i finally got it

Some days inspiration is harder to find than other days.

I have strategies for days such as these.

One of my favorite things to do, often on evenings when my husband is working his part-time job at the YMCA, is to visit my  bookmarks for "favorite photographers." This is my own curated collection of those photographers who make work that speaks to me. They earn their place in my collection by a variety of means. Often their work is substantially different from my own; and other times remarkably similar to mine. Their skills are typically a level or two above mine. and their vision is distinctive and well-honed. They may be famous, having won reward or recognition but they might just as likely be a local photographer who works in relative obscurity. All that is required is that I feel that immediate visceral reaction to their work. These are the people I admire. I talk about them here. Often. 

I didn't have the chance to pick up the camera as the day was full. When I finally arrived home in late afternoon, I set out to unwind by visiting a few of my favorites. I wondered what Mary Jo Hoffman of Still might be up to these days.

Still blog is a place to stop. A place to look at one thing at a time. A place to be still.

The hallmarks of Mary Jo's beautifully styled photos are simple - white paper, natural light, and gathered natural objects found near her home. She generously shares her technique on her blog, Still.  Mary Jo's photographs are stunning . . . no doubt about it, but really, if you take the time to click on the details for each photograph, you'll find an unexpected treasure. Mary Jo is a story-teller in the tradition of friends-sitting-across-the-table over good food and conversation kind of way. She writes as though composing a sweet note for a friend with warmth and humor and candor. She is refreshing.

Mary Jo's post for today, whatever makes you smile, included a picture of a schefflera leaf on her signature white background. The details tells the story of how she pilfered the leaf from a potted plant at the post office and is now wondering if this might be considered a felony. This is a story I can relate to having taken many liberties with personal property in pursuit of a photograph.

With nothing much on my mind to photograph, I plucked off a few leaves of one of my own houseplants. I didn't even have to leave home. I plopped the leaves on the back of our wall calendar as it happened to be white. I didn't spend much time in styling, but I did sprinkle a few water droplets on the leaves, just because Mary Jo did. Clck, click, click.

The picture looked fine to me. Good practice. But when I went to process the image, I ran into the problem of making sure the background was a true white. This is a big deal if you want to share an image on a website or blog, because if the background is not true white, you end up with this weird border around the picture. I referred to Mary Jo's suggestion to use the Curves function of Photoshop, but while I managed to brighten the background I also brightened the entire image and made a mess of things. So I went on a little internet journey and came across a tutorial from PHLEARN, How to Make a Pure White Background in Photoshop

I am a Photoshop dummy.  I watched the video in little 20 second segments, trying to carefully follow the instructions. Back and forth (yes, I know you  can split the screen, but I was already struggling). The steps involved a layer I've never used before - Threshold - and a layer style called blend diff. The instructor might as well have been speaking a foreign language, but I hung in there with him.

And I finally got it.

Thank you, Mary Jo.

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