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More “Playing”

Canal, Venice
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

I “discovered” the “oil painting” look primarily by accident. I was post-processing images from my first visit to Venice back in 2013 and while working on this canal image, was using NIK’s ColorEfx Pro plug-in to Photoshop to “enhance” color.  There is a filter in that program called “Detail Extractor,” which my friend and talented photographer and Photoshop user, Al Utzig, had once recommended I try.  As I played with this filter, I saw the effect, here, which reminded my of an oil painting – especially the buildings in the background.  But as I played around with it, I was not able to reproduce that effect over the entire image.  That was o.k.  I rather liked the kind of “hybrid” nature of the image.  Enough so that it is printed quite large, framed in gold, and hanging in our Florida Living Room.

The lesson here is to take advantage of the fact that some people much smarter and more talented than I am have already done the heavy lifting

This experience intrigued me enough that I have played around a couple times with other images, and set them aside, for a time when I had more time and interest in “working” them. Over the holidays, I have been spending a little more time working with the idea of making some of my photographs into “paintings.”  My blog a couple weeks back was my “freshman” foray into this area.  This image was made using the NIK Color Efex Pro Plugin’s “Detail Extractor.”  Those who saw it a couple weeks ago may have read my friend, Al Utzig’s comments and note that I took his suggestion and removed the “halo” that was present between the mountain tops and sky.  While I rather like this image, it was not the “look” I was seeking.  There is too much luminance and saturated color, especially in the umbrellas in the foreground and the people in the image.  Too “photo-realistic.”

Amalfi Coast
NIK Color Efx
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Photoshop already has many features that allow painting and filters that add different “looks” and textures to images.  But I have never found them easy, or intuitive to use.  There is, for example, an “oil paint” filter that has been in Photoshop for some years now.  I thought that it would convert a photographic image into at least a basic oil-on-canvas look (something like the conversion to B&W that can be done).  I expected work would have to be done to make it look like I wanted, but at least a basic start.  That was not my experience.  Try as I might, I could not make the filter look like my vision of a painting, though the one here came closer, only after I really worked it with some layers, and added a texture layer, to at least give it a canvas look.

I did what I always do.  I bought a book :-).  While that was interesting and entertaining, it was still not really helpful for “hands-on” tinkering.  Indeed, many of the example projects in the book did not work the way they were “supposed” to in the book.  But one think I did pick up was that most of the stuff that was getting closer to the look I wanted, was made first, by using another software program; Corel Painter.  As I looked at more and more examples, I saw that others were using this software and that it was really designed with tools for doing some of the things I wanted to do.  So maybe the lesson here (I learned it with NIK some years back) is to take advantage of the fact that some people much smarter and more talented than I am have already done the heavy lifting.  I looked at Painter 2018, but the $450 (discounted!) price tag was more than I wanted to jump into.  But I did find Painter Essentials (for those who, like me, early on looked for an affordable alternative to Photoshop – this was before Lightroom – and started with Photoshop Elements, I think this is a comparable choice).  I am using the free trial right now, but think I will purchase it and the $29.00 tag is more palatable – at least to a beginner.  Will I jump to the “pro” program?  We will see where this goes (probably not).

Amalfi Coast, Italy
Corel Painter Essentials
Copyright, Andy Richards 2017

Using the “auto-paint” feature on the Amalfi Coast image, I immediately started to see results more like I had imagined.  I have a lot to learn about this fairly simple program.  One of the things it does in its default mode is to add edge effects, like the image here.  I tried a couple different “paints” and ultimately, was drawn to this one (“colored pencil”).  But it still wasn’t the final look I wanted.  So I used this image as a layer on my original photograph, and blended it into the photograph.  After playing with some adjustment layers to work with the sky, clean up some color and saturation issues, and to add some blur to the final result, this is the composite I came up with.  It has a few “issues,” but it is much more what my “mind’s-eye” saw as a painting of this scene.  This is new for me.  There are probably many of you out there who have this down far better than I do.  I would be happy to hear from you.

Amalfi Coast, Italy
Composite
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

I will be back at this 🙂

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The Rear View Mirror – 2017 in Review

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Most years, it seems like I get to this.  2017 was again, an eventful year, photographically and with related items.  This wasn’t a year when I planned a dedicated photo trip.  But I did manage to get to some new places, and back to some old ones.  For the most part, I carried my Sony RX100 small camera, and it gave me good service.

Crystal Beach Pier
Crystal Beach, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

I ended 2016, and rang in the New Year with a series of images from a small public pier, just up the road from our Florida home.

Southernmost Beach Resort
Key West, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

In January, we visited a “bucket list” location; Key West.  It has held pull for me at least since I became a “Parrot Head,” and certainly after I read a couple of Jimmy Buffet’s novels.  We celebrated my January birthday at Louie’s Backyard, a rather elegant restaurant with a wonderful outdoor deck seating area, and a great menu.  The sunset was – as is common in Florida – pretty spectacular.  Key West is a destination for eating, drinking, and people watching.  I would not put it high up on the photographic destination list. 🙂

Sunset from Louie’s Backyard
Key West, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Speaking of sunsets, these images got me thinking how much I have always loved both ends of the day, but generally preferred sunrise to sunset.  It spurred another post featuring some of my sunrise imagery.

Tokyo Sunrise
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Bay Bridge Sunrise
San Francisco, CA
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Sunrise, Hateras National Seashore, Hateras, NC copyright Andy Richards

As I went through my image library, it occurred to me that some of my images had some things in common.  For example: Shape.

Whitefish Falls
Trenary, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2007

Rocks, Lake Superior Shoreline
Copyright Andy Richards 2004

And, Color.

Shop; Istanbul, Turkey
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Shop; St. Maarten
Copyright Andy Richards 2012

And shape and color. 🙂

Just in time for Fall Foliage, my good friend, Carol Smith and I released our 2nd Edition of “Photographing Vermont’s Fall Foliage,”  which can be purchased via the link on this blog.  This is the cover image.

Craftsbury Common, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Finally, we embarked on our much anticipated, 3rd Mediterranean cruise.  The single most anticipated image for me was the opening image here of the whitewashed, blue-domed churches that dot the landscape of Santorini.  But there was so much more to see.

Ravello, Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Positano; Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Amalfi; Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Mykonos Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Night Canal
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

As we ring in the New Year, I want to thank all the readers here, especially those who have the patience and perseverance to visit regularly.  I want to thank all those persons who mentor and support me in my photographic endeavors.  I want to thank my great friends (you know who you are so I won’t “out” you publicly), who traveled with us this year – we had a great time with great company.  As I said last week, I am very grateful for my blessings in life.  I wish to all, a Happy New Year, and a prosperous and successful (as you define “success”) 2018!

The Amalfi Coast

Positano, Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

This was our last port of call on our 2017 Mediterranean Cruise.  I looked forward to it, partly because the last time we were there was our shortened cruise, and we missed our tour.  While we did hire a cab to take us up the coast, our only stop that day was in the town of Amalfi.  This trip, we planned to go further up to Ravello, and then stop at Amalfi and Positano.

Ravello, Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Ravello, Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

I have a friend who spent a week in Ravello one year, and highly recommended it.  Our guide knew that the best time to get us there was early in the morning, and he took us in on back roads.  We basically had the beautiful little mountain village to ourselves that morning.  That was the last time we would see that kind of serenity for the day.

Ravello, Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Ravello, Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Ravello, Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

I just walked around and made a few images.  I can see why my friend was enchanted with this little town and why it might be very relaxing to spend a few days here.

Ravello; Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Ravello; Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Ravello; Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Ravello; Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

 

I was pretty amazed, both times I traveled here, to see how they build these communities into the the rugged mountainside.  And each of them have sweeping and beautiful views of the Mediterranean Sea.

Ravello; Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

One surprise to me was how much this destination appears to have grown in popularity in 4 years.  We were there in 2013, about the same time of the year.  But this time, the crowds in Amalfi and Positano were at least double what we saw in 2013.  There is an incredible church in the middle of the square in Amalfi, that was nearly impossible to photograph because of the crowd of people.  I was able to get up over some heads and get a couple shot, and then isolate the tower.

Amalfi; Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Amalfi; Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

It was pretty clearly the tourists.  There were few people on the beaches, even though the temperature was well into the 80’s.

Amalfi; Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Amalfi; Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Positano, we were informed by our guide, is where the rich and famous go to be seen and to shop.  We spend only a few minutes here, walking down into the town among throngs of humanity, and high end retail shops.  We wanted to see if we could get a view of a church.  We weren’t really able to find a good view of it.  Most of my images were taken on the outskirts of Positano.  There road down into the city center is a kind of mult-circular, winding road.

Positano; Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Positano; Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

We finished out our day – and our cruise – dining in a nice restaurant on the outskirts of Sorrento, at a family-owned restaurant known personally to our guide.  Again, we enjoyed near-exclusive dining and wonderful, fresh, local Italian cuisine.

Sicily; 2017

Port of Messina, Sicily
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

After 4 eventful days in Venice, we boarded a train for Civatavecchia, the seaport for Rome, where we would board our cruise ship.  The  cruise was touted as a “Greek Isles” cruise.  But before we could get to the actual Greek Isles (there were 3 on our itinerary), we had a couple of prior stops; Sicily, and the independent nation of Malta.

Messina, Sicily
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

As I have noted here in the past, one of the downsides of cruising is that you usually only get one short day in every port.  Knowing very little about either of these destinations, we booked a private tour in Sicily, and nothing in Malta.  With a lot of ground to cover and a few hours, we had to choose some destinations.

Taormina Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

In addition to a little bit of time in Messina, we went to Taormina, the quaint and mountainous little town where some of the scenes in Francis Ford Coppola’s original “The Godfather,” were shot.  We happened upon this adorable little Dachshund being photographed.  At first, I thought it was somebody just photographing their pet, but as I looked more carefully, later, it was apparent that this was probably an advertising shot of some type (note the light being held to one side).

Taormina, Sicily
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

At the top of the village is a beautiful church, with an incredible view.  As we walked back down, I could see myself sitting and having coffee or lunch at one of the outdoor destinations and seeing the grand view.

Taormina, Sicily
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

We traveled to Mt. Vesuvius, where we saw the volcano from a distance.

Mt. Vesuvius
Sicily
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

We also stopped for some honey and wine tasting, before finishing our day back in Messina.

Messina, Sicily
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Burano, 2017

Burano, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Murano and Burano are part of the Venice archipelago, though they are far enough from Venice that they cannot be connected by bridge. But they are both in the Venetian Lagoon. The very capable Vapparetto (water bus) system in Venice gets one to both of these islands with relative ease. We have learned that the daily pass (we bought a 3-day) works very well on the Venice public transportation system. Each actually is its own archipelago; Murano having seven islands and 8 canals, all connected by footbridges, and Burano having 4 islands and 3 canals, also connected by footbridges. Obviously, boat and foot traffic are the mode here, as on Venice.

Burano, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Murano, as the story is told, became what it is today because of the very real risk of fire on Venice. Originally known as a fishing port and salt-making venue, it today houses the famous Murano glass makers. There is no land-based fire fighting equipment in Venice and in 1291, all of Venice’s glassmakers were required to move their operations off the island. They went to Murano. The island has become very much a tourist destination, but there is still a thriving industry of glass-blowing (primarily art and decorative items). Murano glass is pretty, and expensive. I spent a very short part of my 2013 blog on Murano, and will not repeat it here. My primary takeaway this trip was how commercial the island has become and just how much the retail tourist shops dominate the landscape.

Burano, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Burano is a different story. While it certainly has its share of retail influence (some of it very “high-end”), it has impressed me on both trips as a much quieter, more pastoral destination. Perhap the fact that Burano is famous for its colored houses, and they are quite photogenic influenced that. But it just seemed more “laid back.”

Burano, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Again, originally probably mainly a fishing port, Burano is today known for its lace production (though we are told that you have to be careful that you are indeed getting locally made lace; and that the local product is expensive). We wandered the streets, stopped for a glass of local wine, and perused some of the lace shops.

Burano, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

But again and again, what attracted my eye, was the very colorful buildings; particularly along the canals.

Burano, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

The Mediterranean; 2017

Canal Reflection
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

It has been a long time since I have posted regularly here.  I just ran out of “fuel” for a while.  :-). As I “teased,” a couple blogs back, I just returned from the Mediterranean.  At the end of August, we flew to Marco Polo airport in Venice, Italy, for our 3rd (actually my wife’s 4th) Mediterranean adventure. This time, we spent 4 days in Venice, and then took the train to Rome’s seaport; Civatavecchia, Italy, to board our cruise ship for a “Greek Isles” cruise. With stops in Cicily, Malta, the Greek Isles of Mykonos, Rhodes and Santorini, Athens and Naples (where we toured the Amalfi Coast, we had a wonderful time and there were many photo-ops along the way. The next few blogs will contain a travelogue, of sorts, of our trip.

Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

We spent 3 full days in Venice in 2013, and I thought I had shot about all I would be able to find. I planned to see Venice this trip more as a casual tourist, and perhaps partly through the eyes of our friends who were traveling with us. My wife is the master of the itinerary, and had set us up with some great tours. And, we wanted to sample local food and drink. But I did carry the small camera and couldn’t resist some shots 🙂 .

Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

One planned item, however, didn’t go as well as planned.  When we were there in 2013, we stayed off the island, and I missed the opportunity to shoot at night. Venice is alight at night and with all of the canals, decorations, and lights, presents some pretty great night time photo-ops.  On the first day there (probably from lifting heavy bags), I threw out my lower back and was in a fair amount of pain during our entire time in Venice. About the only comfortable position was laying flat. At the same time, we were out for dinner every night. Unfortunately by the time we returned each night, all I could think about laying down. I did make just a few night time images. The rest of them will have to wait until my next trip to Venice.  The shot below is on the canal where we stayed for our 4 days.  Night images leave a lot of room for expirimentation and I suspect I will play around with these images in future months.

Night Canal
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

There is no vehicular traffic (not even bicycles) on Venice proper, and all travel is either by foot, or by boat.  So it stands to reason that there is “a canal or two” on the island (actually 118 separate, man-made islands and 170 canals which require 400-some footbridges to cross them).  With their inherent reflections, boats, and composition opportunities, it is not surprising that they make irresistible photographic subjects.

Canal
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

One of the tours we did was a walking tour.  Venice is made up of 6 political/municipal districts, known as Sestieri.  Most of the famous and commercial sights, Like St. Mark’s Square and Bascilica (Piazza San Marco), The Rialto Bridge (Ponte Rialto), the Fish Market and retail district, are in the more popular San Marco Sestiere and and San Polo Sestiere.  But there is a lot of quiet, neighborhoods with lots of small restaurants, housing, and beautiful old churches and other buildings.  The Sestiere Dorsoduro is one of the lesser known areas, with some of this beauty.  We enjoyed the tour and the sights.

Street in Dorsoduro
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Building in Dorsoduro
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

The Sestiere Cannaregio has the only true “street” (strada) so-named on the island (Strada Nova), which goes along the Grand Canal from the Ferrovia Train Station (the entrance to Venice by train) to the Rialto Bridge, which is partly into the Sestiere San Marco.  There is a lot of activity along this stretch, but as you go north a street or two, it again, becomes quiet local neighborhoods.  Slightly further back in is the neighborhood known as “The Jewish Ghetto.”

Cannaregio
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Contrary to the connotation we Americans get with the term “ghetto,” it is actually neither a perjorative term, nor a “bad place.”  That font of all knowledge, Wikipedia, defines “ghetto” as a segregated part of a city, or a slum.  It also credits Venice for the origination of the term, but is equivocal about it.  The Venetians we spoke to have no equivocation.  The term “getto” (pronounced jetto) is a foundry fireplace.  The jewish population in Venice were metal workers and ran foundries, and were given this area (partly because it was north of, and away from the main centers of activity) for their foundry activities.  At some point, open flames were banned from Venice due to fire danger.  It is for this reason that the glass blowers moved north to the island of Murano.

Housing in Jewish Ghetto
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Finally, I just can’t resist images of the Grand Canal.

Grand Canal
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

We also traveled (again) to Murano and to Burano and while I didn’t make any memorable images of Murano, I have a few nice shots from Burano.  Next:  Burano

It’s Going to Get Better!

Light and color make this gondola image the quintessential rendering of “Venice” in my view
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Wow.  Here I am, yet again, apologizing for a rather long hiatus from writing.  It has been a very full summer, with lots of business and personal activity, and some travel (none of it photo-related).  So I have let the blog languish.  It will be another couple weeks before much additional activity, but I think that is a good thing.  🙂

The ubiquitous black gondola (shown here with the also common blue cover) is a favorite subject of photographers
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Next week, we leave for another Mediterranean adventure.  This time, we will spend several days in Venice, and then board our cruise ship in Civitavecchia (Rome) for a tour of Sicily, several Greek Isles, and Italy’s Amalfi Coast.

Beach Resort
Amalfi, Italy
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

It goes without saying that I will be toting the camera, and expect to come back with some new material for the blog!  So, I will see you in September.

Restaurant; Mykonos, Greece
Copyright 2013; Andy Richards