Be Still

*** myPhotoWalk — Photo Artistry ***

So I was walking along Bayview Trail around the San Diego Creek at Upper Newport Bay State Marine Conservation Area in Newport Beach, California, hoping to capture some cool photos of birds. I had my Nikon D810, Nikkor 80-400mm lens, and Gitzo tripod as I trekked down to the area where I usually capture images. Right at the beginning of the trail there were these really interesting brambles reaching to the sky, little birds were flying among them, stopping for long moments on some of the higher branches.

I was anxious to keep going because I was hoping for images of egrets and herons at another site, but then I saw this one bird that just seemed to beckon me, grabbing my attention with its winsome and carefree spirit. It was just too good to pass up. I stopped, set up my tripod, and settled in for what I call “the shoot.” It means that I am going to take possibly a hundred images of just one bird, hoping to capture that one gesture that tells the story.

Photography is often very much in the moment for me, though I do plan ahead for the areas and locations. Once I arrive, I enter into the adventure of discovery. I see something beautiful and stop, wanting to see more, and waiting for the unique, unusual and sometime even just plain magnificent out in God’s creation. I love the experience of noticing things I never really saw before. And photography really does that for me because it slows me down to look beyond the obvious and capture things that are just so beautiful to me.

I set the tripod low so I could shoot up through those cool brambles toward the sky. I decided to use an f/8 aperture because of the depth of field in the branches. To me it was important not only to have the bird in focus but also the brambles around it. I put the ISO at 400 because I wanted a fast shutter speed. In this case, I was able to get 1/2500 sec, assuring me of clarity for the bird and most of the branches that moved occasionally with a slight breeze. When capturing images of birds, I always like to be well over 1/1000sec and I’m very happy when I get more than 1/2000sec for the shutter speed. Now in the end, I actually created a piece of art that gave a more painterly effect to the bird and the entire scene, but I knew I would have a crisp, sharp image for my canvas.

This one bird was the epitome of stillness and solitude. There were people on the path, cars driving on Jamboree road, and so much activity, and yet, here was the bird its own world, resting peacefully on the branch. It looked one direction and then the other. Sometimes it even looked up to the sky. Finally, after about fifteen minutes or so, the bird flew away. But I had captured the images I desired.

So when I got home, I couldn’t wait to see the results. This one is my very favorite. I love the turn of the head and also the elegant, almost regal lines of this bird. And I had a story in mind. Stillness. And solitude.

After processing it in Camera Raw, I pulled the image into Photoshop. The first step was to crop the bottom part of the bush to keep the focus on the bird. Then, I used the spot healing brush to paint over areas where the highway showed through the bush. I knew I wanted to do something artistic and magical with this image, changing it into a piece of art to inspire us to “be still” as we are encouraged in Psalm 46:10. It’s what the Lord had just taught me again that morning in my own quiet time. So I used a very special set of filters by Totally Rad. I created my own recipe of about fifteen different levels of filters, changing the colors to an other-worldly kind of feel. I loved the result but I knew I was not yet finished.

I wanted to add a painterly look, but it had to be just the right one to go with the feeling of stillness. I must have tried at least twenty different ideas, until I finally found the right opacity of a Georgia O’Keefe filter. Once I brought it back into Photoshop, I smiled because I knew it was just what I was looking for. I created a layer mask and painted the bird back in from the RadLab layer because I wanted the smooth lines of the painterly effect around it, but not on it.

Then, I zoomed out to look at the image and decided it needed one more crop. This is always the most difficult decision because I loved all those different curves of the brambles. And in the end, I had to cut some of the good ones out. Sometimes the good becomes the enemy of the best. I’ve discovered that’s true in life as well, by the way.

I zoomed out again, and smiled. Okay, now it was time to add the text. I used Helvetica Neue and changed the color of the text to match the light part of the bird. I also expanded the kerning in the large letters of “be still” for impact.

I knew I wanted one more thing for this image. Texture. So I went into On1 Software and found the Brocade filter. I lowered the opacity of it to 58%. Then, using another layer mask, I painted out the brocade from the bush and the bird. Voila! There you have it.

May you gaze at this bird in a moment of solitude and “be still” and know the Lord your God (Psalm 46:10).

♥ Blessings and Grace to You!


myPhotoWalk Devotional

Be still and know that I am God.
Psalm 46:10

myPhotoWalk Technical

  • Title: Be Still
  • Description: A bird sitting peacefully on a bush at Upper Newport Bay State Marine Conservation Area in Newport Beach, California. USA.
  • Creator: Catherine Martin
  • Date Created: 09/2/16
  • Camera: Nikon D810, Nikkor 80-400mm, FL 116mm, ISO 400, f/8, 1/2500sec.
  • Photoshoot: myPhotoWalk PhotoShoot in Newport Beach, California, USA.
  • Post-Processing: Adobe Camera Raw, Adobe Photoshop, Topaz Software, OnOne Software.
  • Copyright ©2018 Catherine Martin – myPhotoWalk™ – Quiet Time Ministries. All Rights Reserved.
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