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Photo Art – Steppin’ Out

My latest offering is of a photo I took in Boca Chica in the Dominican Republic about ten years ago of a few of my baseball academy students with some of their friends. I threw in a few textures and some other things, played around with the lighting and blend modes, and, voila.

Steppin' Out

These guys and their friends are going for a cruise around the area in a car that one of them rented for the afternoon.

The school has been on break for about a month now, but we start up again next week. My time is going to be limited, so I’d better try to put out a few more pieces of art before then, so, as always, more later.

Photo Art – Buddha Pranksters

Here’s my latest offering of photo art, a composite of some photos I’ve taken in a few of the nearby Buddhist temples. Now, let me say right at the start that this creation is not meant to be sacrilegious. As a matter of fact, the monk statue on the right, along with a half a dozen others like it, has been standing for at least a couple of years in a temple near where I used to live . Whether it was “dressed” by the monks in the temple or by local people, I don’t know. However, it shows the whimsy sometimes inherent in the culture. The monk statue on the left was given sunglasses by yours truly.

I found the big laughing Buddha in an out-of-the-way temple that was half in ruins and overgrown by vegetation in some areas. Parts of it are attended to, and there are also some repairs being made to the main building, though it didn’t look like anyone had worked on it for a while.

The Buddha is not in the main building, but is in a smaller outbuilding, and when you first come upon it, it’s kind of a surprise. After a few seconds, it’s hard not to laugh or at least smile at the expression on it’s face.

I’m not quite satisfied with the art yet, so I’ll probably tweak it some more and post the results here. Enjoy.

Buddha pranksters having fun in the temple.

Having fun in the temple.

[EDIT] Version 2: Made a few changes to the monk on the right so that it doesn’t have such a “pasted in” appearance.

Buddha pranksters having fun in the temple.

Having fun in the temple, v2.

[EDIT] Version 3: I put the right hand monk behind the Buddha to give the composition a bit more of a 3D feel and I gave it a bit lighter look.

Buddha pranksters having fun in the temple.

Having fun in the temple, v3.

Photo Art – Homeland

This one is part of the Weekly Challenge series from my Photoshop Art course. This is the Week 2 Challenge. I won’t go into all the constraints of the challenge. The focus is to create something using minimum resources and using specific techniques. In this one, I had to use a couple of specific textures, only two of my photos, an edge effect, and a few other items.

The photos I used are a shot of Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park and a photo of a young Native American from a visit to a pow-wow near Flathead Lake in Montana. I think I took both of these in 2008.

This one I’m titling “Homeland.” Hope you like it.

P.S. Once I get enough of these photos completed, I’ll set up a Gallery page for them.

Photo Art Homeland

Another Photo Art composition: Homeland

Photo Art – On the Beach

My latest Photoshop Artistry course image is called “On the Beach.” This photo was done for a weekly challenge, of which there are many, but it’s the first one I’ve done (Weekly Challenge One). For the challenges, you are given a set of guidelines on what to use in your composition. For example, in this one I could only use one or two of my photos, and I had to incorporate a couple of textures, another specific grunge texture file, and a vector file, all free course content (and royalty-free). I also had to use a “Painting With Light” technique in Photoshop.

The two photos I used were from a vacation in Thailand several years ago. One photo is the beach scene (beach, chairs and ocean) and the other is the background island. I’m really having fun with this, but there’s a long way to go and lots to learn. Enjoy.

beach_chair2web

Photo Art – Buddha Statue

Here’s my newest photo art composition. It’s a photo I took in Luang Prabang, Laos, back in 2006. Here’s the original.

img_4620web

The remake, so to speak, includes a background image of part of the Pleiades star cluster. I downloaded this image from Pixabay, a stock photo website that offers free downloads of royalty-free images. Great site. Here’s the photo art. I think the title should be “Buddha in the Cosmos.” What do you think?

buddha_in_the_cosmos2

Of course, I’m still learning about all of this and I have a long way to go. But, it’s a life-time course, available at any time. I hope to have several more art photos, at least, in the next few weeks. Let me know what you think. More later.

Photo Art–Mamounia Hotel

This is my second try at creating photo art from learning sessions at Photoshop Artistry, which I wrote about in my previous post. This is the famous Mamounia Hotel in Marrakech, Morocco, a shot that I took back in 2005. The first photo below is the original, which is kind of bland. The second is the “artistic version.” The clouds were added from a Laos photo I took earlier this year. I added some background texture from the PA course, and I did a little tweaking in Photoshop. I’m still such a beginner at this stuff; I’ve got a lot to learn. The beauty of the course is that I have all the time I need–it’s a lifetime membership. We’ve got a 5-week break from school coming up beginning next week, so I’m really going to be spending a lot of time with this. I’ll have some more art to post later.

Mamounia_1

mamounia_4web

Photo Art

I recently joined an art photography online training course, “Photoshop Artistry.” (PA) So far, this course has been exceptional. I’ve been learning so much about how to use Photoshop to enhance photos and to bring them to the next artistic level, a level that goes way beyond what I might have been capable of doing. At a basic level, it’s about manipulating photos, but it’s so much more than that. At an advanced level, it’s about creating art.

I’m just scratching the surface of this unique, interesting, FUN course. It cost me a few bucks for the basic course, but there’s an even more advanced offshoot, Awake, which only opens up a few times a year for membership, and it costs even more than PA. I was fortunate enough to get into that course as well. It’s completely worth it.

So, I hope to post some (or all) of my efforts here for your perusal. There’s also a magazine associated with this group. It’s called “Living the Photo Artistic Life.” Check it out and see what you think. I hope to have at least one of my creations accepted into the magazine. But, I’ve got a long way to go before that’s going to happen.

Here’s my first, rudimentary try. It’s a self-portrait I took in Korea several years ago. I’ve added a few features to turn it into something different. I’m still trying to think of a good title for it. The first photo is the original.

Myself in red

Red Ron

Seeking Salvation

My first attempt at Photo Artistry. What do you think? Long ways to go before I’m even slightly proficient at this. Came up with a title for it.
“Seeking Salvation”

[EDIT: I might keep making some adjustments to it until it suits me.]

Rainy Season Arrives in Force

The days and weeks of rain are definitely here. We had a couple inches of rain last Sunday, and there are about four inches in the forecast for today and tomorrow. It’s been raining steadily since last night, and everything is quite wet, of course.

It’s cozy and dry inside the new house, but outside it’s a different story. The house is built up from the ground by a couple of feet, so parking our motorbikes in the large kitchen area out of the rain (and away from potential thieves) is a bit of a chore. The owner first built a wooden ramp that we used to get the bikes inside, but it was too narrow. The first time I tried to ride up it, I fell off and my bike fell on top of me. Fortunately, no damage was done to either the bike or me. Nai tried to ride up it, but he had a heck of a time getting in the door.

So, we asked the owner to come up with an alternative, if he could. He piled up a truckload of dirt that is much easier to get up and get into the house. (See the picture I took in a prior post. Look to the left side of the house, in the back.) Unfortunately, when it rains the dirt turns into a quagmire of gumbo. When I came back from work last night, I parked the bike outside and went in the house through the front door. First, though, I took off my wet shoes (I forgot to take my sandals with me) that got soaked from riding to the house through the sometimes-heavy rain. Luckily, I had my poncho with me, so I didn’t get too wet, except for the shoes. I went to the back area and put on my sandals, unlocked the back door, went back out the front door, grabbed the bike and pushed it through the gumbo, giving it some gas in second gear to help it along, and up the dirt into the house.

Unfortunately, my sandals got caked with at least two inches of mud on the bottom, so I felt like I was walking in high heels. The motorbike tires were in equal straits. I cleaned the sandals this morning, but the tires will only get clean as I ride to work today.

Nai’s going to ask the owner to try to come up with another solution. The wooden ramp would work fine if only he’d make it wider. The owner, Kay, is a great guy, so I’m sure he’ll come up with something. Until then, we’ll just have to hope for some sun later in the week.

Muddy path

This doesn’t look too bad, but it’s very soft. It’s not like quicksand–it’s more like “quickmud.”

Muddy tire

This will be rough riding until the mud sloughs off on the paved road. Until then, though, going out and down the back ramp is going to increase the mud build-up. Hope I don’t get stuck!

My First UFO

It’s been very hot this week with high temperatures around 100F (38C) and the humidity has been high. Some mornings I wake up and I’m already sweating. Until last night there had been no sign of thunderstorms and rain, which would cool things off a bit, for a while. But, we had a very violent storm come through from the north yesterday evening around 7 o’clock. There was little rain, but lots of high wind and lightning. I thought the roof of the house was going to get torn off, and, though there were no nearby strikes, the lightning was flickering all around us, enough so that I probably could have read a book by the light.

I sat on the front porch, which faces south and was somewhat sheltered, enjoying the relative coolness that the storm brought. As I watched the clouds zipping along, I noticed a pale, silver wedge, shaped like a boomerang and somewhat blurred, going in the opposite direction, toward the north, against the strong wind. It couldn’t have been at a great altitude because it reflected the lighting from the street lamps. It raced past almost directly overhead and became obscured by the house. I thought about running to the back of the house to see if I could catch a glimpse of it, but I remembered the back door was locked and it would have taken some time to get my keys and unlock the door, by which time the object would have been long gone.

What was it? It came out of the south from the general direction of Thailand. Is the Thai or Lao military testing a flying wing? Just kidding, as neither of them has the resources, the technology or the know-how to even begin to think about doing something like that. I don’t have a clue about what the object was, so I’m going to chalk it up as my very first glimpse of a UFO.

Calling it a UFO doesn’t mean it was some kind of extra-terrestrial space craft; it just means that it was something flying that I couldn’t identify. A flock of birds, maybe? A rogue cloud? Some kind of weird lightning? I give it a shoulder shrug. UFO.

Drawing

This is something I drew in Photoshop earlier. It kind of resembles the object that I saw. Same brightness,
blurry look.

New House, New Location

The school has been closed since April 8th, but we go back to work this week, with a teachers’ workshop on Thursday and regular classes on Friday and Saturday. I’ll be quite happy to be starting up again. The break has seemed interminable with several “disasters” punctuating the time off.

First, my computer crashed and I had to get Windows reinstalled. Unfortunately, I lost some data and applications that I hadn’t backed up, but, thankfully, most of the important data (photos, documents, etc.) were saved. Then I had trouble with my debit card at the ATM and had to straighten that out. A few nights ago, Nai had an altercation with a couple of guys who tried to rob him and he got knocked around pretty badly, but seems to be OK. He told me he gave as good as he got. The cops arrested the thugs. A few other nuisance situations also occurred to make this a less than enjoyable break.

On a more positive note, though, I’ve moved into a, literally, new house in a new location. I’m the first one to live here and the owner is still upgrading the surrounding “yard.” (Not so much a yard as a weed patch; he hauled in a bunch of dirt to cover a lot of it, and I hope he plans to add some real grass.)

Here’s why I made the move. The old place, which I used to think was paradisaical, had gradually been degraded over the last year. The owner took out the entirety of the banana grove that had surrounded the house, erected fences that encompass the land, and started raising goats. Goats, goats and more goats. There were 13 of them on the tract that the house is on, and they had free run of the place, meaning that they crapped and urinated everywhere when I couldn’t chase them off–on the front porch and the concrete walkway surrounding the house and anywhere else they could find. The smell was atrocious and the noise they made destroyed the tranquility of the place. Not to mention that the neighbors had some parties at which they used huge concert-appropriate speakers and amps and cranked up the music until it was pulsing through your body; you couldn’t escape the noise and it was impossible to sleep or to even carry on a conversation. It was like a torture chamber. A few times I just gave up and rented a guesthouse room in Vientiane for the night. Then the owner said he wanted me out by May 1st because he wanted to move back into the house. Absolutely. No. Problem.

So, Nai found this new place and it’s much nicer than what the other place had become. It’s 30 minutes closer to town and I don’t have to ride my motorbike over that completely sh**ty dirt road leading to the village. For that reason alone, I am grateful to have made the move. The house is located about 100 yards off the main road that runs between Vientiane and the border crossing between Laos and Thailand. It’s a bit noisy at times, being located near a couple of karaoke restaurants, but it’s not that bad. It’s a heavily traveled road, so the traffic noise can be disturbing. However, the karaokes are good neighbors and close when they’re legally supposed to close (11:30 pm), which not all similar places do, and the traffic settles down at night.

I was disappointed, though, when I found that the device I was using in the countryside to connect to the internet rarely works at all here. I thought I would have better reception, being closer to town, but most days I can’t connect at all. Lo and behold, there’s an internet cafe which has extremely good, fast internet right in front of the house on the main road. Not only that, since I’m near the main road, one of the local internet providers is going to run a fiber optic line to the house in a couple of weeks, so I’ll have my own connection, always on. Hooray! It costs about $37 a month and I hope it’s worth it.

Of course, since the house was unfurnished, I’ve been spending money hand over fist buying furniture and what-not for it. (Another good reason to be getting back to work, earning money again.) We hired a pick-up truck to haul our other stuff (refrigerator, stove, bed, personal items) here. There are still a few more items I have to purchase, so more money will be leaving the coffers before all is said and done. Oh, yes, the old place cost $50 a month; this one is $200. But, I guess that’s the price to pay for leaving “paradise.”

The beneficial things about living here are that it’s much closer to Vientiane, it’s on a paved road and I’ll have a nice internet connection. Being closer to the city, I’ll probably be much more inclined to go to the movie theater or to take in some cultural events on the weekends.

Not beneficial–the cost and the noise (at times). Mostly, however, the noise won’t be a problem since I’ll be at work during the day and into the early part of the night. So far, it’s not been a big problem.

We’ll see how this new place works out. I signed a six-month lease, so I’ll have lots of time to either get to like it or to hate it. More later.

House

This is a view of the front of the house. In the back there’s a very large field (see previous post), and behind me and to the right of the house there are some other houses-not too close, but not much to see. To the left of this photo are some fish ponds. See the next photo.

Pond

Here’s one view of the fish pond. There’s another larger one beyond it. Yes, it is stocked with fish, which the vendor in front of us grills and sells. I might end up stuffing my self too often.

Pond

Here’s another view of the pond.