Digital Photo Editing: Convert Day into Night | Gary Cain Photography

by Gary A. Cain, Ph.D.

Experiment With Blending Modes

It’s amazing how an ordinary daytime photo can become awesome by altering it to simulate night.

I love to use texture images to jazz up images in general, but some, such as the Cosmos series by Denise Love at 2 Lil’ Owls Studio (sold online through Design Cuts), excel at creating colorful night skies.

Execution is simple. Drag the texture image on top of your active image. Then go up to the blending modes menu and give several a try.

I often combine more than one blended texture to add even more visual interest. For the examples below, I used two in each to produce a rich, colorful night sky.

Rustic Country Church

Digitally blended texture images generated a rich, colorful, artistic night sky above a rustic country church.

Digitally blended texture images generated a rich, colorful, artistic night sky.

Simple use of layer masks [Remember: white reveals, black conceals.] kept the sky texture from appearing on the building.

Selective dodging and burning gave full control over the degree and areas of light and dark throughout the image.

Historic Colonial Joseph Bonner House

Blended texture images created the appearance of an exciting, colorful, moonlit night surrounding an old colonial house.

Blended texture images created the appearance of an exciting, colorful, moonlit night.

The beauty of converting a daytime photo into night is that much more visual detail can be kept from the original image than would normally be visible in a genuine night photo.

Historic Bath, NC Images

I shot the original photos handheld around midday in historic Bath, North Carolina, the area where my mother grew up. The church is the Athens Chapel Church of Christ, located about two miles west of Bath. The colonial residence is the Joseph Bonner House, built in 1830 right in Bath, overlooking the Point.

History buffs should visit Bath, as it is the oldest incorporated town in the state of North Carolina and runs along the scenic waterfront of the Pamlico River.

Museum-quality prints of these images can be purchased online using the following links:

Rustic Country Church

Historic Bonner House

Cain ‘High Key Pink Geranium’ Photo Wins Award | Gary Cain Photography

by Gary A. Cain, Ph.D.

Delaware Photographic Society Honor Winner

I’m pleased to announce that another of my photographs is an award winner.

My ‘High Key Pink Geranium’ image below was one of 12 images named 2013-2014 Projected Image-of-the-Year Honor Winner at the Delaware Photographic Society‘s year-end members competition by a panel of 3 independent judges.

Close-up photo showing Gary Cain's award winning beautiful pink geranium bloom against a white background.

Gary Cain’s award winning ‘High Key Pink Geranium’ image.

Capturing the image was straightforward. With the clipped flower in a vase, I shot with a 150 mm macro lens at f/22 for 1.6 sec and the camera on a tripod to maximize depth-of-field and sharpness. The background was a simple white sheet of paper. Lighting was with tungsten bulbs in hemispherical reflectors as I’ve described previously, except that one of the rear bulbs was aimed at the background.

An interesting side note is that I grew this geranium in my own garden, specifically in hopes of getting nice flower photos — one of the benefits of having a green thumb.

Congratulations to Jerry Am Ende for taking top honors in the DPS Projected Image-of-the-Year competition, as well as to the other 11 Honor Winners.

Museum-quality prints and postcards of this pink geranium closeup image may be purchased online.

‘Moth Orchid Nebula’ — New Space Art | Gary Cain Photography

by Gary A. Cain, Ph.D.

Orchid Photo Needs a Visual Boost

Original photo showing the beautiful details of a yellow moth orchid flower.

Original Yellow Moth Orchid Closeup Photo

Sometimes it pays off just to play around while photo-editing on the computer.

I initially captured the yellow moth orchid close-up photo, at right, over a year ago. It’s a nice image highlighting the amazing beauty of the orchid flower.

What it lacks, however, is oomph.

Photo-Editing Play

So recently I pulled the oomph-less orchid file out of the ‘done’ folder and tried to jazz it up, using photo-editing program Photoshop Elements, without any preconceived notion what to do.

So I played, and played, and played some more.

I tried my usual tricks of experimenting with texture layers and blending modes. After creating, then trashing, several uninspiring composites, EUREKA, I stumbled upon the idea — put the orchid in outer space.

Orchid Flower Photo Goes Intergalactic

Changing the orchid color to blue and combining with a star-filled texture layer made the orchid resemble a cosmic flower-shaped nebula.

Hue Change and Blending with a Cosmic Texture Layer Led to ‘Moth Orchid Nebula’

Among other edits I won’t go into, the two most important digital alterations I made were: (1) altering the flower’s hue to render more outer space-like colors, and (2) blending with the star-filled ‘Cosmos 11′ texture layer from 2 Lil’ Owls Studio.

Bingo! Net result, a NASA space-telescope-like image of a colorful outer space nebula with the mind-blowing shape of an orchid flower — the ‘Moth Orchid Nebula.’

Museum-quality prints of this beautiful Moth Orchid Nebula image are for sale online through Fine Art America.

Cain Impressionistic Photography Enters New Gallery — Dover Art League | Gary Cain Photography

by Gary A. Cain, Ph.D.

Cain Prints Now Exhibited at Dover Art League

I’m pleased to report that a sampling of my Delaware-themed impressionistic photo-based prints recently passed scrutiny by the Dover Art League board of directors and several of my works are now being exhibited and sold in their gallery.

Impressionistic image of Gary Cain's 'Tugboat on the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal' is among those now on exhibit at the Dover Art League.

My ‘Tugboat on the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal’ image is among those displayed.

Since the Dover Art League was specifically interested in new artworks related to Delaware, I provided three large and several small prints featuring my photo-based artistic interpretations of subjects from around the state.

Gary Cain's highly impressionistic image of the silhouetted East End Breakwater Lighthouse shining at night is also on display.

‘Delaware Bay Lighthouse, Night’ is also currently exhibited at the Dover Art League gallery.

In addition, I also delivered artistic, photo-based prints from other mid-Atlantic points of interest, from the Hooper Strait Lighthouse on the Chesapeake to New York City’s Flatiron Building to the Brooklyn Bridge and beyond.

My prints will only be displayed through the end of July, so be sure to visit soon.

The Dover Art League is located at 21 West Loockerman Street, right in downtown Dover. See their website for hours and more information.

Formal Nature Portraits Make Elegant Wall Decor | Gary Cain Photography

by Gary A. Cain, Ph.D.

Gary Cain Photography Opens Formal Nature Portrait Gallery Online

Want to class up your home or office wall decor?

I’ve got what you need right here — formal nature portrait prints from my new online gallery.

Photo shows breathtaking close-up of a Rebecca's World Dahlia flower, white petals with pink to maroon bases against a black background

My Formal Nature Portrait Gallery Includes This Elegant Rebecca’s World Dahlia Close-Up

Photo of a Inca Ice Peruvian Lily flower with peach-colored petals and pale yellow and green highlights against a black background

Inca Ice Peruvian Lily Formal Portrait

Online Gallery Features Beautiful Flower Close-Ups

Lovely flower close-up images make up over half of the portrait gallery.

As seen in the breathtaking Rebecca’s World Dahlia above, and Inca Ice Peruvian Lily at right, each flower, in full bloom, is dramatically highlighted against a dark background as in traditional portrait photography.

[Don’t worry, prints do not contain any logos.]

Formal Animal Portraits Also Featured

Photo shows a lovely close-up of a giraffe head and upper neck facing the camera at an angle.

This giraffe portrait would make wonderful wall decor for a child’s bedroom

For animal lovers and parents with young children, the remainder of my nature gallery contains attractive animal close-up portraits, like this handsome giraffe.

One, or even several, of these wonderful animal close-up prints would provide (an) elegant, friendly companion(s) on a bedroom wall, for instance.

Top Quality Wall Decor

All prints from this online gallery are museum-quality — archival inks and durable surfaces.

Prints come in a choice of sizes and surface types. Surfaces include standard photo paper, plus canvas, rigid metal, and acrylic. Matting and framing are also available as part of the online ordering process.

Wouldn’t your home or office, or your child’s bedroom, look much classier with elegant wall decor from this formal nature portrait gallery?

Start your easy, online shopping here.

Think Flower Prints For Mothers Day Gifts | Gary Cain Photography

by Gary A. Cain, Ph.D.

Quality Flower Prints Better Than Cut Flowers

Hate throwing money away?

Then why waste your hard earned cash giving Mom cut flowers for Mothers Day?

You and I both know that within a few days they’ll be withered and dead, then Mom’ll toss ‘em in the trash.

Here’s a much better Mothers Day gift idea. Museum-quality flower prints.

They cost about the same as cut flowers, look just as good, and best of all, will last indefinitely.

Photo of a beautiful heart-shaped bleeding heart flower with a black background.

Mom can enjoy this heart-shaped flower print on her wall year around.

Shop at the Gary Cain Photography Online Store

And I know just where to get them. From me!

At my online store, I have several flower prints to choose from in a range of sizes and print surfaces.

Photo shows incredible structure and beautiful colors of a Pink Moth Orchid in exquisite detail.

This Pink Moth Orchid ultra close-up showcases incredible colors and structure.

My flower print images range from formal flower portraits, such as the Bleeding Heart at top, to ultra close-ups, such as the exquisitely detailed Pink Moth Orchid above, to impressionistic, such as the Bleeding Hearts trio below.

Photo of a Bleeding Hearts flower trio in a painterly, impressionistic style.

This Bleeding Hearts Trio print is one of my favorite impressionistic flower images.

Time is Running Out, Order Today

Mothers Day 2014 is coming up fast — this Sunday. All images are printed just when the order is received, then we have to allow a few days for shipping. So order TODAY!

Of course, flower prints do not contain the watermarks /logos you see above.

Travel Photo Secrets — Mount Rushmore | Gary Cain Photography

by Gary A. Cain, Ph.D.

Pro Travel Photo Secret

Ever look with envy at those perfect travel photos in magazines or on the web?

Perfect weather. Perfect lighting. Perfect location.

Ugh. How do they do it? And why don’t my travel shots look that good?

Simple answer — time. Top pros might spend days, weeks, even years scouting a scenic location until all those conditions finally come together and allow them to capture their perfect travel photo.

For the rest of us, who has the time and money to stay at that scenic spot for as long as it takes to get that ideal shot? Nobody. Certainly not me. What to do?

Travel Photo Secret For The Rest of Us

Answer — go to that scenic location, no matter how short the time and whatever the atmospheric conditions, and just take the best photograph you can. THEN, when you get back home, try a few simple digital photo-editing tricks to enhance that image into something you can be proud of.

Close-up photograph shows Mount Rushmore's Presidents' faces glowing beautifully, as if under a starry night sky, after digital editing.

Mount Rushmore’s Presidents’ faces glow beautifully, as if under a starry sky, after digital editing.

My Mount Rushmore Image Challenge

Several years ago I flew out West to photograph the Colorado Rockies, plus South Dakota’s Badlands and Black Hills. I only had a few days, and lots of miles and hours in a rental car to cover to get anywhere. That meant I only had one day, or even less, at any specific location.

Take Mount Rushmore. I was there for maybe two hours early one afternoon before I had to move on. The sky was completely covered with hazy white clouds. Photographically speaking, boring, boring, boring. Panic? Give up?

Oh no. I made the best of the situation, taking a ton of photographs anyway, from several vantage points and with both zoom and wide angle lenses.

Then, all these years later and using the digital photo-editing skills I’ve recently honed, I set to work to make my best boring Mount Rushmore shot look more attractive.

Digital Photo-Editing Tricks

One. Since the lighting was flat and the colors were muted anyway, I banished them altogether by converting to black and white. (There’s lots of ways to do that, such as calling up a hue/saturation adjustment layer and moving the saturation all the way to zero.)

Two. I increased the contrast (using a contrast adjustment layer) between light and dark to create a more dramatic look.

Three. I heightened interest by adding color back to simulate night. I blended the black and white image with a blue color layer (can use a photo filter adjustment layer or hue/saturation adjustment layer with the colorize box checked).

Four. I simulated a starry sky by blending with a texture image containing lots of tiny spots. I had to use a mask with this layer to isolate the ‘stars’ to only the sky.

Five. To make the Presidents’ faces glow, I used a soft digital brush to dodge (digitally lighten the colors) only those areas.

Net result? A dramatic, unique, interesting Mount Rushmore image far, far better than my original. Think of what I did as bringing out my inner artist. This was done using very inexpensive Photoshop Elements software.

Buy This Print

Museum-quality prints and postcards of this Mount Rushmore image (without the logos) are for sale online. Wouldn’t this patriotic image look great on your home or office wall?

Making Death Valley Even Scarier By Digital Photo-Editing | Gary Cain Photography

by Gary A. Cain, Ph.D.

Bad Weather Can Be Good

It’s called Death Valley for a reason, folks.

With that in mind, I wanted to edit an old Death Valley image to make it even scarier.

Photo Shows Dark Clouds and Deep Shadows to Provide Ominous Atmosphere to Zabriskie Point

Dark Clouds and Deep Shadows Provide an Ominous Atmosphere to the Zabriskie Point Overlook at Death Valley

The day was cloudy but not hot when I was in Death Valley way back in April 1997. Using color slide film at the time, I took the original photo. The result was an OK, but not exciting image with flat lighting and muted colors. Nothing deathly scary or interesting about that. So the slide sat. And sat. And sat.

Fast forward to March 2014. OK, maybe I procrastinated a bit. I finally returned to this image, armed with my newfangled digital photo-editing tricks, to see what I could do to enhance it.

Long story short, I converted it to black and white using Nik Silver Efex Pro2, then used Photoshop Elements to adjust tones and contrast, add sepia toning, and add texture. The key to getting the really gloomy ambiance was darkening the already present clouds and adding small, dark shadows around the image. Now it has ATMOSPHERE. One befitting the name Death Valley.

Museum-Quality Prints

I’ve just added this image to my collection sold online through Fine Art America. Museum-quality prints are available on several surfaces, including canvas, metal, and acrylic, in addition to several paper finishes. Postcards are also offered.

How To Take Better Pictures: Use Framing Elements | Gary Cain Photography

by Gary A. Cain, Ph.D.

Look For Natural Frames

A tree trunk and leafy branch frame the Washington Monument to add visual interest in this black-and-white photo.

Framing the Washington Monument With a Tree Adds Interest

Everybody hates boring.

Boring people. Boring lectures. Boring photographs.

Hate. Hate. Hate.

Can’t help with the first two, but here’s a trick to eliminate boring photographs.

Never again have the subject of your photograph just standing there in the midst of vast nothingness, sticking up against a ho-hum sky.

Instead, scout around the foreground area looking for something interesting to fill the otherwise empty space around and/or above the subject.

In this shot of the Washington Monument (surrounded by scaffolding during earthquake repairs last summer), I walked around until I found a stately tree to provide a natural frame.

The resulting image possesses much more visual interest and balance than just the boring sky which I would have gotten by shooting from 10 feet farther ahead.

Structural Frames Work Too

Photographing the colonial Bellevue Mansion through the gazebo helps add context and visual interest.

The Gazebo provides a contextual frame around the historic Bellevue Mansion.

Purists would say even better frames should help place the main subject in context with its surroundings. In this image of the colonial-era Bellevue Mansion (located in Bellevue State Park, Wilmington, Delaware), I shot through the nearby gazebo.

The gazebo does much more than just fill empty space in the photo around the mansion. It’s looming presence also suggests that the gazebo played an important role in colonial life. What’s more, from this vantage point the viewer almost feels present right there in the scene.

Not to Bore You, But It’s Called Compositional Framing

In photography-speak, this ‘How-To’ tip is all about composition. Compose the main subject with a framing foreground element before you press the shutter button. It’ll help banish boring in your photographs.

Cain WV ‘Autumn Grist Mill’ Print Wins Medal at 2014 WIEP | Gary Cain Photography

by Gary A. Cain, Ph.D.

Shameless Bragging and Self-Promotion

Delaware fine art photographer Gary Cain's small color print of the Glade Creek Grist Mill, surrounded by colorful autumn leaves, won a DVCCC medal at the 2014 WIEP competition.

Gary Cain’s ‘Autumn Grist Mill’ image won a DVCCC medal at the 2014 WIEP competition.

I don’t always take realistic landscape photos, but when I do, I prefer West Virginia.

Especially now, since my ‘Autumn Grist Mill’ image, which I took last October near Beckley, WV, won a DVCCC medal at this year’s Wilmington International Exhibition of Photography (WIEP).

The DVCCC medal was in the Small Color Print category, and represents the first official photo competition award in my young photography career. Yippee!

[The Delaware Valley Council of Camera Clubs (DVCCC), including groups from DE, NJ, and PA, annually presents awards in each WIEP competition category for outstanding image by a club member. I’m a member of the DVCCC’s Delaware Photographic Society.]

WIEP Public Image Viewing

For those in the Wilmington / Philadelphia region, the WIEP public display of this year’s accepted prints and projected images will be Sunday afternoons Feb. 23 and Mar. 2.

The location is Arsht Hall on the University of Delaware’s Wilmington Campus. Street address: 2700 Pennsylvania Ave, Wilmington, Delaware. I hope to see you there!

Travel Photography Tip: New River Gorge, WV

Of the places I’m fortunate to visit fairly regularly, West Virginia has to be at the top of the list for attractive landscape photo opportunities.

It’s not called “West ‘By God’ Virginia” for nothing. Covered with lush mountains and rushing streams from top to bottom, WV is a photographer’s paradise.

I strongly recommend visiting the New River Gorge, near Beckley in the south-central part of the state. That’s where the Glade Creek Grist Mill of my photo, part of the Babcock State Park, is located. Ideally, go in the fall, when the mountains of trees explode in color.

With any luck, maybe you’ll capture a winner too!

‘Autumn Grist Mill’ Prints

Purchase a museum-quality ‘Autumn Grist Mill’ print of your very own (without the watermark) at Fine Art America. They offer prints on a variety of durable and beautiful media, including metal, acrylic, canvas, and paper.