Morning Play: Or Another Use For Photographs

By Susan E L Lake 


For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you will have seen me often posting “morning play” photographs. These are images that I have modified using a variety of apps on my iPad. This is not the same as editing for contrast or sharpening to make my images look just a bit better. Instead, I take a photograph that I think is fun or interesting and modify it in myriad ways. I may distort it, add interesting borders, or even turn it into a whole ‘nother look. It’s play, pure and simple. I’m not trying to create exquisite artwork although if I truly like the outcome, I may upload it to my Meural (my magical frame that I talk about here.) I’m just exploring. I try first one look and then another. I’m just having fun.

My image of succulents floats nicely in this glass taking on a new life.

Do you see that word “fun” that keeps showing up? I think “morning play” is an important activity because too often we take photography seriously aiming for THE shot. Some  of us spend hours tweaking, cropping, and adjusting to get the perfect shot. I am as guilty as others. By letting my self to “play” with images, I release the goal of perfection and just get to enjoy the image which still triggers those wonderful memories I’m aiming for. 

This Is an example of one image (Red Rocket Crape Myrtle) that I modified three ways. Each has its own “personality.”

So what apps do I play with. There are countless ones: some free, some expensive, and those in-between. The one I spend most of my time with is Photoleap by Lightricks. I bought it using a Christmas iTunes gift card making a purchase I would NEVER have done on my own. It’s one of those that falls into the expensive category, but I “bit the bullet” and purchased a lifetime subscription so I’d always have it (or until the company quits supporting it). As a result, I use it often trying to assuage my guilt figuring “if I paid that much for it . . .” I have to say I’ve gotten my money’s worth.

Lots of pieces of interest gathered into a single image.

There are others that I have acquired over time when they were “free for a short time.” These Apple apps (although there are likely Android versions) include Trigraphy, Moku, Glaze, Brushstrokes, and Deep Art Effects. 

This poppy was “shattered” using one of the app tools that I love.

What I like about all of these is that while I have Photoshop experience that would allow me to create similar changes, I can use these apps to create modifications instantly without having to use a complicated Adobe process. I’d have more options if I did use dedicated software, but I’m willing to make the trade off. 

I took a single image of a souvenir cup and turned it into a bit of whimsy.

So what kinds of things do these apps let me do. I can create frames, I can erase parts of the image, I can merge multiple images, I can adjust the colors in unexpected ways, I can jazz things up or tone them down. In short, I can play with my pictures exploring new looks. I can mask parts of an image or change its impact. I don’t start out with the intention of creating a particular “look,” but instead I just explore and experiment. Most of the outcomes are not particularly worthwhile, but that’s okay. I’m just playing so there are no expectations. Some days I love what I do, but most of the time I delete my efforts. Give it a try. You might be surprised how much “fun” you have.

This vacation pic gave me lots to play with when I deleted the background.
A bit of frame and conversion to black and white turns this garden decoration into something else.

Food as Art

By Susan E L Lake


One of the things I find myself photographing on my travels (even brief trips to a local restaurant) is food that is served to me. Some folks ask “How come?”. I’m always taken aback because it seems so obvious to me, but then upon reflection, I realize it is not. But I do have very good reasons to carry my phone to dinner with me each night and even at breakfast. It’s because beautifully plated food is art in its own right. The chef or even an ordinary cook has taken the time to carefully place food in such a way that it is not only beautiful to eat but lovely to behold. For me it’s one of the delights of cruising. 

Oh my. Even the carrots and celery look appealing here. And I still remember the stuffed grape leaves.

One of the things I often photograph are flowers in my yard. Yes, they are pretty, but they are also temporal. That bloom will never appear again in the same way. By taking a picture of it, I capture that ephemeral moment. Food plating is exactly that. Within moments, the plate too beautiful to eat is disturbed with my first “bite” of fork. No longer is the perfect symmetry apparent. No longer are the complementary colors separated just enough to create impact. If I don’t record that event, it will be lost forever.

If only I could make my nachos look this good. 

Often real effort is made to make food look as good as it tastes. When that doesn’t happen, I have to admit to being disappointed. On a recent cruise that was brought home to me far clearer than I expected. The food I was served was good (often very good), but I found myself dissatisfied.  I couldn’t figure out why. I was not going hungry that’s for sure. The food was hot and tasty. But it wasn’t pretty. 

This was actually a tasty pasta dish, but the image surely doesn’t make one believe it.
Once again, this tasted good but it lost so much “in translation.” It makes one believe someone just tossed the cucumbers onto the plate.

A secondary reason to record “food art” is that it also gives  me a record of “ideas” to try at home. I’m not a good “plater” so I need all the help I can get. Reviewing what others have done gives me ideas to try at home. They act as great models and I think I’m actually getting better at it.

I know not everyone is “into” vegetarian breakfasts, but this could be the reason to convert.

 Meanwhile, I’ll continue to capture food for the eye as well as taste buds.

I so didn’t want to put a fork into this delicious to behold crab cake.

Neuroplasticity, Photography, and Chronic Pain

A girl’s first fishing rod is an exciting moment at least for dad. Baby brother wants in on the fun.

I’ll bet you never expected to see such a word as “neuroplasticity” in a photography blog particularly one devoted to taking pics of grands, gardens, and good places. But here’s the “thing.” Like so many others both young and not so young, I’ve been fighting mobility issues and the pain that comes with it. It’s kept me from doing lots of things I love like gardening, and it’s made me concerned that travel will become too difficult. As a result, I’ve been trying to get better while avoiding the surgery that is not a good idea for me. 

Dad has to show a girl how to do it.

Along the way, I’ve come across the term neuroplasticity which is defined as “the brain’s ability to modify, change, and adapt both structure and function.” As it regards pain, it is believed that “retraining the brain can diminish or eliminate chronic pain.” One of the ways to retrain the brain is to refocus on something other than pain – not ignoring it – but instead giving the brain something else to think about. Keep in mind that I’m no expert in any of this so don’t take this discussion as anything other than a photography blogger’s  explanation.

A can of corn makes great bait.

A first “catch” can be a bit scary. Even if it’s a little fish.

However, as I was reading book after book and article after article, I suddenly remembered something that I’ve said countless times. When I am looking through my camera’s eyepiece, nothing hurts. No pain. No anxiety (other than that which comes when a hummingbird skitters away too fast to catch). No stress. At that “ah ha” moment, I realized that this is neurplasticity at work for me. My entire focus was on something other than what hurt or what worried me or what stresses were chewing on me.

Photographer is watching from afar.

And since this blog is not for professionals who probably have artistic worries I’ll never think about, I thought my fellow casual photographers might like to think about the benefits of taking pictures. Do you find yourself shrugging off the day’s worries when you are trying to record a grand’s birthday expression as the child blows out a candle? Are you able to forget the day’s disasters and deaths as shown on the 6 o’clock news while you record that incredible sunflower? Is one of the reasons you love to travel is because photographing interesting places lets you leave behind what worries you? If so, then treat your camera as a tool for healing and delight. It’s what I am doing. Not that I need that as an excuse but I surely consider it icing on the cake of life.

I can guarantee you that while catching these moments in time, I was not thinking about anything but the experience and what I could see through my viewfinder. Stress, anxiety, and worry were not on my mind.

By Susan E L Lake  


Sharing Our Memories

We’ve all seen those sitcom episodes where an unsuspecting guest is invited to see a family’s vacation pictures. It just goes on and on and on. The family loves it. There are countless “oh, yes, remember when dad fell off the cliff” comments. As someone who hadn’t been there, though, it’s mind numbing at best. So how does one take pictures you and others want to see? That’s the goal of this blog.

Casual Photography

Search for photography on the web and you’ll find countless articles and blogs on how to be a great photographer. I love those discussions about lens choices and the right camera brand. But if I’m honest, I know that I’m just a bystander who likes to take pictures. Maybe that’s you too. If so, you’ve come to the right place. Here we will just talk about the commonplace problems those of us who just  like to travel and then take home pictures from our adventures. We will leave the professionals to their field. This is ours.