The “Artified” Photograph

Cat Nap

Because I painted for many years in traditional media (oils and acrylics), I’ve always had mixed feelings about photographs that are photoshopped to look like paintings. I always thought of it as cheating. There is a certain aesthetic and sense of awe that goes with knowing that someone actually physically created a visually stunning work of art with brushes and paint, and that they may have spent weeks, months, or even years completing it. Well, I’ve had to readjust my thinking a little.

In a previous post I wrote a tutorial about how mediocre photos can be transformed into stunning black and white images. Today I want to talk about other options for photos that would otherwise be headed for the trash bin. They may be a bit blurry, orange, unflattering, uninteresting, or whatever. While it’s true that many do belong in the trash, others may have a little something . . . even if you can’t quite put your finger on it right away. This is how it begins.

I tend to take a LOT of photos, which has led to my son referring to me some years ago as the paparazzi – inaccurate in my opinion because I don’t stalk celebrities. However, in certain situations, I will just keep shooting. For example, the photo above is one of about thirty during an impromptu “session” that began while we were waiting at a pub for my daughter-in-law to get off work and join us. I just happened to have my little Canon Powershot SD780 with me. Nobody was posing – it was just a case of mom playing with one of her toys again. Last night while doing some computer housekeeping, I came very close to deleting the entire series, one picture at a time. Eventually getting down to a handful of so-so pics that I just couldn’t bring myself to get rid of,  I was determined to make them work. Enter Topaz.

Topaz is a photo-editing plug-in that has a lot of presets with effects that you can customize. Anyway, feeling that the photos were unsalvageable with basic editing, I decided to try out various effects (that were frankly quite hideous), but then I stumbled upon one that worked. I gasped. It definitely looked like a painting – one with the style and subject-matter loosely reminiscent of a Normal Rockwell. So I gave the same treatment to half a dozen others, adjusted the colour tones in Lightroom, and posted three on my son’s Facebook wall. He must have been impressed because he made one of them his profile pic.

Now I have a different perspective on “artified” photographs. Although I don’t plan on going crazy with it, at least I know that there are options for saving some photos from being deleted forever.



New Works in Photography

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my website with new work, but I’ve been on a roll this past week. Mostly what has inspired this creative burst was the long-awaited purchase of my first DSLR camera. Years ago I owned a used 1965 model SLR Canon FT film camera. I studied black and white photography and darkroom developing in Vancouver, but when digital came along, the equivalent to what I had was a bit out of reach. And because I considered myself primarily a painter and printmaker for such a long time, I held off making the investment.

My first digital was a Nikon Coolpix 880 (3.1 megapixel), with which I took the still impressive ONR train photo series. Then there was the excellent Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ28 (which I gave to my son last month because every soon-to-be dad needs a real camera), and finally, there’s the small but mighty Canon PowerShot SD780 IS (complete with underwater photography housing kit) that I’ll be taking to Detroit for some cool-in-the-pool fun shots at my uncle’s place this summer. Actually, my website banner is a still image from some experimental video I did while swimming in a lake up north. And now, finally, I have a Canon Rebel T3i 600D. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT!!!

While I’ve already taken a LOT of photos with my new camera, ironically the photos above were taken a few years ago with the Lumix. So why am I posting these now when I have a new DSLR??? Several reasons: 1) because they were lost in the bowels of my computer, 2) I didn’t have proper editing and work-flow software until now, 3) there are some truly wonderful travel pics that I had always intended to do something with, and 4) file folder housekeeping is seriously overdue so that I can get organized and make room for new stuff. Taking pictures is really really fun, but what happens to them afterward… well, you might call it the black hole of photography, where everything disappears into nowhere-land.

So these are just a few of the over 25,000 never-been-seen-by-anyone photos on my computer that I recently dug up. At the same time, I’ve seriously embraced Instagram during all this sorting and culling, excitedly sharing some gems to my Instagram Account, discovering great work by others in the process, and becoming enamoured with the square photo format. Interestingly, 3×3 inch photos were the norm back when I was a kid in the 60s (my mom had one of those old Kodaks with the large glass viewfinder on top). Most photographs need some cropping anyway, but the square lends itself well to composition and artistic considerations.

So… since moving to Windsor in April, my goal has been to get the paints and [square] canvases out, LOL, but I can’t seem to get away from the PHOTOGRAPHY… which in truth was one of my first loves, instilled in me by my late father, Ray. Interestingly, when I look at these photos I see colours and designs that would translate quite well on the painted surface. Life is good.

Image Info:  All photos are from a trip to Havana in 2009, where we stayed at the Hotel Kholy, a former 3-star Russian establishment nestled in a residential area of the city. The derelict hotel is located on the beach (right at the water’s edge) in the nearby town of Guanabo, where we were visiting friends who rent a Casa Particular every year to escape the harsh Canadian winter months.

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