Loré de Orne

Time for another entry in Friday Fictioneers challenge, courtesy of Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. If you want to give it a try, check the info on her blog. 100 words more or less, inspired by a photo, here we go….


 Copyright –  Sandra Crook

“You’ve never been to France? Then why did you give her that name? Loré…it is such a strange name.”

My mother was rarely fazed by unkind questions.

It was a special talent of hers, a secret weapon that she passed down to me, this ability to ignore rudeness and shush people with just a smile.

“Because she is a ray of light and a splash of color in the murkiness of my life.”

Years later she held me close and whispered in my ear: “You saved me, my little sunshine.”

I wish I could have done more.


September #One Four Challenge – Finale

…or what I like to call “What I’ve learned this month”.

At the beginning of the month I explained how I wanted to go back to my very first after/before image that I submitted to Stacy’s ABF Forum in June 2014. My intention was to see how much I’ve learned in the last year.

Week 1 is my edit from the last year and when I see it today, I cringe a little. Which is ok, because that means only one thing, right? My skills improved big time!

 Week 1

Week 1

Not so quick…although it is true I know more to recognize that this was a bad edit, that doesn’t mean much. Why? Because I know what I want to do, but I don’t know how to do it. Week 2 is a great example for this, with my unsuccessful merge of two images.

 Week 2

Week 2

As I am too lazy to finally learn how to properly do layers in GIMP, I went the other way and imported my own cloud image as a texture through PicMonkey. The problem is that the texture goes over the original image, so the clouds looked great in the water reflection, but not so good over the statues and the trees. But what I like about Week 2 is that I didn’t ruin the original image, it looks smooth and the statues are relatively sharp.

In week 3, I continued to work on the merge of two images and was slightly more succesful.

 Week 3

Week 3

I managed to clean the statues, but I made a horrible job on the trees. At this point I need to remind you this is a scan of a paper photo, so there were some visible lines at the corners of the trees. I tried to mask that by darkening those parts, but I lost the character of the trees, all that is left is this black wall. And what about the hue of the statues? They look like a highschool girl who used a face powder for the first time. In this case, orange is not the new black.

So I said to myself: You can do it. Just work a little bit harder and put more time and effort into your last edit. You’ll see, it will turn out great.”

SeptemberOneFour4Few things…Firstly, when you do a project like this one, four edits over four weeks and you want to combine two images into one, remember which freaking images you used the first time! I used different cloud image on all the edits, because I couldn’t remember which one I used the week before. I mean, seriously…who does that?

Secondly, always take at least two days to edit an image. Trust me, don’t trust your self with one day. Last night I thought I was a genius for creating this magnificent edit. Today, I opened up the image and said: What the #%&$? I managed to fix few things here and there, but this is far from that beautiful edit I was seeing last night. Which brings me to my third point/thing/whatever…

Stop. There is only so much you can do. That’s what went wrong with the last edit. I was sharpening, softening, burning, darkening, lightning, contouring, shadowing…no wonder my eyes were so confused. Don’t get me wrong, there are parts I like. I think the trees look best of all edits, the clouds are great, the water was never an issue…but I ruined the statues with my tinkering. No big deal, just the central piece of the image.

My favorite edit would be the smoothness of week 2 combined with the statues of week 3 (in a different color of orange) combined with everything else from week 4.

There is a right way to do this. Ok, there are two right ways to do this. 😛 The best way would be if there actually were clouds when I took this image. Beautiful blue sky with fluffy white clouds, just waiting there, because they knew I was there. Alas, as with all things in life, I ended up with this version. Ok, there are more than two right ways to do this. One more way is not to choose a paper scan for editing, go digital. Make your life easier. Finally, learn how to use editing programs. Don’t do this half-way, backward thing I am doing.  Find on-line tutorials, buy a book, ask your fellow bloggers…Learn!!! Be sure to learn new things the proper way.

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For all of you that will jump to my defense and say I am too harsh on myself…I am counting on you, people!!! My ego needs you.

bestThat’s it for this edition of One Four Challenge. October is closing in so fast and as usual, I have no idea what to do. Maybe I should challenge myself to finally learn doing all the crazy things you people do so effortlessly…

GKBVDAJUQlCcR5EuyipM_Dog No Fetch

Or not…At least I have this gif thing working for me. :)

Remember, you are welcome to joins us in our weekly fun or just be so kind and check other OFC participants by checking the tag “onefourchallenge” in your WP Reader and Robyn’s blog Captivate Me.


September #One Four Challenge – Week 3

It’s 11:00 PM and after 3 hours of trying to produce a decent Week 3 edit, I am done. Half-way between “I give up” and “I gave my best”, there is not much else I can do.

Using a scanned photo and editing with PicMonkey and PixlrExpress, this is probably the best version I could come up with. My approach this week was more careful, trying to choose the best cloud image to merge with the original. I wish the end result to be more clear, but the problem is the original. Since it is a paper scan, I had to deal with lines in the corners. Sharpening and cleaning the image only exposed them more, so there was a fine balance to be achieved here. In the end, I think there is an improvement from my last years edit.

Last week a fellow blogger Victoria Feathers asked me how I replaced the sky, because she was interested to do that by using free editing sites. So, I will explain it how I did it using PicMonkey (that is a free online editing site). There is a better way to do that by using GIMP (another free editing program), but I have a love/hate relationship with it and still haven’t learned to properly use it.

First step is to go to Picmonkey and open the photo you want to edit. Then go to Textures and Your Own (see those cleverly placed red arrows?).


Once you are there, click on “Open my textures”.


Once there, select files that contains your images of clouds. (Clouds=Oblaci in Croatian)


Choose an image that will best suit your original image. This one is tricky, because it is not easy to blend two images, so you will probably go through dozens before you find the one that looks good. So, my advice is to go out and take as many images of clouds as you can, in different weather conditions. There is never too many clouds!


When you choose your cloud image, the result looks something like this. You can move the cloud image over your original to better fit it. Be sure to check that little box “Keep proportions”. As you can see, the initial result is not looking that great, so there is much work to do if you want the images to blend better.

Screenshot_5Play around with exposure, colors, softness, sharpness..I imported the blended image into another free online editing program called PixlrExpress, where I used tools to darken or lighten parts of the image, used some gradient filters to accentuate the sky and the reflections. Basically, I played around until I got something I liked.

Again, there is a much better way to do it by using layers (you can do that both with GIMP and PixlrExpress) and I can’t believe it takes me forever to learn it. But, when I start looking at the tutorials, I am like…..zzzzz….falling asleep and drooling over my keyboard. Not the prettiest sight in the world.

Hope this brilliant presentation of my editing process helps. At least I hope you liked my little red arrows and circles, I really went all the way. 😛

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I have no idea what I’ll do for the last week, but maybe the inspiration strucks me and I do some amazing, over the top edit that will look like it is made for the National Geographic cover. Yep, that’s me…delusional as ever.


Joins us in our weekly fun or just be so kind and check other OFC participants by checking the tag “onefourchallenge” in your WP Reader and Robyn’s blog Captivate Me.


September #One Four Challenge – Week 2

First of all, I would like to apologize to my fellow bloggers for not visiting your blogs over the last 10 days. I injured my back, so I am resting as much as possible. Further more, my Berta had a surgery today, removing a benign tumor from her leg and she demands all my attention. I hope this week I’ll manage to visit you all.

As the result of the circumstances described above, my week 2 edit is a half attempt at something. I have an idea, but managed to do just a bit of it using PicMonkey and PixlrExpress. I replaced the sky with one of my own sky images, but I am still to learn layers. That’s why the image is half done, but I do hope I’ll improve it in weeks 3 and 4. SeptemberOneFour2It seems my original idea of improving an earlier edit evolved again. Now my goal is to work on the same idea for the rest of the month, hopefully achieving something good at the end. That means there wont be any new versions, but the continuation of this one. Funny how things turn out.

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As always, be so kind and check other OFC participants by checking the tag “onefourchallenge” in your WP Reader and Robyn’s blog Captivate Me.


September #One Four Challenge – Week 1

When it comes to One Four Challenge, it’s all about the right image. You want to choose one that will give you most inspiration. Or challenge. I spent my August searching for the image and here I was, none the wiser. Then I got an idea.

Bassin d'Apollon, Versailles

This was my very first image for Stacey’s ABF Forum, from last July. I was new to all this editing stuff, it was quite a challenge to choose an image to work on. Back then, I thought I did a good job. Especially since this is a scan of the paper photo. I decided to play with this image in September OPF, to see if I learned new things and whether I can do it better.

For week 1 I am sharing my edit from the last year, so you can compare my skills before and now. (There will probably be no difference 😛 )

Bassin d'Apollon, Versailles

Occupying the site of Rondeau/Bassin des Cygnes of Louis XIII, the Apollo Fountain was constructed between 1668 and 1671. Charles Le Brun designed the centerpiece depicting the Greek god Apollo rising from the sea in a four-horse chariot to light the sky. A pond was dug on the site of the fountain in 1639 called “The Pond of the Swans”. When King Louis XIV of France had it enlarged in 1671, the pond’s east-west orientation and the common association of the King with Apollo prompted Charles Le Brun to suggest dedicating the site to Apollo. The fountain forms a focal point in the garden and serves as a transitional element between the gardens of the Petit Parc and the Grand Canal.

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As always, be so kind and check other OFC participants by checking the tag “onefourchallenge” in your WP Reader and Robyn’s blog Captivate Me.</h4

A Builder’s Dream

Time for another entry in Friday Fictioneers challenge, courtesy of Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. If you want to give it a try, check the info on her blog. 100 words more or less, inspired by a photo, here we go….


 Copyright –   Sandra Crook

May the 17th, 1325.

It is done. After so many years, it is hard to believe the last stone is in its place. I grew up and grew old building my church. Someday the whiteness of the walls will turn into different shades of gray and the roof tiles will lose their boldness.

But I hope the pointed arches and the ribbed vaults will survive and serve as mementos when my time is long forgotten.

I hope someone will stand here thousand years from now and think: They were capable of greatness, after all.

That would be enough.

Pierre de Chelles


A little bit of investigation and a big stretch of my imagination brought me this story. When I figured out it is the photo of Cathédrale Saint-Bénigne de Dijon, it took me to the 13th and 14th century France. I found the notes that Pierre de Chelles may have been a son or nephew of Jean de Chelles, master mason and sculptor who was one of the architects at the Cathedral of Nôtre Dame de Paris. There are no records of actual builders of Cathédrale Saint-Bénigne de Dijon, but I stretched it and stretched it and connected it to my story.


La tour Eiffel

Today, The Eiffel tower celebrates its 126th birthday. It was named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower. Erected in 1889. as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair, it was initially criticized by some of France’s leading artists and intellectuals for its design, but has become both a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world

The main structural work was completed at the end of March 1889 and on the 31st Eiffel celebrated this by leading a group of government officials, accompanied by representatives of the press, to the top of the tower. Since the lifts were not yet in operation, the ascent was made by foot, and took over an hour.

snowsfissuresandfracturesMMC2-4Eiffel had a permit for the tower to stand for 20 years; it was to be dismantled in 1909, when its ownership would revert to the City of Paris. The City had planned to tear it down (part of the original contest rules for designing a tower was that it should be easy to demolish) but as the tower proved valuable for communication purposes it was allowed to remain after the expiry of the permit. Several years later, during World War I, the Eiffel Tower intercepted enemy radio communications, relayed zeppelin alerts and was used to dispatch emergency troop reinforcements.

It escaped destruction a second time during World War II: Hitler initially ordered the demolition of the city’s most cherished symbol, but the command was never carried out. Also during the German occupation of Paris, French resistance fighters famously cut the Eiffel Tower’s elevator cables so that the Nazis had to climb the stairs.

Now one of the most recognizable structures on the planet, the Eiffel Tower underwent a major facelift in 1986 and is repainted every seven years. It welcomes more visitors than any other paid monument in the world—an estimated 7 million people per year.

I visited Paris in September 2000. This photo was taken in broad daylight, with an old  Minolta camera and this is actually a scan. It was a cloudy day and the sky was overexposed, with no hope of improvement. So, I made it a night scene. A fun fact – a special lighting display on the tower is under copyright, meaning that all night images of Eiffel Tower are not to be published without permission in France and some other countries. Yes, I cheated. 😛

I was late for this week’s edition of Monochrome Madness Challenge, but you should check other great entries on Leanne’s blog Leanne Cole PHOTOGRAPHY.


Night And Day You Are The One…

…Only you beneath the moon or under the sun
Whether near to me or far
It’s no matter, darling, where you are
I think of you day and night

ABF Forum is on a holiday break. But that doesn’t mean I am. So, while our American and Canadian friends are feasting and spending time with their loved ones, I am typing this post while I am still working. But it’s Friday afternoon, a new weekend is almost here, so I am allowed to cut  corners.

I discovered a new feature in PicMonkey, nice transparent layers that you can add to the background of your images. Some features are free, for some you need to pay . I needed the one that was not free. 😛



If I remember correctly, I visited Paris in the fall of 2000. We had such a lousy weather, cloudy, hot, high humidity. So I ended up with collection of really poor images. We were shooting with analog Minolta and I remembered it was a good quality camera.

Two of the images I already worked with and posted on my blog. One was for the ABF Forum, Bassin d’Apollon in Versailles. It was at the beginning of my editing journey and from today’s perspective, it was a poor editing job. The other was Gargoyle on top of the Notre Dame, which I submitted for this week’s Monochrome Madness.

All of the images are scanned paper photographs, that is visible in the bottom right corner of the image above, you can see some lines there, paper texture.



My first idea was to replace the sky. I tried to do it in GIMP and I figured it out. But the problem was there were too many “white” parts in the tower grid and in the trees. I remembered something from the PicMonkey, so I opened the image there. Under the textures I located “Clouds” and used a regular blue one. It was a perfect fit. But, clouds cost money. And I am not interested in upgrading PicMonkey. So, the next best (free) thing was “Space” texture. It was not a perfect fit, but I liked it.

It took some additional work in adjusting exposure and color, using several different layers, but in the end I got what I wanted.

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I hope you like my little experiment, maybe this will inspire some of you to try PicMonkey, it is really a cute little program,

Next week ABF is back in its usual form, participants submitting their individual after/before images.

But next year brings some changes. As some of you noticed, we had a fun little experiment few weeks ago, when all the participants edited one single image. We had so much fun,  we decided to do that once a month. So, starting January 9th next year, first Friday of the month will be reserved for that special event – one image for all participants to play with.

If you want to join us, keep an eye for our posts in the weeks to come, we will supply you with all the info you need.

On Monday another challenge starts – December One Four Challenge. I think you noticed how much fun I had with November One Four Challenge, so expect some fun and crazy Christmas things to come.

Enjoy your weekend! ♥


Lost In Time

I saw a documentary last week, about John Wesley Powell and his  famous 1869 Powell Geographic Expedition, a three-month river trip down the Green and Colorado rivers, including the first known passage through the Grand Canyon.

It was on the Second Expedition that the Powell hired photographer, E. O. Beaman, to take landscape photography (including stereoscopy). Beaman quit the survey in January 1872 and Powell hired another photographer, James Fennemore. Powell also hired an oarsman, John (Jack) K. Hillers who volunteered as an assistant to both photographers. Hillers learned the techniques of photography in the field and went on to complete the photographic mission of what became known simply as the Powell Survey.

You are probably wondering what that little history lesson has to do with this week’s Monochrome Madness entry. I blame it all on stereoscopy. Or as we call it these days 3D imaging.


Looking at those old 3D images of Powel expedition inspired me to try to recreate something similarly old-fashioned. This is the image of a gargoyle on the top of Notre Dame, with the city of Paris in the background. It was taken 14 years ago with an old Minolta film camera, I can’t remember the model. So, this is actually a scanned paper photo.

As usual, I can’t remember all the steps I took. I processed the image in PicMonkey, cropped it just a little bit, adjusted brightness and contrast, found just the right shade of sepia, picked a subtle vignette that would complement the image…My final step was applying Focal Soften, but only on the part of the background. The trick was to get the right radius, so I could fake a 3D effect. Considering my limited knowledge and the fact I was using PicMonkey, I am very pleased with the final result.

As always, I would like to thank Leanne Cole, the hostess of the Monochrome Madness Challenge. You can check more monochrome images on her blog Leanne Cole PHOTOGRAPHY. If you want to join us in our weekly fun, you’ll find all the necessary details there too.