Out and about in Saratoga

This little fellow was making a lot of noise and doing a lot of damage at the Victorian Village in downtown Saratoga yesterday:


Here is the courtyard in the lovely Victorian Village mall in Saratoga:

P1050584 P1050583

Saratoga is known for its trees. (Sorry the horizon is tilted. Picasa has excellent horizon-adjustment software, but I didn’t like other things it was doing on my computer, so I uninstalled it. I don’t know how to easily straighten the horizon in GIMP. Speaking of which, by the way, all of today’s photos have GIMP’s color white balance and color enhance applied. The photos were pretty in their original state, but I thought the enhancements helped them “pop” for web display without changing the hues too much. (Although the second photo has more blue in the patio and railings than it should.)

P1050585 P1050586

California poppies (and art self-education)

The feature photo has no photo enhancement.

This is the same photo with Corel Painter Essentials Auto Painting->Detailed Watercolor applied. Beautiful but why…


so faded? How to enrich it in Corel Painter Essentials, don’t know, so… (good ‘ol) GIMP, Colors->Auto->White Balance followed by Colors->Auto->Color Enhance. Satisfaction.

Poppy_Painting enhanced

This next one has Photoshop Essentials Enhance->Auto Smart Fix applied because the poppy was too out of focus and this tool improved it enough to make the photo work. Intention was poppy in focus, grass blurry but opposite achieved. (Working with LCD display in bright sunlight without knowing the camera that well, and in a hurry.) Nonetheless, this composition makes the photographer happy.

field and skyI

Mystical evening, Saratoga, California, March 28th

Software tips follow photos.

with some Nik Color Efex processing
with some Nik Color Efex processing



Well, as everyone who follows this blog knows, I am an avid follower of Leanne Cole’s Photography blog. (That link takes you to her latest post.) Now, Leanne is a professional artist. I am an absolute beginner. So why do I offer tips? Because I think there is value in the little things an absolute beginner has to offer to other people who might think like her and be in the same stage. Even if it’s only one other person out there in the blogisphere, who thinks like Nia Simone and finds value in her little trial-and-error discoveries on the way to someday, 20 years from now, actually being any good.

Leanne has talked about Nik software and Silver Efex. I recently  have acquired a Bamboo Craft. An amazing digitizing device. It was $50. (Another thing you’ll notice about Nia Simone’s blog, is everything has to be free or very inexpensive. I think actually, a lot of people can relate to that part!)

Anyway, the device is unbelievably wonderful and so is the software that came with it!!!! Corel Painter Essentials (heaven), Photoshop Elements (frightening, but I haven’t done the tutorial yet) and Nik Color Efex ( very hard to find –  it is under the Layer menu in Photoshop.)

The photo in the Featured Image of this post was taken in the evening with my DLSR propped on the top of my Subaru. (Tripod anyone?) The first photo in the post has had the Color Efex  layer applied. I lowered brilliance and warmth, merged the layers, and saved as JPEG. Then opened it in GIMP to scale it to 1000 pixels, my standard for this blog. I could not figure out how to do that in Photoshop.

The (art) education of Nia Simone, stencils

Inspired by this fellow blogger and artist:

Pedro Holderbaum and especially this painting Menno, start studying stencils.

A link to a video about how to do it correctly: Four ways to do multi-colored stencils.

First stencil, step 3, stick it on (step 1 was getting a photo, turning it into black and white and increasing the contrast (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpcU0b_okv4) and printing, step 2 was cutting it out with an Exacto knife.)first stick on

Step 4. (Should be mowing this grass!)

I should be mowing this grass First try at spray paint

Failure. Bleeding from overspray.

First attempt failure

Step 3 again, this time using this cool wax you can get at the office supply (note the original stencil is black now):

A lot of patience and some sangria
Sangria to help with nervous tension. Recipe: Make iced Passionberry Fruit Tisane from The Monterey Bay Spice Company (http://www.herbco.com/). Mix with red wine. A few ice cubes. Be careful with the Exacto knife.

Applying wax to the back side of stencil for second try

Re-stuck for second try

The cool waxy stuff:

Stencil wax

Step 4 again, this time with tempera paint:

Note cappuccino instead of sangria.
Note cappuccino instead of sangria.

Step 5, remove stencil, discover step 4 failure. Also ruined stencil.

Second attemtp failure


Research how to do it completely with GIMP.

It didn’t work out exactly as described so here is documentation of the additional steps:

Thankfully have a photo of the spray-painted stencil, which is black now, and start with that. Make it a stencil using GIMP as described in completely with GIMP.

Thinking… Can I flip black and white? Should be simple. There’s something called Invert. Click. Nothing happens.

Struggle and experiment, use handy Select by Color (Tools->Selection Tools->Select by Color) to grab all the black.

Stencil from GIMP 2

Have dotted lines. Look in the Select menu. Find Float! Try that. (Note: This screen shot made by creating a new image, then File->Screenshot, selected The Whole Screen, then crop the result.)

Screen shot of float

It’s floating. Can it be dragged free of that background? Yes.

Floated stencil

Now what? Click Edit->Copy. Now it’s in the clipboard.

Now create a new image, (1000×750, basic working size) and paste. Notice, probably didn’t have to move it off to the side as that actually had no effect. Just making it float was the key to detaching it from the background and copying it into the clipboard.

Paste into new imageI

It’s still floating. Can I invert it now? No. Instead, Tools->Selection Tools->Select by Color and click on the white part. Now white part is selected; you can’t tell, because the borders that are highlighted = borders of black, but it really is the white part, which you can tell when you do this: Edit->Fill with Pattern:

Fill with pattern

Do Tools->Selection Tools->Select by Colors again and click on the black part. Does Invert work now? No. That would be too easy. How about Edit->Fill with Background Color? Expecting the vinyl paneling in the stencil, get this instead, the whole point of the entire stenciling exercise!

White stencil

Okay, can it be less white? Yes, but can’t remember how to make it gray. Did that somehow. (Will update this post when it’s re-discovered.)

However, can now just Control C or Edit->Copy the floating image, open the background (purchased from canstockphoto for $3) and paste from the clipboard. The image is still floating. Drag it to where you want it.

Last step, anchor it. Could this be easy? Of course not. Go to Windows->Dockable Dialogs->Layers. Find the layer in the box to the right. First adjust the opacity down so it’s kind of transparent. Then, at the bottom of that dialog box, find the little anchor symbol and click it. Sometimes. Little anchor symbol was no longer there when this was written but it was there the first time. No hallucination… really, just had coffee. Whew, anchor also exists under the Layer menu.

floated onto background

Hint: If you accidentally lose the ability to move your floating level, go to Tools->Transform Tools->Move. That puts you back in move mode.

Jason on T-shirt
Ta da!

Conclusion: Since the spray painted stencil was less of a disaster than the tempera paint, sangria is better for art work than coffee.

The (art) education of Nia Simone, GIMP

Blogging brings new people and new things to try, like learning art, for now a self-education, but one day, who knows?

Today’s discovery: How to tone down the green after auto-enhancing the color in header photo.

Original photo:

Original header
Original photo (cropped out of a photo to fit the header shape)

To increase pop, perform Colors->Auto->White Enhance then Colors->Auto->Color Enhance:

Experiment 1 with auto white balance, then auto color enhance. (Tongariki on Easter Island.)

Too green. But… better than the washed-out original.

A week later, notice something called “Fade Color Enhance” appears in the Edit menu, but only after you have performed a color enhancement. If you perform a color enhancement, close the file and re-open it, you do not get this operation showing in the Edit menu.

Use Edit->Fade Color Enhancement to tone down the color on the whole picture. It gives you a preview and a sliding scale so you can see what the adjustment is doing. Get the undesired color down to where you want it, then tone up the colors you want to intensify. 

In this example, select the other colors (non-green) one at a time by using Tools->Selection Tools->By Color Select, then Colors->Auto->Color Enhance.  

When all the colors are done, use Select->None to eliminate the selection dashes so you can see the results. If you like it, File->Export it to JPEG. Otherwise, use the same process to intensify more colors. 

The result is at the top of today’s post (and in the new blog header image). There is not so much green on the statues.

Mountains of Peru

Tips for using GIMP follow today’s photos.

Urubamba Valley (Sacred Valley)

Peru and Easter Island 045

From the road leading out of Cusco, heading to the Urubamba Valley:

Peru and Easter Island 360

Peru and Easter Island 355

Machu Picchu:

Peru and Easter Island 248

Peru and Easter Island 313Peru and Easter Island 312 Peru and Easter Island 252 Peru and Easter Island 356

What GIMP makes easy in photo editing, it makes up for by making very basic operations complicated. To scale down the image size for faster loading on the Web, use the Image menu: Image->Scale Image then enter 1000 in the Image Size, Width box. Click Scale.

To save the image as a jpeg, use the File menu and the Export menu. In the bottom left corner of the Export menu, just above the Help button, there is Select File Type (by extension). Expand that menu, scroll down and select JPEG image, then click Export. The first time you export as jpg, set the quality in the Export menu to 100% and click Save default. 

Saving: The default save is as a GIMP file. Don’t bother with that unless you’re going to work on it again later and want to save what you did. It is a huge file and you can’t use it for anything except GIMP, so move on. When you close the file, it will warn you that you made changes without saving; it is referring to the GIMP file. From the File menu, select Close, then click Close without saving

Cropping is also hard to find because it doesn’t have the usual symbol and is buried. Cropping is under the Tools menu.  To crop a photo: Tools->Transform Tools->Crop.

For instructions on easily enhancing your photos with GIMP and on downloading this free, open-source software, go here: What blooms in March, Saratoga.