is hard work that gives me a reason to be where the action is.

Please leave a comment to share what you most look forward to as you think about coming spring!

  • Paul - Wonderful web site and blog.

    I love your writing.ReplyCancel

I recently rediscovered a small handful of photographs that show small town, Midwestern hospitality at its best. Lanesboro is in bluff country inland from the Mississippi River in the southeast corner of Minnesota. Known for many Victorian and Edwardian homes converted to bed and breakfast use, the town treats its many visitors in such a way that they want to return and urge their friends to come too! In addition to the Opalotype bicycle outside the Arts Center posted here on February 27th, here are another three images. My wish is that, whether here or elsewhere, you too may find a restful haven of goodwill and generosity.

First is the side of a warehouse on a bluff above the Root River with an amazing, sliding door that rolls on a heavy iron rail above the lintel. Decorated with ivy that’s turning red-gold with the season, the door and the brick wall look well together in matching shades. An old reel mower still gives good service reminding me of the one my father pushed as he crisscrossed our yard in a neighboring Midwestern state. Focal length: 28.0 mm; 1/60 sec; f/5.6; ISO 400

Lanesboro, Minnesota where everything may not be old but it

Lanesboro, Minnesota where everything may not be old but it’s the town’s calling to evoque antique charm. To the right is excellent food at Spud Boy Diner, the third photo in this post.

Next is the old railroad trestle on the southwest corner of town. Where Milwaukee Road–Iowa & Southern Minnesota Division–trains once carried grain from the prairies, it’s now part of the Root River State Trail, an expansive pedestrian and bike trail that connects several picturesque towns in the valley. Focal length: 17.0 mm; 1/125 sec with the camera braced against the far rail and a vertical timber; f/5.6; ISO 400; AEB-Aperture Priority; Evaluative metering

Railroad bridge over the Root River

Spread along the banks of the Root River, the small town of Lanesboro is picturesque and inviting.

Last up is the Spud Boy Diner believed to have been built in the mid-1920s by the Goodell Dining Car Company at 30 Main Street, Silver Creek, NY where: “Quality Dining Cars [are] built of the best, latest equipment and fully complete; Sold on easy terms $4,750” It spent the next 75 years as a popular, trackside eatery in Wellington, Ohio. Turns out there’s a lot of history at Spud Boy! A most interesting part was the restoration by new owner, Gordon Tindall, over more than five years, inspired by a group of devoted diner connoisseurs, and supported in part by private donations and the American Diner Museum.

If you want to read the history and see photos of the restoration process, take a look at http://www.nydiners.com/cecilmove.html. The superbly renovated Spud Boy Diner opened for business in Lanesboro in the late spring of 2012; to find them and see what’s on the menu, check the Spud Boy Diner website at: http://spud.nydiners.com/ Focal length: 17.0 mm; 1/45 sec; f/5.6;ISO 400; Aperture Priority; Evaluative metering

Spud Boy Diner

Located next to the first photograph in this post, the 1920s Spud Boy Diner is at 105-3/4 Parkway Avenue North, where there’s “Booth Service for Ladies”

Historic Lanesboro

We’ve had feet of snowfall and icy cold for so long that it feels like a good time to warm up with thoughts of coming spring. Most of our Midwestern winter was spent indoors at the computer. In early January a Trojan virus hacked my firewall and opened the door to a new Exploit virus with full privileges granted to a hidden Administrator. Cleverly it looked like firewall protection was on and I was still in control–not so! Ultimately a hard reformat was the only option. On the way to that reluctant conclusion I learned to rewrite a registry and was reminded yet again that no education is ever truly free. I have a cast of helpful new friends around the globe, a fullsome respect for bleepingcomputer.com, and will be forever grateful that I keep backups current.

I’ve missed my Light Pixie alias and have big plans to post new work, including long neglected portfolio items forgotten in the busy pace of family life and creative work. Here is a first installment from a lovely, romantic autumn day in historic Lanesboro which calls itself the bed and breakfast capital of Minnesota. It’s a small town that straddles the Root River in the southeastern corner of the state and it welcomes tourists to cozy Victorian rooms, quaint shops and good food. On any normal, good weather day in all seasons, main street, quiet neighborhoods, and woodland trails will be filled with strolling couples, hiking and biking families, geocaching singles, cross-country skiers, the active and the sedentary. From the Stone Mill to the railroad bridge and everything in between and beyond will be the subject of countless vacation photos. Seats in the old St. Mane and Commonweal Theaters will be filled, as will the many shops, galleries, studios, and museums.

This was shot along Parkway Avenue outside the Lanesboro Arts Center in late October 2011, definitely heavy sweater weather. The English ivy was already tinged with frost dried leaves. The bicycle’s basket had been relieved of its summertime flowers and the wrought iron bench beyond was empty. My lens had a new 8x neutral density filter plus a UV protective filter; I’d chosen a longer exposure than the light required. The combination of old Lanesboro and the over-exposed image reminded me of an opalotype photograph printed on translucent white glass enhanced with pale, hand-tinted colors. It seemed tender and delicate like the day. Also called a milk-glass positive, opalotypes are a remnant technique, rare even from the mid-1880s when patented by Glover and Bold in Liverpool, England. My homage is not a true opalotype and was adjusted slightly in post-production. Expect to see more from historic Lanesboro in the coming days! Now available in a new Bluff Country post here:

Lens: EF-S17-85mm f/4.o IS USM; Focal Length: 24.0 mm; Exposure: 1/15 sec;   f/5.6;   ISO 200


  • Bluff country » %LightPixie% - […] Opalotype, a harbinger of Spring […]ReplyCancel

  • Jo Preston - Love this picture! I had to look very carefully to see if it was a painting or a photo, just the look of this bicycle and the effects make is sort of surreal. I for one will be glad to turn the calendar page tomorrow. My Dad died last week after a long illness, I lost a brother in February, 2009…let’s move on to March and thoughts of cycle with or without a motor!! I just truly love your work Sharyn.ReplyCancel


Southwestern Wisconsin in the winter is cold. Colors are muted but there to be found. In the bottom of the creek bed are ancient sedimentary rocks cast there by massive forces, worn down by wind and water, tweezed apart by swelling frost. Green mosses thrive in all months while grass grows slowly under the snow.

Nighttime lit by the moon or Sylvania casts golden shadows and bounces lens rainbows into the blue-dark sky.

Some creatures are built for speed even in their heaviest coat. (Click any image to see them full-sized)

The Frog Whisperer


This little girl is eight years old, a math whiz, and full of imagination! She loves any play that involves swinging, soaring, jumping, pretend flying. Land, sea or air, she’s quite at home. This marvelous little person watches butterflies in her spare time and is a devoted follower of all small creatures. Her favorite colors are anything bright!


This painting, The Frog Whisperer, shows what really happens in this child’s day-to-day world, not once, not twice, but over and over again. Yes, she is patient beyond anything you’ve ever seen. And she’s quietly purposeful enough to gentle a bullfrog into her hands.


It’s always a pleasure to enjoy her company with never a dull moment!

  • Jo Preston - Beautiful subject and beautifully captured! You are so gifted Sharyn! Mike and I are sitting here admiring your work. What a treasure for this young girl to take with her into her grown up years. Hope she keeps the spirit you see here.ReplyCancel

Here’s my newest commission and another Best of Breed animal. Meet Northwynd Everlasting “Sprite” who was born a tiny 4.6 ounces but grew into a star. Last year Sprite took the highest honor a purebred Pembroke Welsh Corgi can achieve in winning the Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club National Speciality!  With a sparkling career of many awards she’s a credit to her pedigree and to her breed, the product of a noble line, sired by a champion and mother to a pup who is already winning highest honors.

This painting shows baby Sprite looking at her puppy self in life’s mirror. Looking back at her and at us is the adult Sprite with her National Speciality ribbon adorning the frame.

There are two recognized corgi breeds, the Pembrokes and the Cardigans. The royal Windsors prefer the Pembrokes and actively encourage the breed. To win the National Speciality is the ultimate Best of Breed recognition for the dog and moreover for the breeder, owner, and trainers. In this case one dedicated woman wears all these hats. When asked what best describes all the work and worry, the years of commitment leading to Sprite’s success, she answered with the words that now title this painting.

Nature can be fickle then turn on season’s dime to pay back for all the trouble. 2012 was a droughty year and when the rains finally came in July some benefitted while others were just a little too south or received just a little too little and late.

Then came blazing September with fiery reds and oranges and golden in intensities and shades that few can remember! They say it’s the drought that gets the credit. Nature’s apology for making trouble!

I fly a small airplane that takes us far and wide. It doesn’t fly very fast but lets us explore the scenery slipping past underneath. This is a Fiery Maple Arch that I wouldn’t have discovered but for flying over a lucky route and a stunning quarter-mile long driveway in a hidden valley. See what we saw in the second photo below.

Fiery Maple Arch

Fiery Maple Arch

Imagine beautiful countryside in every direction, then tucking over a ridge to find a fairytale farm with a long, manicured avenue of maple trees, balanced, symmetrical, ablaze! Such good work should be rewarded! To thank those who planned and cared for that archway, I sought them on the ground with the gift of an enlargement. In my coming and going underneath their arch of trees, I found a paradise of color, their own special place, worthy of their work and a certain reward. For them of course, and for me as well!

Above the Fire

Leah Collected is my newest work. In process for several months it is finally delivered. The subject is a bay-colored Morgan horse and several times over Grand National Champion in Dressage, sometimes known as horse ballet. Dressage has several levels and standards required in competition where the highest level of skill, intelligence, strength, and difficulty is known as Collection. So at the peak of her career Leah was a dressage master of being collected.

Master of Horse Balley

Leah Collected

Notice Leah’s characteristic bay coloring of brown body with soft black nose, legs black at the bottom, black mane, ears outlined in black. Her ears are pricked forward now as she gallops her way through the water ahead but in a moment they’ll move back to listen intently to her rider.

At 28 years of age Leah is finally retired. She has some health issues but is just as sweet of disposition and intelligent as ever. Her caring owners stopped riding her last year. This scene in the river really happened and it’s the way Leah’s family wants to remember her — running freely, full of life, soaked with the joy of plunging headlong into river water with her best friend — a permanent, tangible memory of this very special horse.

A personal footnote: My life doesn’t leave much time for the care and feeding of livestock. We have a lovely philosopher cat who lives inside with us and a dozen big goldfish in the summers that get transferred to a deep year ‘round pond each fall. Our one indulgence is a small airplane named Fire Horse, so in that sense we do have a horse with wings! Leah is the fourth real horse I’ve painted in 2012 and I learned a great deal in several conversations with her owner, about horse ballet, about horses in general, and about this lovely girl in particular. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire process and the challenge of it, but especially exploring the way the human heart can fall completely in love with a horse. Thank you for that, Leah, and to your family who loves you so much!

  • Robert L. Creekbaum - Hi Sharyn
    What a beautiful picture, it looks so real.
    You did a gorgeous job–you really have the talent. Keep up the good work. Jo said to tell you hi backReplyCancel

I’d never heard of the Rainbow Bridge until recently. In context of planning this painting it was abundantly clear what was meant. That a meadow full of beloved pets might exist where they wait patiently and playfully for their beloved owners is both comfort in grief and a wish for love and companionship. How touching to imagine it! The preciousness of life is what this touches so be sure to squeeze the good from today and everyday.

Keisha and Cubby: Waiting at the Rainbow Bridge

 Keisha at left was described to me as the couple’s favorite dog of all, a constant friend and companion, full of joy and eagerness, sweet of disposition, joining faithfully in morning walks and loyal always. At right is Cubby who, owned by a distracted neighbor, knew a very good thing in the happy company and care to be found next door. In their place now is Ruby, a solidly round little pup who fills today with her antics.

This painting was to be a surprise birthday gift for the man but his wife was too enthusiastic to wait a month to give it. That and a lucky circumstance allowed me to be present in the gallery to see his reaction for myself. That makes this painting especially meaningful to me as well. To translate someone’s loss into a special memory is my own little piece of paradise, a painted poem.

For anyone who has ever loved an animal friend, here then is the poetic prose entitled Rainbow Bridge written by an unknown author sometime in the last twenty to thirty years:

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together

“Freckles is my good friend. When we ride it feels like flying on wind. I wonder if Freckles feels me like a pair of new sprouted wings?”

This painting was commissioned by the young woman’s other friend to recognize an important achievement and to acknowledge a special place in the heart.


The snowmobile part of the portrait–that is, a far more complex structure to paint than the young college student astride it.

I enjoyed the working session when we talked about his machine and reference photos were taken. It seemed to me that he did as well. In this case it was his smile that captured my attention–not too much, not too little, but just right. I referred to it as his generous smile which equally fit his personality. I like young people, especially the hopeful, ambitious, forward focus of youth engaged in building the future, a credit to their families and a joy to their friends.

In the several months of work on the portrait, I learned a lot more than expected about the physical structure of such a snow machine. No, I’ve never ridden one and it’s a far cry from the airplane I pilot. Great color and curvy lines to appreciate though! Snowmobiling has been a big part of the young man’s life and for him it’s the best thing about winter. In his own words,

“It’s freedom from everything, just being able to go out riding and not really knowing where you’re heading. Finding new places to go is the best part . . . pretty much, snowmobiling is my most favorite hobby.”

Since the machine and the freedom it represents is such a value to the young man I worked hard to get it right.


As for the young man I would call him brave to sit for his portrait with a stranger. Ander is of Scandinavian root and references bravery. His other name suggests fame so perhaps somebday he’ll make a name for himself as a brave man.

Ander’s Son

  • Light Pixie - Thanks, Jo! Your generous words are always food for my soul!ReplyCancel

  • Jo Preston - breath taking…jumps off the page as if alive. You are amazing!ReplyCancel

Boscobel Spring

20mm f/8 1/180sec ISO200 with the Canon EF-S17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM

The cold, short days of dark winter in southwestern Wisconsin have given way to brighter spring. Light in every sunbeam seems especially welcome.

I’ve been reviewing archives from the spring of 2010. It’s amazing what can slip unnoticed when you’re focused on something else. Two years ago I was interested in reflections and rejected this image in favor of others. Today the pattern of light rays caught my eye for the way they filter through the bare branches of a scrub forest in Wisconsin River bottomland near Boscobel. For every photographer it’s primarily about managing light. In all its forms and nuances it is the main tool. Some of my most memorable images have come from shooting directly into the sun. Lens flare and bokeh gave Light Pixie its name afterall.

Other than the beautiful light, what I like about this photograph are the tender green sprouts and a warming sky on a cold day. And I remember the company I keep.

  • Jo Preston - I just made this my wallpaper…something so captivating about the rays of light. Thank you.ReplyCancel

    • Light Pixie - Hi Jo! Great to see you here, a breadcrumb to why and where I’ve disappeared. Thanks for the comment; I value your feedback.ReplyCancel

Worn Out Worker Bee

Life of hard work

This is an old worker bee, one of the class of hairy social insects Bombus lapidarius that buzz and bumble from flower to flower. It can sting but is a reluctant abuser, more likely to retreat than advance. Bees work for their supper and in support of its group. In the process they pollinate in the wild along with our cultivated crops. A world without bees would be a lonely (and hungry) place for humans as well.

Shot with the L-series Canon EF 100mm 2.8 IS USM lens at ISO 400, f6.7, 1/45 sec. Dying of old age I suspect, it cooperated in my photographic intrusions, flicking antennae, crawling weakly, stopping to rest, looking up then down again. Over ten minutes I took many images along with the last few minutes of this old fellow’s life, then worked only this one for the strong detail and sharply focused eye. Of what or of nothing in its life and its dying was that old worn out worker bee aware?


  • For those of you who followed April’s Urban Art contest, the results are posted HERE.

Cool night–hot fire! This is a controlled burn and, no, that doesn’t describe your temper at a slow simmer! It’s a land management technique to achieve one or more goals like improving habitat, promoting regrowth of native vegetation, and reducing the hazard of wildfire. Also known as a prescribed burn, it’s the cautiously deliberate burning of grass, shrub, or forest fuels. It can go terribly wrong as it did this week 25 miles west of Denver when the wind picked up and blew embers across the 200-foot buffer zone causing a deadly wildfire. There was simply too much fuel after decades of fire prevention. But fire behaves in normally predictable ways. A prescribed burn–when used very carefully and with specific goals–can be a powerful tool in land restoration and maintenance.

We had a controlled burn in our neighborhood last month that was a textbook operation and had the added bonus of a great camera opportunity. What you see below is NOT a wildfire and in this case the purpose was to restore a sedge meadow on former grazing land in the upper Midwest. The cabin at left of the first image was not harmed in any way even though fire licked around and near. There were firebreaks and fire dependably moved uphill and away. Take a look!
No, there was no damage to the cabin, none whatsoever!

From the Frying Pan

Catch Fire #3

Burning Bush

Where There’s Smoke

  • Bruce Richardson - Beautiful! Thanks for documenting this local event in such a beautiful way. It will be nice to see how nature responds to this gentle (in comparison to the “big one”) disturbance.ReplyCancel

    • Light Pixie - The burn was textbook but perhaps a little late in a too-early spring to impact the more aggressive weeds and non-natives. As of now there’s no obvious trace of the fire to be seen. It’s eight years later and long enough for nature to work on the walnut land; I wonder what we’d see now?ReplyCancel

. . . some wild, some not, tiny violet to massive maple. Small signs of life anticipate warmer days to come. Like the blue Chiondoxa and their more famous brethren, the croci, some emerge directly from the snow. Blood Root with their clasping-hand leaves and the rare, blue-spotted, white violets come next followed by wild plum blossoms and naturalized daffodils, then holding-hands Grape Hyacinth with bold cousin Jane! After the sap run finishes for the maples they wave their blossoms like pompoms seeking attention in the sunshine. This is where we are in southwestern Wisconsin today. I hadn’t intended to do it, but these spring buds and flowers called more loudly than dull deskwork!

Click an image for a Lightbox of larger images.

Alpine Chiondoxa might just as well be called Glory UNDER the Snow.

TriBeCa-Triangle Below Canal Street, New York City


I’m working on a new project. Urban Art is its name. Shapes, materials and colors can be inviting without understanding the message or endorsing it. Graffiti happens everywhere in the world, has always happened even in ancient times. Wall scribbles evolved into nuanced shapes, letterplay, wordplay, political opinion, social life, defacement, public spaces, murmurs of discontent, impromptu murals, urban art.

It was first performed with a stick which evolved into more sophisticated tools. The instruments of choice today are spray paint and permanent markers!

There are schools of thought about graffiti and lively art criticism on if or where the line is crossed from art to vandalism. Without the property owner’s consent it’s considered a crime in most countries. New York City has proffered legal graffiti zones on public property which takes the argument out of it, spoiling the fun for some. Yes, it is an art form but it’s also the bane of law enforcement and property owners. It’s political theater and polemics. And worth a second look!

Take a further look below and then tell us what you think and why. Is it Felony Art or Urban DaVinci?

Meatpacking District, Manhattan


DUMBO-Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, Brooklyn

The Gangs All Here

DUMBO-Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, Brooklyn

Birth Explained

DUMBO-Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, Brooklyn


Meatpacking District, Manhattan

Everything is Driven by You

DUMBO-Down Under the Manhattan Bridge, Brooklyn

True Love USA


Even twenty years ago this classic moment would have been essentially lost as there was no easy or reasonable way to recover the lost detail.

Damaged Original Photo

Damaged Original Photo

Restored 1970s Photo

Click for full-size restored image

Without delving into the specifics, in short order with little effort, it was possible to rebuild what was completely lost and to enhance the rest.  It’s almost like being able to return lost youth to a high school moment.

These two young men were smoking their cigarettes in the boys’ restroom at the local high school. If they could speak from the photograph, what would they say? Does it make you wonder what they did with their lives? Would they recognize their long ago selves?

It’s impossible to know for sure but the camera was quite possibly an Instamatic 110, a point and shoot camera with cartridge 35mm film introduced by Kodak in 1972. Suddenly loading and unloading a camera was much easier and the Instamatic was an immediate success. Its popularity opened new markets for the everyman photographer and paved the way for the first digital camera–also by Kodak–in 1975.

We live in the most amazing times. I use a lot of technology and never take it for granted. Yes, it requires staying on top of it:  not just where the hardware is but whether the batteries are charged and you have the latest software and drivers. Technologies that were the products of someone else’s ambition and intellect make it possible for me to look the past in the eye. Thank you to all the innovators whose ideas give life more comfort, value and creative interest!


While emphasizing the rocks, I  missed the ghostly ship moored beyond! The Baths at Devil’s Bay, near Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

The Baths and grottos of Devil

Spectral Ship

It’s risky to take expensive camera equipment to the beach, especially when a swim from boat to shore is required followed by a long hike as the main event of the day. In this case I took a pocket Nikon S8100 in a waterproof bag. This was shot at f/3.5, 1/460 sec., ISO 160. Unfortunately, this little camera, with small size and weight as its big advantages (along with the same lovely cmos chip that Canon uses), doesn’t shoot raw images so after-the-fact jpeg editing options were limited compared to what can be done in raw format.

It was only after I printed the image while checking it with my loupe that I “discovered” the phantom ship perfectly framed in the background. And it begged to be enhanced enough to be discovered more easily. What to do?

Before printing I’d already enhanced saturation of the natural colors in the rocks, sharpened their textures ever so slightly, then somewhat darkened the foreground to separate it from a sun-blasted background. So now I re-opened Photoshop CS5 and took the magnetic lasso tool feathered at 15px from the toolbox to isolate the triangle of too bright light which secreted the sailboat. I added a 15px  quick selection tool to refine the shape and jumped it to a new layer (Command/Control-J), added a curves adjustment to affect only the blue color (clipped to just this one layer), and then dragged the curve downward just enough to define the sailboat.

There are always decisions to be made in creating or editing an image. Surely when I was standing among the rocks at Devil’s Bay I saw that sailboat and framed it deliberately in the triangle of rock. I could not have missed the perfect and serendipitous shape of rock mirroring the sailboat beyond. So I can’t really call it a lucky accident. But months later after processing thousands of images from two cameras following the shoot, I had totally forgotten it. Where my first edit was to make the rocks the only subject of the scene, now I saw a greater possibility in allowing others to discover as I did twice that there was more beyond!

I considered several things to draw the eye to the sailboat. Some I accepted and others ignored. But it was a self-aware process always focused on what I wanted the viewer to see. As a result of what I decided was most important, I recropped to put the sailboat at precise photo-center and slightly darkened the foreground rocks to emphasize the brighter triangle. Initially I darkened the sky above the rocks; but no matter how subtle that attempt it looked unnatural which ruled out a dark vignette as well. I did slightly frame a lighter edge across the rocks and foreground water, not enough to pull you out of the frame or distract from the central triangle but hopefully enough to build a tunnel of light to pull you further into the frame. The image is still about the rocks but the sailboat is there to be found.

Does it work for you? Use the “please add your comments” box  or link to Facebook to tell me.

Left-half of Panorama
Left-half of Panorama

Right-half of Panorama

Right-half of Panorama

You’re looking straight down into six feet of water at the fuel dock on Stokkoya, Atlantic coastal Norway. The day was overcast and the water, while clear enough, refracted the light to a milky hue.

I like post production work and have developed my own techniques and strategies for getting the most from pictures like this. Let’s walk through some of the steps to producing a useable, crisp panorama of this startlingly beautiful, even tropical looking seabed scene near the Arctic Circle in the North Atlantic.

So how does one go about turning pictures like those above images into this?

Seabed Panorama, Stokkoya, Norway

Seabed Panorama, Stokkoya, Norway

First you need a good image editing program. I use Photoshop CS5 but have some experience with Paint Shop Pro. Rather than emphasize a specific program, there a few general concepts to consider.

  1. Whenever possible shoot in raw format which preserves editing choices for you, the creative mind behind the lens. Always use the highest resolution your camera is capable of achieving — you never know when you’ll take that “once in a lifetime” shot. Always save copies of your unaltered images in two places, at least until you’ve had a chance to sort out the best. As you acquire more skill over time, you may wish to revisit earlier work and you’ll need a clean original.
  2. I carry a small Nikon in my purse and sometimes that’s the only camera available but it has a small 5 MB range in jpeg only. So if you shoot jpegs, remember that it’s a compression format, great for saving space but not as good at making artful, crisp images. The camera decides how your photo should look and permanently disposes of everything else. That means you lose some of the best or only alternatives for improving your picture and that makes you little more than a bystander to your own process. Any change you save to a jpeg image including simply changing the file name triggers additional compression. You may not notice at first but, after a few such cycles, the image becomes pixelated and chunky. Not a good thing at all!
  3. Once you open your image in the editing program, duplicate the layer so you have an easy retreat. Then be fearless in trying things. Stamp new copies to the top of your layer stack whenever you sense that you’re embarking in a new direction and want to leave an escape. Name your layers; it’s amazing how quickly I sometimes forget what I did ten minutes before. You can always delete effects you don’t like from the layer or history panels.

So what did I actually do to these first two pictures?

  1. First, I used the raw editor that ships with Photoshop to tweak all of the following: raised the blacks from 0 to the 50s, as well as contrast and clarity, and somewhat reduced brightness. I didn’t increase vibrance in the left side but did on the right. Both images were open in the editor at the same time so I could adjust them individually but so they matched in overall tone, color, and contrast.
  2. Next I used the on board Photomerge to create the overlapping panorama. I admit to using a small 10px soft-edged clone brush to make a couple of repairs at the seam.
  3. Then I stamped a new layer and changed the blend mode to Soft Light. I tried Overlay first but it was too dense and harsh.
  4. Finally, I applied a slight High Pass filter effect and added a black layer mask to hide everything that the filter sharpened. Here’s where the sharpening magic happens! To bring out selective details (sharpening) I used a small soft-edged brush and, with white as the foreground color, painted details where I wanted them into the panorama.

Photo editing can be done in many different ways. Each of these steps might have been achieved by other means. But this is part of my regular workflow and it works for me!

  • admin - You give me a great compliment especially as you’ve been a big inspiration.ReplyCancel

  • Bjorn - Sharyn,

    It is a GREAT PLEASURE to see how you have developed in such short time! You are a great photograper and you have a beautiful eye to get it all together in a simplistic but very aesthetically pleasing way. I am honored to be your friend in art

    Bjorn Sjogren
    San Antonio, TexasReplyCancel