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Friday Photoshare – Carpe Diem

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Wow, it’s Friday already?! That must mean it’s time to share a photo!

This week I’m very excited about sharing one of my latest composites, “Carpe Diem.” Although it is stylistically very different from the other images in the series, it’s part of my project about keys. You can see two of the other images in last week’s Friday Photoshare post.

carpe diem - self portrait

This photo took a really long time to even get around to shooting! In fact, I’ve been wanting to take it since before I went to Colorado, I just didn’t have the skirt, shirt, or respirator, which was problematic.

Luckily for me, I got the top lined up prior to leaving and purchased it from a fellow convention attendee in Colorado. Woo! The, the Monday after I returned, I spotted this skirt on sale at the mall for $14. Double woo! I know it’s easy to make a tulle skirt, but I really don’t like sewing with the stuff, so I was happy to pay for it. The mask took a little more effort – I’d been working (very part time) on making it for a couple of weeks. The respirator, like the goggles and plague doctor mask I shared a couple weeks ago, are from patterns created by the very resourceful Lost Wax. I highly recommend you check out his YouTube channel!

I thought I wanted to take the photo somewhere rocky and rugged, but the traffic was crazy the day we set out to shoot and it quickly became clear we wouldn’t make it before dark. (People ask if I get “island fever” and the answer is no, absolutely not. It takes longer than I care to be in the car to drive around the island, depending on the time of day, so I never feel particularly confined by geography.) It was a happy coincidence, though – we decided to have a picnic supper and found an absolutely perfect spot for the photo against an old gun emplacement. (There are lots of random abandon military structures around the island. And, yes, I’m using lots of parenthesis in this post!)

Because I was wearing dark clothes against a dark background, the camera kept trying to make the shot lighter than I wanted it to be. I should have switched over to full manual mode, but I was rushing and forgot. As a result, my original image looks like this:


I held the watch necklace, the first Valentine’s present my now-husband ever gave me, to get a feel for how it hung and where the shadows fell. In my right hand I firmly clutched…a stick. I knew I wanted to be holding a large key, but all I have are small keys! I held the stick to get my hand placement correct so I could make the swap later.

Because photos with a bit of movement are almost always more interesting, I played with my skirt a little. Normally I’d do hair flips, too, but it was up in a bun. Then, amusingly, I didn’t like any of the planned skirt flips and went with a picture where the wind did a nice job for me:


I wanted to get shots of the watch and key in the same light, which was failing fast because the sun was setting, so I had my husband hold the watch up against the wall while I took a quick snap:


Then I placed a t-shirt on the ground and took a few pictures of different keys. This is the shot I ended up using, as it appears straight out of the camera:


Then the editing fun began! The finished file is an alarming 4.58 GB and has a crazy quantity of layers, so I won’t go through absolutely everything. Before I really got into creating the ‘feel’ I wanted, I cropped the shot, composited in the larger watch and key, and removed a few distracting elements (mainly the window bars):


As you can see, I also darkened things down pretty much right off the bat. After my compositing was complete, I started adding on adjustment layers to isolate myself from the background and make the right side appear darker, as if the light were coming from the key side of the picture. I also changed the key color a bit to help it stand out.


Then I added like a zillion more layers adjusting things (I always end up with way too many curves adjustment layers because it’s how I work), did some dodging and burning, added textures, and desaturated everything a bit to bring us back to the finished image:

carpe diem - self portrait

You can see the goggles and mask a little in this other photo we took just for fun after I finished the shot I had in mind:

shoot to thrill - steampunk portrait

I also made the ‘gun’ by painting a wacky looking water pistol I found for $2. I have pictures of the process, so if people aren’t getting too board of random steampunk-y things I may share it!

Thank you, everyone, for being so supportive of these Friday posts! I look forward to sharing another photo and its story next Friday. =)


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{ 8 comments… add one }
  • BeadedTail October 14, 2016, 10:28

    Although I don’t understand what all you’re saying, the photo turned out incredible! How do you come up with your ideas?

    • Natashalh October 14, 2016, 12:13

      Photoshop language can be really confusing! It took me over a year to figure out anything with Photoshop, and there is still so very much I don’t understand.
      As for ideas…good question. Sometimes I’m not fully sure! I know what my common themes are, though, and I’m inspired by fantasy/fairy tale-type situations. I’ve always preferred fantasy stories and movies to more ‘realistic’ ones and, to me, photography is a way to capture things the way they could have been in a different world. Have you ever read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic? She writes about how in Classical times people would say an individual ‘had’ a genius instead of saying they ‘were’ a genius, as if the “genius” is this creative guardian angel. She also writes about her concept of ideas as these sort of separate entities looking to enter into collaboration with humans. It sounds silly, but sometimes my very best ideas are the most random things that pop out of nowhere, so I can’t argue too hard against it! Woo-woo stuff aside, I think the biggest thing is that I’m stubborn. When things don’t turn out like I imagined, I don’t let it stop me from trying again For example, I had us drive to a beach half an hour away two evenings in a row to take a zillion photos for an idea I had that still hasn’t worked out! The image I shared on IG yesterday is not what I originally had in mind for the shot, but after hours and hours of work I couldn’t get it to work out like I’d thought I wanted it to be. I just kept trying different things until I found something I liked. Sometimes my ideas come from sitting there in front of the computer and asking myself “What else can I try?” because I’m too stubborn to give up on a shot or idea that I like. That’s kind of a long answer that maybe doesn’t even answer the question all that well…sorry if it’s confusing or overwhelming!

  • Pamela October 15, 2016, 04:24

    As much as I love your interesting photo’s, your explanations as to how to assemble the shot is just as exciting to read about and learn. Love all the props that each have a story within themselves, and help to complete your “Carpe Diem” theme!

    Have you heard about the website “Gimp”? It is better than Photoshop as it allows more sites for designing. It has taken a while to figure it all out as I need a lot of free time, but I think it is something you would like as your imagination works well outside the box!
    A few years ago I was the Costume Designer for our local theater group, I shopped in many second hand shops, where I would find Vintage clothing for a few $. You might find some interesting things you could use there for your photoshots.

    • Natashalh October 15, 2016, 08:49

      Unfortunately, we don’t really have any low cost vintage shops in the area, and I have yet to find anything I wanted (other than a 10 pound dumbbell) at local thrift shops. I’ve had better luck on the Mainland, though! I got the dress with a dark green skirt and white top (seen in several photos, including with the skirt color changed in the top right image of my header) for like $14 and the huge vintage taffeta white skirt (I think it was meant to be an underskirt/petticoat, but hey) seen in many of my photos at vintage stores in Ohio this summer. I annoy my husband by looking up interesting vintage (and craft stores!) shops whenever we travel! Costuming is so much fun! My mom has done a lot of costuming for shows over the years, and it’s always enjoyable to see what she creates.

      So, I used to try using Gimp, years ago , and it drove me crazy! Well, I tried several times, most recently about a year and a half ago. My sister’s boyfriend says it’s better now, but since I’ve finally figured out Photoshop decently well I haven’t explored it again. We mailed them my old camera a little while ago and I think he’s using Gimp for editing. I’d have ask him to explain the program to me! But then I’d feel bad because everyone asks him for tech help, even strangers. He’s Japanese and sometimes and festivals and events strangers walk up to him for help with their phones!

  • Julie October 16, 2016, 21:19

    Girl, I do wonder where your inspiration for these photos come from cos they’re amazing! I really wish I had the the time to properly sit down and learn all of photoshops capabilities – or more like I wish I had the patience!!

    • Natashalh October 17, 2016, 07:42

      I wish I knew everything about Photoshop, too! Every time I learn something, I realize there’s so much more I have absolutely no clue about. It’s okay, though, because YouTube exists and it’s always a great way to learn about basically anything. =)

  • Duni October 17, 2016, 01:37

    Although I’m not much into “steampunk” I appreciate all the details and planning it took to create this photo! How lucky that you found the perfect backdrop 🙂 I’m forever looking for interesting backdrops in this little town!

    • Natashalh October 17, 2016, 07:36

      I used to feel more ‘trapped’ than I do now, photographically speaking, because, realistically, there are only so many places I can go take a picture on a small island! Talking to people from several Mainland locations at Promoting Passion made me realize that other people feel constrained by geography, too, because it’s difficult to really get that far away from home in a normal week. I’ve been trying to keep my eyes open more for random spots, even small ones, that I can use for photos and ways to edit pictures from the same location to make them look different. From IG last week, “Learning to fly” was shot at the same park as “You already hold the key” on the same day! I just turned my camera a different way and edited the pictures very differently.

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