Maple Seeds

Maple seeds – Acer palmatum

It is somehow appropriate that I add to Mental Seeds with a post about seeds themselves.  Seeds hold the promise of renewal and after months of insignificant distractions and artificial deadlines I need to re-invigorate.

My left eye continues to be blurry, now with a cataract resulting from all the surgeries for the detached retina.  In July we will finally know what I will see.  Now I just need to push onward.   Not onward with new challenges – I need to finish what I started.

From Brooks Jensen’s “Letting Go of the Camera“:  “If I had to restrict myself to just one activity that would improve my photography the most, what would that be?  Without a doubt, I should finish more of my work.”

The activity of finishing this series of photos resulting from the new vision requires learning to use Photoshop much more proficiently.  This in itself is a reason enough to get back on track.  Nothing of what I see can be rendered by the camera by itself, so I have a reason to learn some of the Photoshop techniques I should have learned years ago.

The Maple Seeds photo started like this, a trio of winged seeds poking through the mass of fall foliage in the tree in my front yard:

This is what the camera saw, but I saw it as a blur with one eye, sharp only where it was close to my face.  To get the photo to render to the eye, I needed to make the photo much softer than I could achieve with the camera.  I used the Selection Tool to cut out and clone the seeds, thus duplicating them, with an opacity setting of 40 so that it would be faint.  Then I applied a blur filter and used the eraser tool to create a mask around the primary cluster of seeds, thus eliminating the blur from the one area I wanted to stay sharp.

I think if I do another version (or state) of this photo I might keep some sharpness in the one leaf where the seeds emerge.  The seeds seem to float too much and even thought the leaves were in fact blurry to my eye, I had a sense of the seeds emerging that this photo does not capture.

Always room for improvement but one must not get lost in every different possibility.  Once you get started with Photoshop changes it becomes hard to make a decisive choice.  Move on.

These next three versions of a leaf photo show the dilemma of indecision when using Photoshop manipulations.  For most of my commercial garden photography work I try, in my post production, to get the photo to be exactly the way the garden looked to me.  This may not always be what it may look like to someone else but for me, it is a fixed moment and immutable.

The same day I photographed the maple seeds I photographed a single leaf fixed on a slender branch reaching beyond my ear.

Pretty nice as is:

Japanese maple tree leaf in fall color - c

Or this, with leaf redder and background enhanced with the Clarity tool:

Japanese maple tree leaf in fall color - a

Or this with the background much darker:

Japanese maple tree leaf in fall color - b

It is fun to try different moods and interpretations, all made possible by masking the leaf.  Doing so, I can make changes to the two parts of the photo independently of each other in Layers of the Photoshop file.  The dilemma of purposefully altering the photo in Photoshop is where to stop testing the nearly limitless choices of tweaks and permutations that are possible.

Learning the tool is not just about the technical mastery but learning the discipline to know when to stop using the tool, and let the photo be finished.

“If I had to restrict myself to just one activity that would improve my photography the most, what would that be?  Without a doubt, I should finish more of my work.”

I think I will simply move on with this Mental Seeds portfolio.  Finish and post.  Perhaps without further explanation.



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