Blurred Lines: More Creative Projects For the “Involuntary” Homebound

Same image with Gaussian blur combined with Motion blur filter.
Gaussian blur combined with Motion blur filter.

Story & photos by F.M. Kearney

At the time of this writing, most of the country is tentatively beginning to open up. Although more and more people are slowly starting to venture out, things are nowhere near normal. Millions, however, are still living under “stay-at-home” restrictions, and only venturing out for essentials – which does not often include outdoor nature photography. It makes for very long days that seem to blur together. That gave me another idea on how to alter existing images. My past couple of articles have dealt with creative ways to pass the time if you’re unable (or unwilling) to spend too much time outside. Last month, I discussed ways to use texture to enhance your images. In this article, I’ll illustrate how the various blur filters in Photoshop can dramatically alter an image (including texture, as well).

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Dealing With Adversity: Staying Creative During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Stargazer lily with blue sidelight
Stargazer lily with blue sidelight

Story & photos by F. M. Kearney

Life is unpredictable. One day, it can be business as usual, and the next day everything can be turned upside down. The Coronavirus, or COVID-19, outbreak has effectively done just that. Whether only slightly, or dramatically, all of our lives have been changed. At the time of this writing, only a few major US cities have been placed under total lockdown. Here in New York City, although still open, for all intents and purposes, it’s basically shut down. Walking around town is like being on the set of an apocalyptic movie. Many people are working from home and most businesses are shuttered – replacing the normal hustle and bustle with an eerie stillness and silence. The New York Botanical Garden – my oasis for nature photography – has been closed until further notice. I was looking forward to trying out some new techniques on their spring collection, but that will obviously have to be put on hold. It occurred to me that as more places are put on lockdown, many people may not be able to leave their homes for the luxury of engaging in nature photography. I was in the process of putting together an article about photographing spring flowers. But, due to the current situation, I decided to set it aside for now and write something a bit more poignant.

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Shooting Through “Distractions”: Using Natural Elements to Frame Your Subjects

Blue spruce pine needles (200mm, f/4, ISO 400, 1/90 sec.)
Blue spruce pine needles (200mm, f/4, ISO 400, 1/90 sec.)

Story & photos by F. M. Kearney

Imagine a child’s frustration in trying to see a passing parade while peering through a forest of gargantuan adult legs. I suppose it’s human nature to always want an unobstructed view of whatever it is we’re trying to see. This is especially true of press photographers, and of course… the paparazzi. How many times have you seen them on the evening news jostling and elbowing each other out the way in order to get the “best” shot? In nature, however, the best shot isn’t always necessarily the cleanest shot. If used correctly, certain “distractions” can provide a creative frame or bokeh around your subjects.

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Get Connected to the Underworld: Discover the Beauty of the Underside of Flowers

Rear of floribunda roses shot from below.
Rear of floribunda roses shot from below.

Story and photos by F. M. Kearney

Flowers are definitely one of the most popular subjects in nature photography. They’ve been photographed with limited depths of field to convey a soft, romantic look. They’ve been photographed with large depths of field to show the abundance of a large group. Sometimes, the sun is included for a more dynamic shot. A vast array of special effects have been employed to produce some truly stunning imagery. Indeed, flowers have been photographed in every conceivable way imaginable. However, the one way in which I hardly ever see is from the rear. I did a Google search of “Creative Flower Photography,” and out of the 100 or so results, only 2 or 3 photos featured the backside. That’s a shame because so many great opportunities are going unrealized.

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Subtle, But Significant: A Polarizer Filter Isn’t Just For Sunny, Blue-Sky Days

Cumulus clouds over Dickenson Bay St. John's, Antigua West Indies.

Cumulus clouds over Dickenson Bay, St. John’s, Antigua, West Indies.

Story & photos by F. M. Kearney

I’m a late-comer. I didn’t make the switch to digital until 2014. As a film shooter, I relied heavily on filters. Everything from warming to ND grads to a vast array of special effect filters were permanent residents in my camera bag. Nowadays, digital imaging can replicate many of those filter effects – often much easier and with far more control. But, as good as digital technology is, it still can’t duplicate the effects of a polarizer filter. The photo above is a classic beach scene where a polarizer works most of its magic. By filtering out the glare and atmospheric haze, the true color of the sky comes forth revealing puffy, white cumulus clouds as far as the eye can see.

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On Bended Stems: Explore the Beauty of Post-Peak Tulips

Lily-flowered tulips beginning to “show their age”

Lily-flowered tulips beginning to “show their age”

Story & photos by F. M. Kearney

Timing is everything. As nature photographers, we’re constantly trying to schedule our shoots during times when our subjects will be seen at their best. For landscapes, this is generally during the “Magic Hours” of the day – the hour just before sunrise or after sunset. Flowers can benefit from the warm light at this time of day as well, but more important than that is catching them at the peak period in their blooming cycle. It’s an absolute obsession for some photographers. A field of tulips in pristine condition is truly breathtaking. The photo below is one such example.

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Showcase 2019 Winner Profile – Arabella Dane

Showcase 2019 Altered Reality, Judges' Choice: Flowers Barbados – Tabernaemontana divaricata , Pinwheel Flower © Arabella Dane.

Showcase 2019 Altered Reality, Judges’ Choice: Flowers Barbados – Tabernaemontana divaricata , Pinwheel Flower © Arabella Dane.

Bio:

Arabella Dane is an accredited photography judge, a member of two camera clubs in New England, 2 Photography Society of America study groups ,as well as a serving as an emeritus Garden Club of America photography judge and instructor. She is the founder of the GCA Photography Study Group, and is the coordinator for the photography initiatives of the National Garden Clubs, working with Charlie Burke, PSA past president, to develop online photography programs and competitions for the NGC membership (250,000 members).

She regularly competes in photography competitions and takes courses in photography. She shares with her husband Nat a love for nature, gardening, conservation, fishing, bird shooting, traveling, and photography. Arabella is an avid horticulture student – working most recently on the correlations between our native plants and their pollinators. Her online www.plantipedia.com web site includes more than 150,000 plants and 25,000 plant photographs as well as photos of many of our native butterflies and is a favorite resource for plant huggers.

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Sinking to Their Level: Shoot Spring Flowers From a Different Perspective

Looking up through a tulip bed. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY. (Digitized from film.)

Looking up through a tulip bed. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY.
(Digitized from film.)

Story & photos by F. M. Kearney

If you’ve had your gear packed away since the final vestiges of colorful foliage faded from the landscape last fall, now is the time to dust off the cobwebs. Spring is finally here – bringing an abundance of subject matter. Fresh flowers are popping up everywhere and demanding attention. But, you don’t want to fall into a habit of taking the same types of pictures year after year. A change in perspective is a good way to view an old subject in a new light.

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In the Frame of Things: Using Natural Frames to Emphasize Your Subject

Snow-covered branches frame urban landscape of Central Park, New York, NY.

Snow-covered branches frame urban landscape of Central Park, New York, NY.

Story and photos by F. M. Kearney

Making a subject stand out is the primary goal of all photographers. There are a number of ways to accomplish this and your subject matter will usually dictate the best method. Common techniques may include special lighting, subject placement, extreme angles or contrasting colors. If you delve into the world of digital imaging, your choices will be virtually unlimited. But, if you prefer to keep your images looking as natural as possible, you may want to stick with the in-camera methods.

One of my favorite ways to highlight a subject is to place it within a natural frame. This might consist of leaves, flowers, bushes … just about anything nearby that you can find to encircle your subject. In the opening photo above, I used the snow-covered branches to frame the distant buildings in this Central Park winter scene. Besides serving as decorative foreground elements, they were a great way to cover up the dead space of a white, featureless sky.

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