about More Musing

We are focusing on building a community, bringing the Mortal Muses photographers together, and making the world a bit smaller. On this page, you will find mission: MUSE, muse university and special features.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

what inspires me? - gilly

mission: MUSE - "what inspires you?"
by guest muse gilly

For three months of the year I am almost completely uninspired. Down at the bottom of the UK, where I live happily most of the time, winters are not crisp, clear, white-snow-and-blue-sky affairs, but grey, grim and grungy. I lose interest – because what really gets me going is colour and bright light. Eventually spring does reappear, teasing me by peeking shyly round the corner at first, till eventually it gains the courage to come out in its full finery, and I start to perk up again.

I live in a small Victorian terraced house which was built to keep the elements out and to stop the sun fading the rugs and antimacassars. Even when a weak winter sun appears, it hangs too low in the sky for its rays to penetrate these defences, and the first sign of spring for me is when patches of light start appearing here and there on the walls and floors. Something as ordinary as sunlight on a wooden floor then becomes a reason to run for my camera.

I get obsessed with these patches of light, lying in bed in the mornings watching them move across the walls, and even photographing their progress (yes, still lying in bed). Eating dinner with my husband in the evening, I might suddenly grab his arm and say ‘LOOK!! Look at the light on that cushion!’ He’s a kind and obliging man and does his best to join in with my enthusiasms.
Neither was he offended when I told him that I took the following picture because of the shadows cast by the sun shining through his straw hat, and that they could have fallen on anything at all and I’d have been equally enthusiastic. But still, much-loved husband plus interesting shadows is a good combination.

This image is a rarity in my archives because it’s in black and white. I like looking at other people’s black and white photos – heck, I even subscribe to Black and White Photography magazine – but I’m so totally besotted with colour that I hunt it down and photograph it everywhere I go. During the sensory deprivations of winter I can get rather desperate about this, which often leads to some interesting experiments. Once, I took a plastic picnic glass and placed transparent coloured sweet wrappers inside it, then shone a very bright spotlight into the glass from above. This was the result:

Some colours are just so utterly delectable that I want to sink into them and pull them round me like a soft and exotic quilt, and that’s when I make them the whole subject of the photo. Ernst Haas once said ‘Colour is joy’ and for me it really is.

I can get rather manic about reflections too; I don’t mind where they appear – glass, water, metal, sun-glasses, whatever – it’s all good. I’ve spent whole days photographing nothing else.

If you add one more ingredient to this colour and light mix– water – I’m in a veritable frenzy of delight. Water feeds all my senses: I love the sounds it makes, the salty sea smell and the clean linen smell of rivers and lakes, the silky way it feels against my skin when I swim in it, and most especially the way the light sparkles, shimmers, and dances on its surface. Often I simply take abstract shots of light, water and colour.

And when I look at the next photo I can hear that wonderful rattling sound the pebbles make when the retreating wave sucks them in:

Nothing lasts forever, and ultimately the light and the colour begin to fade into the soft golds and rusts of autumn and my camera lies more or less abandoned (although not unloved) until spring comes round again. Winter is my time for processing and digital play; this year experimenting with textures has kept me going till those patches of light start appearing again.

gilly of www.gillywalker.com  and GillyinKent on flickr

"what inspires you?" is the the second assignment of the mission: MUSE series.
You may submit an entry to mortalmuses {at} yahoo.com.
We are still accepting "where i live" submissions.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

muse university - repeating patterns

exploring with a camera: repeating patterns
a repost by kat of The Kat Eye View of the World

We have repeating patterns everywhere in our lives. So much so that we don't always notice them. We see, catalog, and sort the differences in things, that's how our brains work. The sameness can blend in to the background. But, when we notice, we can use the "sameness" of patterns to good effect in our photography.

First, let's explore repeating patterns as the focal point of our images. In the photo below, of a Barcelona apartment building, at first glance it might look like a photo of windows. It's not. It's a photo of a repeating pattern - the windows, balconies and shadows all repeat in a regular fashion. There's no one place for the eye to look. I've heightened the "pattern" aspect of the photo by changing it to black and white. No pesky color to distract you from the pattern. The image becomes more about the pattern of light and dark, than what is creating the pattern of light and dark. I especially like the undulating light "stripes" that appear, where the sunlight hits the building, when you stop looking at the windows and shadows and just look at it as a pattern.

    Here's another image that is of repeating pattern, of a rooftop in Murten, Switzerland. You see the shingles, all repeating at regular intervals vertically and horizontally. There is a difference in this photo, however, from the image above. In this photo, the repeating pattern serves to highlight another aspect - the fact that the shingles are different. The pattern repeats, but what makes up the pattern does not, so this image is about the differences. Differences in color, size, shape. You notice them all more because of the pattern.

    In thinking about repeating patterns and how I use them in my photography, I find that this second use, using a repeating pattern to highlight some third aspect, is my primary use. This image of shadows on the street in Bolzano, Italy is a good example. Imagine the image of the shadows without the contrast of the pattern, or the pattern without the shadows. Either way, in my mind's eye, it falls flat. But when you combine the two, and use the repeating lines and shapes of the pattern as a backdrop for the irregular and solid shapes of the shadows, you get a great image. The repeating pattern really sets off the subject, the shadows. Again, in this image I converted to black and white to highlight the lines, shapes, patterns.

    The pattern of the edges of the floor tiles, of this Gaudi design in Barcelona, serves to contrast and enhance the flowing nature of the art that is impressed into them. The angle of the photo, with the pattern growing smaller and blurring toward the back, serves to enhance your awareness of the dimension, how the light and shadow is showing you the impressed elements. The pattern of straight lines provides a structured frame that the flowing curves reside in and move through. You also get hints that the natural, curvy figures impressed into the tiles are a repeating pattern of their own, when you look at it closer. All that in one picture of a floor!

    Here the repeating pattern of the balconies serves to enhance the feeling of height in the skyscraper in Barcelona. You see this in many "looking up" skyscraper shots, but this one is very dramatic because of the horizontal lines and angles jutting out on each floor.

    This image, from Milan, shows how the pattern of the light and shadow on the unusual bricks of this building serve to show the curve and size of the building. You see the bricks, but the repeating pattern of them immediately leads your eye along the curve toward the edge. What happens after the edge of this picture? The crop of the image, which doesn't show you beyond the building, leaves you with the impression that the pattern continues indefinitely.

    While all of the examples so far have been of architecture, I also find store displays a wonderful source of repeating patterns. In this image,you have repeating patterns in three dimensions. An image of a single chocolate bar, while showing the design of the wrapper, color, etc., would not be as interesting as this one with the repeating pattern. The pattern of multiple bars repeated, as well as the repetition in the third dimension, gives depth and a feeling of abundance. You see the chocolate bar wrapper just as clearly as if that were the only thing in the photo, but you also see more.

    So, how can you use repeating patterns in your photography? Some ideas and tips...

    1. Look for repeating patterns, they are everywhere around us. Architecture is one of the best sources, because it takes lots of little, repeating pieces to build something big. Elements of architecture with repeating patterns can be found in the facades - windows, doors, trim, bricks, blocks of stone - or inside - steps, beams, flooring. Our modern world is built with repeating patterns! Stores are also a good source of repeating patterns, because they have a lot of the same thing to sell. Look for creative store displays that use that to good effect.

    2. Look for opportunities for the pattern to be the subject. Choose your composition and angle such that you see the pattern repeat several times at the same size and there is no "perspective" effect. This will often be looking straight at, or very close to straight at, the subject pattern. Try converting to black and white to enhance the pattern aspect, removing color as a difference that may distract from the pattern itself.

    3. Look for opportunites for a pattern to enhance or contrast with a subject. Use angles that show the dimension - distance, height, depth. Use compositions that capture differences in the pattern - whether it be color or shape. Use a pattern as a backdrop for the subject. Use post-processing, like selective color, to have one element of a repeating pattern pop out.

    What other ideas do you have for capturing images with repeating patterns?


    repost by kat

    Join us every weekend for a new muse university post! 
    If you would like to provide a post for this series, please contact kat [at] kateyeview.com

    Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    * muse flash *

    You will notice a new Muse link in the left sidebar.  We have added a chat room for everyone to use.  We invite you to visit often and chat with your fellow muses.  If you would like to have scheduled chats or more in-depth discussions on Muse University topics, let us know.   We would love to hear your ideas on how to use this forum to build the Muse community.

    To log in:  Enter a screen name, click enter, and begin. 
    Please note that if you close the window, you will need to log-in again.

    Saturday, March 19, 2011

    muse university: planet photography

    full circles make me happy!
    a repost by ashley sisk of ramblings and photos 
    Several months ago, I ran across a post by Cheryle Kupsh Photography (this is her post on "planet photography" that inspired me...you should really check out her work, she's incredible). In her post, she links up with Dirk's Tutorial on "Creating Your Own Planets". So, I thought I would recreate Dirk's tutorial and show you how to create this effect yourself. The effect starts with a panorama image. I personally don't take many panorama images, but you can mimic the effect by using a cropped landscape photo (where the width of the image is at least two times the height of the image). 
    IMG_5782 RS
    This particular image seemed to work well because the bottom area of the photo has very little detail (this becomes the center of the image and will be very distorted), the upper area of this image also has very little detail (skies and plain backdrops work well) and the horizon is pretty straight (the horizon of your image should be as close to straight as possible since the left and right sides of the image will fit together and you don't necessarily want your final image to look like it has a cracked surface. 

    Step 1. My first step in the process was to crop my image so that the width was twice the height.
    Trees Step1
    Step 2. Next, I needed to convert the photo into a square image. Go to your top tool bar in Photoshop Elements (it may be similar in Photoshop)...go to Image>Resize>Image Size and set your "height" value to the same as your "width" value (or vice versa, doesn't really matter). Be sure you uncheck "Scale Styles" and "Constrain Proportions." Click OK.
    ScreenHunter_03 Sep. 21 21.36
    By doing so, you will get a square image like the one below.
    Trees Step2
    Step 3. Rotate your image  180° by going to Image>Rotate> 180°. It'll look like this:
    Trees Step3
    Step 4: Apply a polorizing filter by going to Filter>Distort>Polar Coordinates and select Rectangular to Polar at 100% - Click OK.
    ScreenHunter_02 Sep. 22 10.14
    By just doing this much, you can already get an idea of the final product...it's pretty cool.
    Trees Step4
    Finally, you'll want to rotate and clean up your image. I used a healing brush to clean up the line and then did a little additional processing to achieve the effect I was going for. So...what do you think?
    Trees Final RS
    Now it's your turn...take these steps and practice with your own photos. I'd love to see what you come up with. If you have any questions...just let me know. 

    repost by ashley

    Join us every weekend for a new muse university post! 
    If you would like to provide a post for this series, please contact kat [at] kateyeview.com

    Friday, March 18, 2011

    1000 paper cranes

    Paper cranes have a special place in Japanese culture. An old legend promises that anyone who folds 1000 origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane, such as long life or recovery from illness or injury. A crane is a mystical and holy creature in Japan.

    Usually, 1000 paper cranes will be strung together and brought to people who are emotionally or physically unwell, have suffered a tragedy, or have received devastating news.

    damiec on flickr started folding paper cranes this week as a symbol of companionship with other people. To spread love, hope and blessings in parts of the world where they are most needed right now.

    We all know a lot of people in Japan are suffering right now. Let's reach out with our hearts and our hands, all around the world, to fold cranes to make wishes for the people in Japan.

    Get your origami paper out and join in at the 1000 paper cranes group on flickr.
    Our lovely Kim (mosey) is raising money to send to people in Japan, along with her wishes and blessings. Go to her blog to read more about it, and help make a difference.

    (cranes by Suki, Tammy, Mosey, Kirstin, Michel, Maureen, Ashley and Damiec)

    Saturday, March 12, 2011

    muse university - let the light shine!

    let the light shine: tips on shooting starbursts
    by muses ashley featuring karli from the bonnie 5

    I have recently become obsessed with capturing starbursts in my photos. I'd like to think it has something to do with the sun shining more and more each day, and that makes me happy. I first came across this effect several months ago when my friend Karli posted the night image below.  
    ISO 200, f/14, 6 sec
    I quickly learned that this effect is rather easy to achieve, and it all starts with a tiny aperture (I prefer a minimum f-stop of f/20). You can certainly achieve the effect if your aperture is open wider (such as Karli's shot above), but it'll likely have more of a glow rather than big starburst lines. 

    If you're shooting a night scene, you'll want to use a tripod since your shutter speed will be slower to achieve proper exposure. I also recommend a remote shutter to prevent camera shake.
    Sunburst BW RS
    ISO 125, f/25, 1/160 sec.
    During daylight hours, try your best to not to point your camera directly at the sun as it can damage your lens or your eyes. You can do this by partially blocking out the sun with another object such as tree limbs, blinds, or anything else that might provide visual interest.
    ISO 800, f/22, 1/160 sec.
    You may also try using your hand to block the sun entirely so that you can adjust your settings (if you meter off of the sun, you'll overexpose the shot). Once you're satisfied with your settings, just remove your hand and let the light shine!
    Sunburst RS
    ISO 125, f/25, 1/60 sec.
    I hope you find these tips helpful. Remember, tiny apertures. Now go out and shoot some starbursts!

     by Ashley of Ramblings and Photos
    and featuring Karli of The Bonnie 5

    Join us every weekend for a new muse university post! 
    If you would like to provide a post for this series, please contact kat [at] kateyeview.com

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011

    what inspires you?: gillian


    mission: MUSE - "what inspires you?"
    by guest muse gillian

    “If you are not failing every now and then it is a sign that you aren’t doing anything very innovative.” Woody Allen

    Failings have inspired me more than any other muse in the art of photography.

    I derive most of my inspiration from my failings. Let me explain that the best way I know how.

    I began photographing my world at a very early age, always enjoying photography immensely since my mother handed me her Kodak 110 and asked me to snap her and my father in front of a thunderous Niagara Falls one summer evening in 1980. My father prior to that all through the 70’s snapped us growing up with his Yashica, a slick fully loaded SLR. That baby was fully manual. I thought dad was a genius; he knew about apertures, film speeds, and natural light. I listened as he spoke of f-stops and all the knowledgeable photography talk. He would create slides for us; we’d sit around in the living room...macramé plant holders pushed aside to make way for the slide projector aimed at one blank white wall in the living room. To us children those evenings were special-it was a voyeuristic glimpse into our own lives. This was way before the Facebook profiles of today where your average tween sports over 800 profile photos. We loved this little look at ourselves that occurred exclusively outside of our own reflection in the bathroom mirror. It was a kind of magic.

    My brother and I were captured in the autumn leaves, wearing our suede shoes and our pointed collars. Mum with her blue jean bellbottoms, plaid shirts and cigarettes. Grandpa’s backyard coal barbeque and his bright orange Volkswagen Beatle. Memories painted onto those cardboard 2x2’s were more glamourous because they were projected in full blown colour, larger than life. I was enamored with picture taking from that point onwards.

    However. We never had the means or the finances to pursue photography to any great degree then-it all cost so much money.
    Cameras were expensive.
    35mm film was expensive.
    Slide film was expensive!
    Developing was expensive.
    Waiting patiently for photos to come back was torture! Seven days and that was considered ‘express’ in those days.
    So photography was a luxury kept for birthdays, Christmas, and graduations.
    Until we stumbled forward into the digital age and I glommed onto digital SLR photography.

    Now my father has picked up a paintbrush-he uses his camera to take pictures of scenes he wishes to paint. (Another love I’ve inherited from him, thankfully.)

    But as for my photography, I stumbled into blogging in 2006 courtesy of my mum. I had no idea what a blog was, but once I read the few that were out there I couldn’t stop. It was a daily pleasure for me to read the thoughts of others and even more so to view the images I was now privy to, little glimpses into the sultry corners of the world.

    I started my own humble little web space then. I didn’t mind borrowing and giving credit for photos that were not my own in those days. But I wasn’t finding what I wanted after awhile and I began having all kinds of ideas flow and needed to express them in my own voice. I started shooting my own photos and wow did I make plenty of mistakes! I’d post photos that I thought were just fabulous and then realized slowly....surely....there are really good rules to follow if you want excellent pictures. Clearly my photos were not excellent. I had broken so many rules, resulting in failure. Hence this is the part of my story where my failures make their appearance. Granted they’ve always been a part of me, but for the subject matter at hand this is where they feature most.

    I failed miserably. I still fail. I am not the world’s most fantastic photographer. Far from it. I’ve broken all the rules of photography and been successful only in my own growth as a photographer. For each time I think I’ve made a breakthrough to the next level, I find that there is always something no matter how small, that I could have improved upon in a photo.

    I now consider my 2006 work my ‘early period’. I then had a ‘blue period’, being heavily influenced by work of people who may not have been the healthiest emotionally. So then I feel the resulting failings of such interactions only served me to dig a little deeper into the recesses of my ability.

    Each of my failings has blessed me with the determination to improve upon what I already know. I don’t compete with other photographers out there. I compete with me. And only me. So much talent abides out there in flickr, Instagram, Red Bubble, JPG and more. These sites serve up so much brilliant talent it’s hard not to go there and feel inadequate. Yet-do we not all have our own unique voice? Do we not all have our own personal goal setting with photography? YES. And YES.

    I’d like to think that my failings have served as my greatest inspiration. For without them I’d never have strived to get outside of my own head and try new ideas, perspectives, or subjects. I use my camera as a salve for anything that ails me; photographing my world while travelling or while my kids are messing around with crafts, or while my dog is peacefully sleeping by the fire...and it mends. I’m mended by the very thing I feel I need to most improve upon. It’s cyclic. I’ll keep failing and keep trying and I’ll have so much damned fun the whole time I’ll consider it to be my greatest success eventually-as having contributed to a most full and vibrant life by opening up my eyes to see afresh.

    Gillian da Silva
    freelance photography & writing


    "what inspires you?" is the the second mission of mission: MUSE series.
    You may submit an entry to mortalmuses {at} yahoo.com.
    Submissions for "where i live" are still being accepted.