Learning Photoshop and Android Skin

Isn’t it funny what life decides to throw at you sometimes?

Recently, Life decided to throw me a new horse (Which may or may not be the reason I’ve neglected my beautiful blog for two months. I am confirming nothing).

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But Life isn’t always a rude bitch (only mostly….), sometimes she decides to reunite you with an old friend. To the tune of horse manure and setting money on fire, Julia and I were reunited after a twelve year hiatus.

It’s been a fun vacation with Julia and my new horse but it’s time to get my ass into gear and continue blowing people’s minds with my awesome editing skills (Ha!).

So it wasn’t too long before I asked Julia to model for me (It was inevitable yes, but I waited till the third date like a gentleman), because hello, her face is like a warm crackling fire, or a cross between Joan Jett and fresh pumpkin pie (Or apple…if that’s your thing).

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(I mean come on!) 

Julia already boasts a successful modeling career so it tickled my behind to give ONE phrase of direction and we got the shot in five clicks of my shutter. That’s magic, people. Sorcery even.

I told Julia “Your’e an android. No emotion on your face, but you’re seeing your hand as if for the first time” And. that. was. it. She donned a black tube top, sat down and BAM! 

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My original idea was to have an android with all kinds of shiny mechanical pieces and moving parts, her hand would be dissolving into code of 0’s and 1’s. Kinda Matrix-esque only without the crappy sequels.

Buutttt as I sat down to edit my ego cowered in the corner and piddled on the floor. Yeah, I had no idea how to execute such an epic idea. My skills with GIMP are all but maxed out and I’ve been reluctant to venture further into using Photoshop.

Photoshop is hard to learn and I have about six and a half minutes of free time each day to learn new editing techniques (Eight minutes if I don’t poop that day).  So learning how to dematerialize a hand took me For-ev-ver!

I started in GIMP as I usually do, to remove any blemishes, and in this case make Julia’s skin flawless, because it’s 2017 and androids don’t have flawed skin or the right to vote yet. I used simple white lines to make her skin seem shiny and fake and settled on a soft green for the color.

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For a tutorial on how to change eye color in GIMP go Here.

Our next stop was Lightroom where I simply made the background black and made her skin more glowey. eyes1

I enrolled at Youtube university to learn how to dematerialize in Photoshop.

 

It took me about five tries (and some grey hairs and a hemorrhoid), and when all was said and done I still wasn’t happy with the way it came out.

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But I’m still considering this a win for me. I stepped out of my comfort zone, learned a little bit more about Photoshop and made a pretty awesome Android Portrait. Now all she needs is a name and a back story…..

Here’s a side by side because they are fun:

Happy shooting Peons!

 

 

 

 

Photographing hair. And Rebecca.

My cousin Katty called me one day to tell me about a wonderful photography opportunity.

Rebecca.

Rebecca, she said, had the most glorious waist-length hair. And was actually willing to let us photograph her. (Some people balk when they see my wild eyes and hear my even wilder ideas).

I love when opportunity calls. Or rather, I love when opportunity calls Katty, who then calls me. 

The Walking Hair showed up at my house, shiny, soft and connected to a shy, exotic face. My mind went full tsar bomba and exploded with possibilities.

We can have the fan blowing her wonderful mane around her face!

We can splay it around her head and shoot her from above! 

We can strip her naked and have her black tresses shield her private parts! 

As with all idea that come from my brain, some worked great! Some did not…..

I’ve never had long hair before so I wasn’t aware how heavy it would be. My tiny fan was NOT cutting it. Coupled with the fact that it was freezing that day, so my beautiful Hair (connected to Rebecca) was cold.

We stuck a space heater on Rebecca AND the fan, set up lights and got to work. (I’m surprised she didn’t leave my house with the sniffles).

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We are about 0.325 milliseconds away from blowing a fuse here. We used two umbrellas and an accent light, aka a hair light, to add a nice sheen to her hair.

I wished at the time the fusion of hot and cold air would create a tornado and swirl around Rebecca’s hair magically, but no such magic happened…woe is me.

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It was extremely difficult to get her hair to cooperate, and I remembered why I’ve always kept mine short. Still, the beauty of it, the flowing chocolate waves, were mesmerizing to watch. And she seemed to know how to tame it.

It took some finagling with the fan and positions but we finally managed to score some beautiful images.

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Soon after, we abandoned the idea of blowing hair (pouty lip), and took some glamour shots with her hair down and natural.

And then….oh! 

Magic! 

Rebecca reiterated over and over how she was not a professional model. That she didn’t know what to do, how to position her arms, her face, her hands. I was shocked by this. I thought she did amazing. Or maybe it was her quiet, shy nature that really made this shoot. 

I didn’t give her much direction with her face, somehow knowing her eyes would speak (which is usually the case with quiet people). And a reserved melancholy oozed from her skin.

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Suddenly the shoot wasn’t about her hair anymore. She was no longer a walking wig. Instead she became Rebecca, quiet, sweet, and full of a secret sorrow. Rebecca, who’s face tells the story we all want to hear. She was Rebecca, who just happened to have long hair. Ahh, the sweet bliss of a photo shoot transforming itself. 

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I am ashamed to say that I didn’t see it. I hadn’t met Rebecca before this day, I didn’t KNOW her, so I was dead set on shooting a beautiful girl with magical, Rapunzel hair. I never imagined it would turn into something more, (you’d think I’d know by now that my shoots never go as planned!). I’m not sad that it turned out differently. Just ashamed that it took half of our allotted time to see that this young (barely legal) girl could portray such emotion, and throw out such epic shots. Goosebumps.

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A waterfall of chocolate hair walked into my house, and a sweet, sad and brave girl walked out.

I only met Rebecca that one time. It’s been a year and I haven’t seen her since. But she taught me a lot!  Don’t assume. Don’t hold so tightly to ideas in your head. Don’t judge a book by it’s hair. 

 

I’ve been so fixated lately on finding models with an aesthetically pleasing quality. When the truth is, that beauty really IS on the inside. And sometimes it oozes out in time for me to photograph.

A Lesson in Perspective. And Head Tilting.

 

Photography can teach you many things.

Besides being an outlet for creativity, photography can help heal wounds, cope, organize your thoughts and teach life lessons.

It can also help you with perspective.

Have you ever had a problem so overwhelming you felt drowned? In the thick of a problem you sometimes feel there is no way out, no way around it, no other way but to trudge on through. And that my peons, blows. Blows hard.

Ass! No not ass….butt! No, not butt. BUT…BUT there is another way.

It’s called PERSPECTIVE friends. How you perceive something can completely change the outcome.

I suppose this is the part where I throw in a nifty example that totally correlates with this life lesson…hmmm…I got nothing.

Oh wait, I’ve got something. Once upon a time Brett and I made Hotel reservations in a part of the state we were not familiar with. Upon check-in we realized we’d accidentally booked a nice cozy little death trap smack down in the middle of Ghettosville. Our door had kick marks in it, three dead bolt locks, half eaten food on the bathroom floor and a TV that only half worked. Literally. Only half the screen worked.

All night we could hear fighting and stomping around the halls. And when we got in the elevator we gazed, in horror at a sticker above the floor buttons. It read: EXPIRES 2012. Here we were standing in 2016 hoping the whole elevator didn’t come off it’s hinges, sending us crashing to our collective deaths. (Or maybe it was just me that thought that. I can’t remember).

Time for that head tilting, perspective thing I was telling you about. We could have run for the hills, screaming of bed bugs and expired elevators. But we did not. Instead we were kind of excited. Death was imminent. We were being adventurous. We don’t do much of the whole dangerous thing. Suddenly our trip was kind of exciting and we drove home with PTSD and the proverbial “I survived” mentality. Not to mention a cool story to tell.

See! See how perspective changed the way I viewed the problem and in turn changed the outcome? So let’s go ahead and relate this to photography, shall we?

Sometimes just tilting our heads a little, tweaking and turning, can completely change a picture. The photo of model, Leilani, jumping in the air was lackluster at best. I wasn’t even gonna use it….UNTIL I turned my head a bit, squinted my eyes and imagined it differently. Simply turning the picture upside down completely changed the feel of this picture. What once was a picture of a pretty girl jumping in the air (i.e. blah), transformed into a photo that makes you think. Is she falling to her death? Is she transcending gravity? How does one fly?

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With this picture of Jessi I struggled for hours on perspective. Each version spoke in different ways. Was the Jessi on bottom the real Jessi, trying to communicate with her own downtrodden self? If I flipped it to the side it seemed she was on the other side of a door, begging to come in. Flipping it again made it seem as thought she was listening to herself cry.

See what I mean about perspective peons? Taking a simple image and flipping it, or looking at it from a different angle can change is so drastically.

I encourage lots of head-tilting in these next few shots (and in life!).

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This demon, to me, seemed to be begging for something. Much like a dog. A demon dog begging for scraps. No one likes begging. Flipping it changed the direction the demon was focusing and now it seems as though she is gazing longingly at her own death.

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Turn your head to the left. That’s the original. It shows physical strength yes (How does she hold her whole body weight up??). But it is not as pleasing to look at. At the current angle it shows strength of a different kind. Like the whole world is pushing down on her. Like she is giving her all to hold the world up, and it could come crashing down at any moment. Crushing her. Splat.

In Photography, and in life, sometimes all it takes is a simple head tilt to see things from a different angle. And maybe things aren’t as hopeless as they look.

Different angle. Different perspective. Different outcome. It’s easy, peeps.

 

Convenience vs. Quality or iPhone vs. Nikon.

I’m waging a war today.

A war against people who want professional pictures taken, but don’t want to pay.

A war against chintzy app filters.

A war against iPhone Bob.

And I stand with professional photographers.

I have no issues with using an iPhone to take pictures. I do it all the time (I can’t very well tote my camera everywhere I go. It’s heavy, people).

My issue is with iPhone Bob stealing work from me. My issue is answering emails from prospective clients, answering a gazillion questions, setting up a date, settling on a price, only to hear those dreaded words:

  • “I’m on a budget” (Hinting at a discount)
  • “I have a friend with a nice/expensive camera who is gonna do it instead”
  • “We’re just gonna use our phone”

Aghrhsgsjejdndkfksodij!!

I’m seeing into the future, and it looks bleak. A future without the need for professional cameras and photographers. iPhone Bob is in this future and he is using Sepia. I shudder.

It’s these types of people who are putting us professionals out of work.

Photography is not an easy job. But it is a loved job. We put years into learning our craft, studying manuals, perfecting techniques, and then there is the brain splitting task of navigating Photoshop and Lightroom (which has left many with grey pubes).

And yet, I’m still losing jobs to people who don’t care about the quality of professional pictures. Here are some side by sides of photos taken with an iPhone 6 and a Nikon D7100.

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I see a future with our profession becoming obsolete.

Sure there are still those who respect the art, who appreciate the time and skill used, but there are others who feel we rob them, are overpriced and that anyone can do our job.

Screw you!!!

Every time I’m doing a photo shoot I’m thinking “I get paid too much for this”.

And then I sit down to edit and I think “I don’t get paid enough for this!”

But hardly anyone appreciates the time and skill. Why? Because iPhone Bob stands behind me at a wedding shooting the exact same picture and with a wink and a smile tells my client “I’ll text it to you later”.

And doesn’t that just make me look like a thief. 

Again, I’m not saying that great pictures can’t be taken with an iPhone. Camera phones are a great way to learn the craft. What I’m saying is that with camera phones being so accessible (in your pocket) it makes paying for a professional a little superfluous.

So I’m waging a war. 

“WE’RE HERE! WE’RE QUEER!” Oh wait…wrong one. 

How about.. “WE’RE HERE! WE’RE TIRED-OF-LOSING-WORK-TO-CHEAP-ASSES-WHO-DON’T-CARE-ABOUT-QUALITY!” Too much? 

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It’s a losing battle, I know. All I can do is keep pumping out beautiful photos for my clients and pray that new ones choose me over iPhone Bob.

I’m keeping the art alive.

I’m bringing back the term “Self portrait” and obliterating “Selfie“.

I’m kicking iPhone Bob in the shin.

Photographing Horses. And humble beginnings.

Believe it or not, I didn’t start out as a bad ass photo editor. Nope. I worked my way up doing normal, boring photo shoots like Joe Blow. Just like the little people.

I work full time at a dog grooming shop during the day. My nights and weekends are full of maternity shoots, family portraits, weddings, birthdays, newborn, boudoir, etc. And while I enjoy these (mostly the money), these types of shoots don’t tickle my fancy the way that photo editing does. That’s why I try to make sure and throw in a fun and challenging photo shoot that requires lots of editing every once in a while. (I don’t get paid for these yet. But they keep my spirit alive!)

One of my other passions is Equine Photography. I’ve been riding for twenty years and find, like most people, that horses possess a grace and sincerity that longs to be photographed.

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Although, anyone who works with animals know how unpredictable they can be. That’s probably why I love it so much. Photographing horses is enough of a challenge to tickle that fancy I was just talking about (And a good fancy just needs to be tickled. Trust me).

For every beautiful, graceful shot of a horse running through a field, is a photographer, sweaty, laying in a pile of fresh crap.

I took this picture lying underneath a jump, surrounded by horse shit, as a 1200 lb beast jumped over me. It made me pucker, that’s for sure.

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Especially because a few minutes later he did this:

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I have not been to one horse shoot where the animal didn’t have a diva moment at some point.

This shot: loralee14donebw

Preceded this shot:

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And these ones:

Led to this one:

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See what I’m getting at? Equine photography is most certainly NOT boring. And that’s what draws me to it.

Don’t get me wrong, my paid weekend shoots are awesome. People actually hand me money to photograph them (Thief Baggins!). But at the end of every shoot I am left uninspired and a little dead inside. I am an artist! And I need to be challenged! (Too bad the market for horse photography is dead in my area. Cowboys love their iphones apparently).

One day I will meld my love for horse photography with photo editing and create some magic. I just need to find a willing model. In the meantime, these two different facets of photography will remain in different folders on my computer. *sigh*

Photo shoot fun. And Baby Powder.

Sometimes I love my weird brain. Sometimes I don’t.

Sometimes my brain says “Hey! Let’s recreate the four elements using sexy models!”

Cool idea, brain!!

Sometimes my brain says “Hey bitch, you’re gonna find a sexy model, somehow convince her to follow you into a creepy abandoned building in the middle of bum fuck Egypt, and throw cups of baby powder at her face”.

Um…..what?

“Yup! Convince that hoe this needs to happen”

So as you can see, my stupid brain wouldn’t stop nagging me until I made this happen. And I’ve learned to listen to my weird brain, after all, it was the one who told me to start this blog.

Que model Leilani Mallet. She and I have worked together before. Leilani is up for anything! At our last shoot we snuck onto a movie set, snapped some shots, and then got kicked out. Fun times.

We prepared for such shenanigans this time around. We packed water, baby powder, extra outfits, music, baby wipes, coconut oil (which somehow fixes everything) and camera equipment, and headed out.

My vision was for an elegantly dancing woman, surrounded by rubble and destruction, making scary monster faces. I envisioned darkness, black and white, depth, emotion, grace. But rarely do photo shoots turn out the way I plan.

My cousin and auntie volunteered their time and help for this shoot (thank gawd!) and they scouted out several locations for me days prior.

I told Katherine I wanted dark, scary, abandoned and dilapidated. Boy did she deliver!

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Especially on the scary part.

We used three separate locations. Each had its own charm. The first was a gorgeous run down “house” full of debri, rusty nails sticking straight up out of the floor, insulation falling on us from the ceiling and glass everywhere. It was amazing.

Leilani dressed in a black leotard and we got to work. I asked her for “Beautiful body, ugly face”

This is what she gave me:

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Gorgeous! But it was still brighter than I wanted. Time constrictions forced us to shoot during the day. Nothing a little photo shop can’t fix!

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Boom!

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And boom!

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And boom x3!

The next location was only a few miles away and we drove there with excitement. Little did we know we’d arrive at satan’s armpit with all the undue excitment of children going to the dentist for the first time.

The beautiful graffiti on the walls belied the disgustingness of this awful place; dirty underwear littered the floor, accompanied by millions of glass shards, more debri, and an old mattress that I’m sure has seen some awful shit. And wouldn’t you know, we even found a bum’s last meal.

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Mmmmm.

I needed Leilani barefoot for this shoot. And I’m so lucky my assistants brought a broom with them.

As we went spelunking deeper into the abyss (trying not to catch an STD in the process) we happened upon a lovely brick wall. White. A pure white brick wall people. 

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Ok so it was not in my vision to have white. But I somehow loved the look, and I immediately saw the potential.

Leilani changed into a white leotard, we swept the floor and got to work.

My two assistants, Katherine and Teresa stood off to the sides holding cups of baby powder to throw at Leilani. Some shots came out PERFECT.


Others….not so much.

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We are not professional powder throwers.

What was perfect about this shoot was that Leilani gave her all. If I asked her to jump, she jumped (I cringed at the sound of her feet hitting the concrete painfully). If I asked her to contort her body but keep her face serene, she did it.

Sweat was pouring down her face, covered in baby powder, muscles sore, surrounded by societies cast offs and a homeless man’s ball sweat.

But not once did she complain. Bless her heart.

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We were surrounded by destruction, as I had planned, but I hadn’t planned on creating such beauty in the thick of it. We were essentially in the forgotten parts of the world. A house once loved and warm, now abandoned and hopeless.

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I’d like to think we brought some forgotten happiness to those locations as we tried our damndest to make it worth something.

We could see what we had accomplished, even as the powder created balls of dough in our noses.

Let me know what you think of Leilani in the comments!

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Happy shooting! Happy editing!