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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.

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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.
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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?).

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

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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One Four Challenge – At The Movies

I had the time of my life editing this image, those four Mondays in June flew by in a blink of an eye. This is one of my favorite images I ever took. Probably because I really like how the original turned out, so I wasn’t concerned in improving it. I just let my imagination hop in the driving seat and enjoyed the ride.

 Original

Original

It was a fun journey, inspired by my love for movies. I imagined Thor descending from the sky, Hulk tearing down the tower, James Cagney yelling from the top of his lungs, King Kong trying to catch that plane…

Still searching for my September image, I wish I could find one that would give me this mush pleasure.

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On Quiet Walks

I am still searching for my September One Four subject….it eludes me for now, but I hope something will surprise me.

For now, I am looking over my images, experimenting with different editing choices, trying to create a certain atmosphere. This set of images were taken while I was on my walks with Berta, it surprised me how many different animals I managed to capture.

My quest continues, I wonder where I’ll land next Monday. But I guess, that is the beauty of every journey.

By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.

-Christopher Columbus

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One Four Challenge – Behind the Scenes

As promised last week, I am taking you behind the scenes of June and July One Four Challenge. I did not participate in May challenge, because I was too busy running around Milan, enjoying my vacation.

July One Four Challenge

My July image of this cat was taken in the courtyard of Castello Sforzesco, in city of Milan, Italy. The castle was built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, on the remains of a 14th-century fortification. Later renovated and enlarged, in the 16th and 17th centuries it was one of the largest citadels in Europe. Extensively rebuilt by Luca Beltrami in 1891–1905, it now houses several of the city’s museums and art collections.

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The castle in the 16th century

The original construction was ordered by local lord Galeazzo II Visconti in 1358–c. 1370. this castle was known as Castello di Porta Giova (or Porta Zubia), from the name of a gate in walls located nearby. His successors Gian Galeazzo, Giovanni Maria and Filippo Maria Visconti enlarged it, until it became a square-plan castle with 200 m-long sides, four towers at the corners and up to 7 m-thick walls. The castle was the main residence in the city of its Visconti lords, and was destroyed by the short-lived Golden Ambrosian Republic which ousted them in 1447.

In 1450, Francesco Sforza, once he shattered the republicans, began reconstruction of the castle to turn it into his princely residence. In 1452 he hired sculptor and architect Filarete to design and decorate the central tower, which is still known as Torre del Filarete. After Francesco’s death, the construction was continued by his son Galeazzo Maria, under architect Benedetto Ferrini. The decoration was executed by local painters. In 1476, during the regency of Bona of Savoy, the tower with her name was built.

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Main entrance

In 1494 Ludovico Sforza became lord of Milan, and called numerous artists to decorate the castle. These include Leonardo da Vinci (who frescoed several rooms, in collaboration with Bernardino Zenale and Bernardino Butinone) and Bramante, who painted frescoes in the Sala del Tesoro; the Sala della Balla was decorated with Francesco Sforza’s deeds. Around 1498, Leonardo worked at the ceiling of the Sala delle Asse, painting decorations of vegetable motifs. In the following years, however, the castle was damaged by assaults from Italian, French and German troops; a bastion, known as tenaglia was added, perhaps designed by Cesare Cesariano.

After the French victory in the 1515 Battle of Marignano, the defeated Maximilian Sforza, his Swiss mercenaries, and the cardinal-bishop of Sion retreated into the castle. However, King Francis I of France followed them into Milan, and his sappers placed mines under the castle’s foundations, whereupon the defenders capitulated. In 1521, in a period in which it was used as a weapons depot, the Torre del Filarete exploded. When Francesco II Sforza returned briefly to power in Milan, he had the fortress restored and enlarged, and a part of it adapted as residence for his wife, Christina of Denmark.

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Beautiful courtyard in full bloom

Under the Spanish domination which followed, the castle became a citadel, as the governor’s seat was moved to the Ducal Palace (1535). Its garrison varied from 1,000 to 3,000 men, led by a Spanish castellan. In 1550 works began to adapt the castle to modern fortification style, as a hexagon (originally pentagon)-shaped star fort, following the addition of 12 bastions. The external fortifications reached 3 km in length and covered an area of 25.9 hectares. The castle remained in use as a fort also after the Spaniards were replaced by the Austrians in Lombardy.

Outer castle walls

Most of the outer fortifications were demolished during the period of Napoleonic rule in Milan under the Cisalpine Republic. The semi-circular Piazza Castello was constructed around the city side of the castle, surrounded by a radial street layout of new urban blocks bounded by the Foro Buonoparte. The area on the “country” side of the castle was laid out as a vast 700m by 700m square parade ground known as Piazza d’Armi.

After the unification of Italy in the 19th century, the castle was transferred from military use to the city of Milan. Parco Sempione, one of the largest parks in the city, was created on the former parade grounds.

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I have no idea what kind of flower this is

The government of Milan undertook restoration works, directed by Luca Beltrami. The Via Dante was cut through the medieval street layout in the 1880s to provide a direct promenade between the castle and the Duomo on axis with the main gate. The central tower,  Torre del Filarete, above the main city entrance was rebuilt, on the basis of 16th century drawings, between 1900 and 1905, as a monument to King Umberto I.

Allied bombardment of Milan in 1943 during World War II severely damaged the castle. The post-war reconstruction of the building for museum purposes was undertaken by the BBPR architectural partnership.

Being one of the main attractions, it is swarmed with tourists.  So, my goal was to show you all the quiet little spots where I spent my time collecting my thoughts. And stalking poor, unsuspecting cats.

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One poor unsuspecting cat

On the north side the castle opens up to Parco Sempione, a beautiful large area full of secluded spots for an afternoon rest.  Once you enter the castle, it feels like you are transported years back.  It is very large, but inviting place, full of hidden treasures, especially in the castle museums.

The most interesting is the Museum of Ancient Art (Civiche Raccolta d’Arte Antica), which is displayed in the ducal apartments, some of which are frescoed by Leonardo da Vinci. Included in the collection are early paleo-Christian sculptures, the superb equestrian tomb of Bernarbò Visconti and sculpted reliefs depicting Milan’s triumph over Barbarossa. The exhibit eloquently tells the story of the birth of Italy’s first city commune through murderous dynastic and regional ambitions, which made this one of the most powerful courts in Europe.

On the 1st floor the Museo dei Mobile (Furniture Museum) and Pinacoteca (Picture Gallery) blend seamlessly, leading you from ducal wardrobes and writing desks through to a collection of Lombard Gothic art. Among the masterpieces are Andrea Mantegna’s Trivulzio Madonna, Vincenzo Foppa’s St Sebastian and Bramantino’s Noli me tangere (Touch me not).

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Entrance from Parco Sempione

Even after much time spent in and around castle, there is so much to explore.  For me the best were the animals…cats lazily sprawled everywhere, birds hoping close without fear…I saw a reflection of history in them. Like they wanted to tell me:

Beware, lone traveler…you are standing  in a place  of history that came  long before you and it will tell  endless  stories long after you are gone. And we…we are the guardians. So, take your memories and leave nothing behind.

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Guardian of the Galaxy caught in the afternoon nap