Learning Photoshop

Earlier this year, I took an online class to learn Adobe Photoshop. I wasn’t sure how I would actually use this with my bird photos. I prefer to keep most of my nature photos looking as natural (pun unintended!) as possible.

However, regardless of how much I planned on using this amazing photo editor, it was a fun class and I learned a lot.

We learned about composition. Our assignment was to demonstrate different elements or principles of composition. I demonstrated line (coyote), volume (bubble), texture (mushrooms), pattern (Golden-crowned Sparrow on a fence…gotta get a bird in here! The band on its leg adds an interesting element, too. It’s the same color as the fence), emphasis (the Red-shouldered Hawk taking flight…yes, another bird!) and the pair of Northern Mockingbirds show unity.

A fun assignment was “appropriation.” We took a photo and changed it up enough to make it our own. I found a photo of women protesting outside a jail in Washington (their fellow anti-war protesters had been arrested and were held in the jail). I added in the 1960s era Barbie and I kind of liked the image. Once I found the words for her sign, however, I loved it!

We learned to add photos into text. Our assignment was to design a book or magazine cover.

One of my least favorite assignments was the portrait assignment. We were asked to pick a portrait photographer and emulate that photographer’s style. I don’t like portraits, self or otherwise. It’s hard for me to tell people how to pose…though, sometimes, I wouldn’t mind being able to tell a bird how to pose!

I chose to emulate the photographer, Platon. He has done some incredible work and I thought I could, at the least, be able to remove the background in my photos to emulate his.

We learned to create a web page with Adobe Express. I took photos of Canada Geese and their babies for this assignment. Here is the link to that: Canada Geese.

We learned to tell a story with our photos. I wrote about the early days of Covid lockdown. Where could we go when all the state and local parks were closed? By this time in the class, I had uploaded so many photos to the class site, that I was reaching some limits and couldn’t upload any without deleting a bunch. I did that but still ran into problems. I then uploaded the assignment to another Adobe Express site. See that assignment here: Tracks.

For our Final Project, we were expected to demonstrate all we had learned during the previous three months. I had learned a lot about using layers to create all kinds of effects to my photos. I also learned about adding text to my photos.

My idea for my Final Project was to recreate a late 19th century naturalist’s notebook. This was a time-consuming and somewhat difficult project. Luckily, I discovered a lot of resources online that helped in this project.

Katherine and I took a road trip down Highway 1 toward Big Sur. We stopped to explore and I took photos of dolphins, birds and plants. We even saw an American Condor though I couldn’t really find a spot for it in my project!

Using the photos I had taken, I attempted to turn them into drawings and paintings that would be found in a naturalist’s notebook. I wasn’t as successful as I would have liked — the Photoshop “drawing” filter didn’t look like the contour drawing I was hoping for. However, I found something online that I was somewhat happy with.

I added in text to describe the plants and animals in a way that I expected a naturalist to do — Latin names and all!

Then, I got a little inspired from the previous assignment on telling stories. I gave my naturalist, M. Katherine Macvoy, an inept assistant (Kasper Schmidt) who will come to grief over the course of these pages. I added a cute young aspiring naturalist, Jaime, who was allowed to draw in the book during his brief visit with M. Katherine.

While this project was a lot of work (don’t get me started on how many Photoshop layers it took to make the pages look old and worn!), it was a fun project. Here is the link that that project: My Nature Journal.

It was such a great class that I will be taking it again to practice and refine my skills. I still want to figure out how to convert a photo into a line drawing!

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