By challenge creator Judi Lapsley Miller with help from the AoB moderator team

“Making it real” was the theme for June’s Art of Birding challenges. Participants had to take one of their favourite images and get it framed for their wall. To help them on the way, the weekly sparks pushed them out of our editing comfort zones to learn new skills. It’s one thing taking a lovely photo and leaving it to languish on a hard drive, maybe never to be seen again, but it’s another thing to treat our talents with love and respect and create a physical piece to enjoy daily.

Week 23 Presets

There is a world of presets and filters out there to tone your photos and help give a similar look and feel across a series of photos. If you’re a Lightroom or Photoshop user, you can acquire presets or even make your own (it’s well worth learning how and it’s not hard). If you’re not an Adobe user, you can also use Instagram filters, Snapseed, and many others apps.

Carole Garside: Four variations of the same photo using different Lightroom presets

Moderator Paula Vigus (New Zealand) chose Carole Garside’s (New Zealand) tauhou (waxeye) images for Week 23. Carole said “I’ve gathered a few presets over the years, but not really used them. These ones came with the Scott Kelby Lightroom Classic book, made by Matt Kloskowski. The first one is my original photo, the following three from one click on a preset. I was very surprised by the different looks you can achieve.”

Paula appreciated Carole’s explanation of how she had achieved these looks with presets and where she got the presets from. This gives understanding to those who may be new to presets, that they can be purchased already formulated. When you use a preset, it directly changes the sliders and settings so you can see exactly how each effect was achieved. You can then tweak them further to put your own spin on them.

Week 24 Next-step editing

Melanie Day: Waiting at the feeding station

This spark asked participants to consider where they were on their photography journey, and to take the next step in editing. For some, it was to start editing in the first place. Others worked on the basic edit functions. Many took the plunge and delved into selective editing and masking.

Moderator Linton Miller (New Zealand) selected Melanie Day’s (New Zealand) kākāriki composite for next-step editing. He especially liked the use of the feather texture as it helped give that lovely dappled-light feel of the New Zealand bush. Melanie went all in and composited this image “Waiting at the feeding station” from multiple photographs, using advanced compositing techniques. It’s worthy of note that rather than use Photoshop, she chose Gimp, which has most of Photoshop’s capabilities but is free.

Melanie said “I really wanted to have a go at this week’s challenge because I rarely use layers in post-processing. This picture is a composition of 6 different photos. It’s taken me about 10 hours, plus extra for training on how to do it.

The background was a forest scene. This was overlaid with 5 photos of Red Crowned Parakeets, with each mask blended separately. The parakeet in the top right got special treatment using additional fading. Also, a lens flare was added to this parakeet to mimic where the sun shone through the forest. The central parakeets’ branch was randomly faded, otherwise, they looked like they were floating in midair! All birds were resized to give a better perspective.

The whole scene was overlaid with a close-up of a grey feather that I changed to green shades to match the forest colours. This texture was faded to 43% opacity, and a mask applied to give better clarity to the 3 birds in the foreground.

I think the feather texture adds the feeling of sun rays penetrating the dark forest.”

Week 25 Black & white or Split-toning

Louise Ingram: black and white flower

Brand new participant, Louise Ingram (USA) knocked it out of the park by being selected in her first month! Moderator Karen “Kizmet” Miller (New Zealand) made the selection and commented, “this is a nice dramatic shot.  It has made good use of black-and-white mode colour adjustment where I am guessing a yellow centre and a green background have been darkened by playing with the colour sliders.  The focus on the back petals, and not the front, really draws you into the picture.  I also like the simplicity of the image.

Week 26 Print-it-out

Although the overall monthly theme was to frame a print, as a step towards that, this spark was to print a photo onto something – it could be traditional paper, or a literally anything else (nowadays there is so much choice, from mugs to manchester).

Pam de Frere: blue hydrangea with stitching

Marion Skelton (New Zealand) adored artist Pam de Frere’s (New Zealand) unique hydrangea print. Pam turned it into a mixed media piece by embroidering a star burst over the petal and French knots onto the print itself using gold thread. Simply stunning! Pam said it was the first piece to sell in her recent exhibition, and we’re not at all surprised.

Monthly challenge – frame a favourite

Marion Skelton: tūī

Marion Skelton (New Zealand) is a huge tūī fan, so I was delighted to see that she got her favourite one framed! She said, “the frame I used was one I had made for a previous photo and I had decided to replace it with this photo.  The mat was cut by the lovely lady in my photo print shop who does all my printing. She always does a great job of my framing and cutting my mats, and I like to shop local. I am not sure why I love this photo so much but I have done since I first downloaded it.”

Repurposing an existing frame is an excellent way to freshen up your walls and to keep framing costs down. And I love Marion’s choice of this tūī – it’s a nice pose with beautiful golden background bokeh that gives life to the photo while keeping the focus on the bird.

Karen Watts: Top left is a Barn Owl, top right Prairie Falcon, bottom left Swainson’s Hawk, bottom right Western Screech Owl.

Karen Watts (USA) attended a workshop in the fall of 2021 where she had the opportunity to photograph rescued birds that could not be returned to the wild. Karen says “I hadn’t done anything with the photos although I really liked some of them and enjoyed the 3 day workshop immensely. In Photoshop I changed all the backgrounds and created the grouping of 4, then printed and framed. It’s a nice reminder of a good time! I also discovered it’s very hard to get a good photo of a framed piece without shadows and glare.”

I loved Karen’s framing choice for her birds of prey. The frame within a frame layout makes it seem like we’re taking a sneak peek at each bird through a window, and the brown and gold toning  pulls them all together. I do love a grainy wooden frame for wildlife pictures, and this one sets it off a treat!

If you’re interested in framing a favourite piece but are not sure where to start, do check out my handy framing hints and tips, and if you’re considering exhibiting for the first time, I have further advice about what to consider when it comes to framing.

Congratulations to everyone who has participated – we’re halfway through the challenges for this year already! If you’ve just come across the challenge, it’s not too late to join us, just jump on in and sign up at the Art of Birding challenge.

Created by NZ photoartist, Judi Lapsley Miller

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