Sunday, October 4, 2015


WOW,  I can't believe my last post was in August! It feels more recent! I didn't intend to give up on the blog, but when things got hectic at work this summer, I cut myself lots of slack on personal projects. Also, I tend to use Instagram a lot more for my photos, since I can easily transfer them off my camera even while I'm out in a garden or wherever. If you don't already follow me there, please come visit/follow! I'm @greengatephoto. If you don't yet have Instagram, why not? :)

Anyway, I wanted to say happy October! As you probably know by now, I loooove October. It's my birthday month, but it's also a nice time of year for other reasons. This October has not disappointed so far. It's only day 4, but I've been feeling great and I am super excited about my plans this month (more about that in a minute).

Before I proceed with October, let's talk September! I know I won't get to it otherwise. It was a busy month (work and personal), but I did get out to take pictures a couple of times. By the way, most of the photos in this entry have been posted elsewhere on social media, so I'm sorry for repeats.

First, at the state fair. I mainly went to try a few of the classic ride photos that I've been seeing online.

Later in the month, my parents visited! It was a really nice time, and we got to go to the coast and the refuge. I didn't take a ton of photos, but here are a few.

There were TONS of bullfrog pollywogs, but sadly most of them probably died since the water was drying up quickly.

I also got out to Bush Park at some point, but didn't stay long. It had only started turning fally at that point.

Back to October! The weather has been awesome--sunny, but milder than our hot summer. The leaves are changing and it's looking really nice outside. To kick off October, I got to go to the Oregon Garden for a work photo assignment on the 1st. After taking care of my duties, I spent my "lunch break" briefly walking around the garden and taking a few photos. I was carrying a heavy bag so I didn't stay as long as I normally would.

Then, last night I went to Deepwood hoping that the porcelain berries would be in bloom. Timehop showed me that they were ready last year at this time, but we've had such a weird year of hot weather that I wasn't sure. But yes, they are looking their awesome selves!!

I loooove them. I know they are invasive, but they're so cool looking!! I would love to pick some for some photos/arrangements, so if you happen to know of someone local who would let me take some, please let me know!

Oh and I also took a few other pictures:

I mentioned having fun plans, and now I'll tell you about them: I'm going to Utah! I have never been, but my friend Dania invited me to join her on a trip to Zion and Bryce Canyon. We'll also get a little time in Vegas, where we're flying in. We're both super excited! I have even rented a lens so I can hopefully get a few good landscapes. While I'm down south, I'm also quickly hopping over to New Mexico to visit my younger sister's family. It happens that I'll be there for part of the hot air balloon fiesta, so fingers crossed the weather cooperates for us!

I hope you're having a good October so far. :) I want post here more before the end of the year. Hopefully some trip photos, and then I have plans to go to Houston (where my older sister and parents now live) over Christmas, so that should give me a lot to post about. Meanwhile, I will definitely be Instagramming as usual, so find me over there if you want to see some pictures on an almost daily basis.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Photo Edits

Do you wonder how photos look to begin with--straight out of the camera, as they say--and what has been done to them in Photoshop before they are presented as a final product? This is something I enjoy learning about, and I thought maybe you'd be interested in some of my editing choices. I'm no expert when it comes to Photoshop, but it's something I use on a daily basis and I have practiced and researched different editing techniques for years. My style has evolved (often with the trends, I admit), and lately I've become a bit more heavy-handed with different effects, which you may or may not like. (I'm still fairly conservative, though.) There are a million ways to edit a photo, but here's what I came up with this time.

Instead of one of my own pictures, I'm starting this possible series with a photo taken by my friend Carol. She had mentioned taking photos of her daughters, but was not sure about editing them. I offered to edit her favorite, and then she said I could share the process here with you! Thanks again, Carol!

Now, I'm going to speak a bit of Photoshopese here, so if some doesn't make sense, you can ask or just Google it. ;) Sometime I may explain actions and different tools in their own post, but I'm just going to assume you have some basic knowledge (or don't care either way) and be as concise as possible. (Too late.)

Here's the original photo. It's an adorable picture of her girls with natural expressions and great dresses. I love the color! The composition is good and the lighting is even on their faces. That gives us a good base to work with.

The problem areas I saw with the photo were mainly the color, brightness, and the background. I didn't spend a lot of time meticulously fixing this, but I did a few quick edits that polished it up.

The basic edits resulted in the above image. Here's what I did:

1. The background seemed distracting to me with the uneven colors. I try to avoid fake-blurring the background (I'd rather that be naturally done in-camera), but I was able to use the clone tool to fill in some grass on the left side and get rid of much of the sunny patch so it was less of a distraction. This is a step that could take hours if you want to be all perfect about it, but that sounds totally unfun, so I did it in a few minutes. My motto when it comes to completing tedious tasks: Good enough.

2. To adjust the color, I ran Clean Slate Foundation, which is a Photoshop action created by Greater Than Gatsby. I downloaded it free awhile back, and I've been loving it! It basically adjusts the coloring, sharpens the photo and does a few other fancy tricks to enhance portraits. I find it sometimes makes the photo a little too red, but it has a bunch of layers that you can go and adjust individually. I will often run the action and then go back and adjust curves, etc. I am thinking that on this particular photo, though, I didn't have to do any adjustments. It really helped the skintones and brightness!

While that first set of basic edits was just fine, I was curious about taking it a step further. Lately the trend is to give photos a sort of washed-out, warm, vintagey appearance. There are a lot of interpretations of that, but in this case I went with a mild dose found in one of my current favorite actions: Butterfly Cream by lieveheersbeestje. Sorry, I can't find a direct link to the action itself, but it was another freebie that I've been loving mostly for floral photos. However, it worked for this too, once I toned it down a little. You can adjust the strength of actions, and I believe I had to reduce this a bit.

So that's it! Basically I let other people's actions do the work for me.

I made a black and white version, as well, but now I can't remember which method I used.

Was that insightful at all, or just confusing? Even if you're not interested in editing photos, sometimes it's still fun to see before-and-afters on pictures. I'd be interested in doing more of these posts with your photos. Or if you are curious about one of my photos, just ask! If you have a photo you'd like me to edit, send me the original (totally unedited, if possible) and I'll see what I can do. Most of you have my email, but you can comment or find me on Instagram, if not. I'm afraid to put it here for spamsie reasons.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Feathered Nest

Hello! What's going on? I just had some chicken fried rice, so I'm all set to put up a blog post.

Awhile back my former coworker, Jan, contacted me about her newest venture called The Feathered Nest. I never knew, but in Mt. Angel, OR there's a place called Blackbird Granary Antiques & Curiosities where you can rent a booth and sell your goods. It's like a brick-and-mortar Etsy! Jan hired me to take pictures of her booth and some of the inventory so she could set up a Facebook page.

This was a really fun assignment. I enjoyed hearing the story of how Jan got started, seeing the pieces she was selling, and then trying to capture the spirit of the booth in my photos.

Jan is very talented at repurposing, renewing and enhancing thrift store finds. You can see from these photos that she sells a nice selection of pieces--both decorative and practical. They're also very reasonably priced! I was eyeing a few of the wall sconces myself, though I'm not in a situation to get more home decor at the moment.

Do you see anything you like? If you're in the area, you should definitely go to Blackbird Granary and check out Jan's booth. It's number 40. She's off to a great start, so she's constantly replenishing the inventory. Follow her Facebook page for booth updates.

I hope to blog more regularly again someday! I don't know how many of you are still following, but feel free to leave a comment to let me know you're around. :)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

August promo!

I know I'm neglecting this blog, which is probably a nice break for you. :) But I'm back to advertise, since I know that's what people love most about reading blogs and the internet in general. Yes, I still have my Etsy shop, and I'd love for you to stop by, even just to look. I have added more prints and now you can get a gift of notecards when you buy one! :)

If you don't already follow me on Instagram, I post photos from my regular excursions to gardens, etc. there. Find me there at GreengatePhoto. Thanks!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Backlighting a Subject

There are a million other places online where you can learn about backlighting (back-lighting?), and most are better resources. You may want to close this tab right now and Google it! For those of you still with me, I thought I'd throw out a few samples and tips when it comes to this type of lighting situation, because it's currently my fav. This post will be about natural, outdoor lighting--I know practically nothing about studio lighting.

Mostly what prompted this post is that I've been questioned a few times recently when I am posing people with their back to the sun. It's understandable. I, too, grew up often looking into the sun with squinting, watering eyes when people took my picture. I think it's a common idea that we need to face people toward the sun to get enough light. I've certainly used that method myself. Exhibit A:

Sorry, L, that couldn't have been comfortable! Notice she is squinting, and there are shadows under her chin and nose. The background is very dark because the camera had to expose down for her bright skin.

And sometimes the sun just isn't cooperating. I might want a certain background (and I know, I know: light trumps background) and am unwilling to give up on it, so I do what I can and get something like this. It's not the worst, and maybe you are wanting this lighting scenario sometimes. Uneven light can create a certain mood and highlight or downplay aspects of your photo for a look that really works. It's just different, and not my current preference most of the time. There are many ways to light a subject, and a lot of what you see out there now is about trend, not what is more correct.

Backlighting is trendy, but it also makes a lot of sense in certain situations. Here's what I love about it:

It gives a nice glowy edge to your subject, aka rim lighting. It's pretty, and it helps set your subject apart from the background.

You can achieve some cool effects with flare and general sun-shininess.

It more evenly lights the subject. It's softer with fewer shadows, which is often much more flattering for the person's skin. It does a little bit of natural erasing of fine lines and uneven texture. Liane has great skin, so this isn't a very dramatic example, but I thought I'd show a comparison of sidelighting to backlighting. This was another case where on the left I couldn't turn her back to the sun because we were on a hill with flowers that I wanted to incorporate. I worked with it even though it wasn't my favorite setup. I much prefer how the lighting looks on the right. It creates a happy glow around her, while her face is even and soft. (I wrote those little labels inconsistently, I now realize, but I don't feel like fixing it.)

You can also see that in the photo on the left, her hair and the background don't have much separation in the darker spots. If I had her against a more solidly dark background, she would sort of blend in so that you would barely know where her hair ended and the background began. On the right you have a definite outline to help her pop out from the background.

It often makes the background look a little dreamier as it fades into sunshine. This depends a lot on the time of day and the background, but it's a much softer backdrop than if you are shooting from a different direction.

Backlighting a subject does take a bit of practice. You have to get to know the right circumstances that will give you the look you're after. Here are a few tips in the form of a diagram I made:

Click on that diagram for a large version you can actually read. I'll re-note a couple of the things it says:

1. Look for a background that helps filter the sunshine for a pleasing look. If you just have sky behind the person, it'll be very washed out (assuming you are exposing for the face, not the background). Sometimes that's okay! But just know that in case that's not the look you're after.

Here you can see how the sky is very flat and white.

And here's how a building can help filter the light if the sun is positioned correctly. In this photo I took for work, the sun is still high enough that it wraps over the building and still brightens up the edges of everyone, yet the background is not completely washed out.

If your background doesn't allow any light to filter through or around it, you're basically just photographing your subject in the shade. That is also fine, but it means you probably won't get the rim lighting or glowy feel.

2. Make sure you are in manual mode on your camera so you can control the exposure. If you just let your camera handle it, it's going compensate for the brightness of the sun in the background and give you an underexposed photo. You need to force it to let in more light so the faces of your subjects are nice and bright. This is also what washes out the background to give it a more dreamy appearance.

3. It really helps when there is a pale scene/surface behind you to reflect a bit of light back to your subject. It means the background will be less washed out to include a bit more detail. Honestly, this is not always something I seek out, but you'll start noticing spots that work better because of the reflective surfaces. Some are even overly reflective, and you can still have squinting even when the person's back is to the sun. It's all a balance that just takes experience. I certainly need more experience! Meanwhile, it's really fun to discover awesomely-lit locations to place a subject. Sometimes you get lucky and it's easy, other times you have to keep moving to find a better spot. You can start practicing by simply asking your subject to turn their back to the sun, and start taking some pictures. You'll begin to see what works and what doesn't.

I hope this is helpful! Let me know if you have questions about this or something else I might be able to post about!


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