Tag Archives: creative

elements 8 – layer masks

Montage created entirely with Elements 8. See text below for more details.

Click here to see my Layers Palette.

My montage started with an image of a highway. I added a car, road signs, gas pumps and texture
using layer masks. I then used blend modes and opacity on each layer to blend them all.

I could have done the same thing by just erasing parts I didn’t want but advanced users want
layer masks for total control over their projects. If you make a mistake, for instance, you can
reverse it using a mask.

Elements still does not offer the ability to add a mask to a layer. This doesn’t make sense to
me since masks are available with Adjustment layers. What’s the big deal Adobe?!

To our rescue, people like Richard Lynch have created actions (free) for all Elements versions.
Thanks! Unfortunately, no one has created one for version 8 yet BUT there is a work around.
It’s been around since I started with version 2. Some of you might even have seen my tutorial?

It’s a very easy work around. It does get a little confusing keeping track of all the layers and
you have to remember to select both the image and adjustment layer if you want to reposition
a layer but until Mr Lynch or someone else generously creates an action for us, this works well.

The trick is to “borrow” a mask from an adjustment layer. Here’s an excellent video describing it:

Layer Mask In Elements 8 (you have to wait thru a long shot of his book)


cloudy day abstracts

Cloudy days are a perfect time to create abstract photos by using intentional camera movement. This is a hit or miss process and you end up with LOTS of misses, believe me. But if you like the look, this type of photography is so much fun. The process is pretty easy and perfect for a compact camera (aka point and shoot) You might even end up giggling as I did when I first tried it 🙂

Here’s how: If it’s a bright cloudy day, wait until late in the day or until the light is really low. Then you need to manually adjust some settings on your camera. First set the ISO to the lowest number which in my case is 80 and then set the Aperture to the highest number which is f/8 on most small cameras. A high ISO and the smallest aperture (like F/8) will force the camera to choose a very slow shutter speed which you probably know will cause blurry photos. (If your camera is set to Automatic, it will try its best to make the photo sharp).

Here’s an example. First is the subject before moving the camera.

Holding the camera steady - a boring image
Holding the camera steady - a boring image

Using camera movement method
Using camera movement method


In order to make the blurring more creative looking, press the shutter WHILE moving the camera. As I mentioned, you get a lot more misses than hits but here are some tips to increasing your success rate.

1. Pre-visualize how you want the blur to look. For instance, for vertical blurs, move your camera up and down. For curves, move it in half circle movements. Shaking your camera in place creates a splotchy kind of effect which is nice for flowers.

2. Practice moving the camera slowly up and down (or which ever way you want) before you take your photo. When you’re ready, start moving the camera and without stopping, press the shutter at a random point of your movement. Viewing the resulting image on the LCD screen helps you decide at which point in the movement to press the shutter. Turning on “continuous” shooting will allow you to keep pressing the shutter while you continue to move the camera in all directions.

3. Use the Zoom of your camera to isolate what you want to capture. There’s a bonus to zooming. If your shutter speed isn’t slow enough, zooming in will reduce the amount of light reaching the sensor. Low light equals slow shutter speed equals blurry photos.

4. Take LOTS of photos! This is the key to getting something you like.

Here are some others I took this week.

This is just the ground. Some of the streaks are decomposed granite.
This is just the ground. Some of the streaks are decomposed granite.

Saguaro cactus and Creosote bushes
Saguaro cactus and Creosote bushes

I first zoomed in on Saguaro detail. This is my favorite.
I first zoomed in on Saguaro detail. This is my favorite.

Finally….Night photography is especially fun using this method. You can also do it even if you can barely hold a camera. In fact, I’m so inspired by Alan Babbitt; a photographer with Parkinson’s disease. He discovered this fun way of shooting because he couldn’t hold his camera still and found he loved it. CLICK HERE so see his amazing images.

Happy Shooting!

tres amigos

I’ve been hearing about Tres Amigos ever since I first starting hiking with the MSC so I was excited to finally have a chance to photograph them. What makes them unusual is not that there are three standing so close together but that they are in perfect alignment….as if they had been planted. The general consensus is that it’s a fluke but maybe someone planted them about 200 years ago? Either way, they make a wonderful photo op. We’ve been having stormy weather for a few days so I thought these three friends would look great with a kind of antique look.