Magical Africa

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I am thrilled to have my biography and African fine art images published on the website of an Italian art college. The article is written in Italian, but the way they have presented the images is beautiful. Pop over and check it out!

www.cultor.org

 

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New Gallery of all Artwork from My Nairobi Exhibition

After the almost complete sell-out at my fine art exhibit in Nairobi last month I have received numerous requests for additional prints. To make it easier to choose which images you want printed, just click on the link below to go directly to a gallery collection of all the images that I had on display at the exhibit.

Nairobi Fine Art Exhibition Image Gallery

I have also incorporated a secure shopping site where you can purchase these images in a variety of formats. FineArtAmerica.com is an innovative company that provides a wide range of photographic products and services. They offer a variety of frames and matts, metal and canvas prints, and greetings cards. Their products are superb quality. They have a 30 day money back guarantee and world-wide shipping.

Here is a link to go directly to my secure shopping site.

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Nairobi Show a Huge Success

art show visitors

Thanks so much to all who helped make my show and sale in Nairobi this weekend a huge success. On Thursday we hung 99 framed images. By closing on Sunday afternoon only five had not been sold. This exceeded my wildest expectations! I had my printer there and people also bought dozens of prints. I was able to cover all of my costs and donate 200,000 Kenyan schillings ($2,400) to our designated charity Care of Creation.

Here is a link to an album of candid pictures of the exhibition at the Sarit Centre in Nairobi, Kenya:
Nairobi exhibition candids album

And this link shows how the framed artwork was displayed in the Expo Hall:
Nairobi exhibition artwork displays album

 

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My Artist’s Statement

The world is charged with the grandeur of God. My goal as an artist is to seek out the beauty that has been packed in to the natural world and draw attention to it.

Mike at art exhibitYears of study and training have instilled in me a visual awareness of the world around me. Quality and direction of light, highlights and shadows, lines, forms, and textures, subjects and backgrounds.  These are the fundamental elements of composition and design. I notice these things in my surroundings – constantly.

Experience on over 80 photo safaris in Kenya over the past 15 years has refined my photographic vision and technique. Tack sharp, beautifully lit animal portraits are no longer enough for me. I now endeavour to capture intimate interactions between animals, a striking posture, a gesture, direct eye contact. This adds emotional impact to any image.

An animal’s environment is a critical part of who they are, but I choose to minimize the distracting elements of the African bush and include just enough of an animal’s surroundings to suggest where it is. I often desaturate colours and blur backgrounds in order emphasize the subjects in my compositions.

The marvels of modern photographic equipment make it possible to record huge amounts of image data. As a technician I strive to capture as much raw data as possible while in the field. As an artist I decide which data to keep and which to eliminate. Photography is not like most other visual arts. In drawing or painting the artist adds the medium to a blank canvas until the artwork is finished. In photography the artist starts with everything and is tasked with removing elements until all that remains is his artwork.

cool cheetahI take great artistic liberties with my photo art images. I will manipulate pixels, add graphic elements, enhance textures, paint in tonalities, clone out distractions, and gradually craft the image I want to share with my audience. I want to show them wildlife in a way they have never seen it before. In doing so I hope to draw people’s attention to the amazing intricacies God has imbued in His creation. And maybe even inspire them to take better care of it. The proceeds of this show will be donated to Care of Creation, an organization dedicated to preserving nature, and teaching people how to take better care of it.

I believe my purpose on earth is doxological. For me, praising God means noticing something beautiful, interesting, or cool, and then drawing attention to it so that others can see it too. To the praise of His glory.

Michael James Gaudaur

Kijabe, Kenya

April 8th, 2013

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Photo Art Exhibition and Sale

photo art show poster

I am excited to announce my first public photo art exhibition and sale. The event will be held at the Sarit Centre exhibition hall in Nairobi, Kenya on April 12th to the 14th. Admission is free and proceeds from the sale will go to support the ministries of Care of Creation an organization dedicated to teaching people how to take better care of their environment. I would love to have you drop by.

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Chill Cheetah Texture Blend

Cheetahs are my favourite animal. They always appear so chill and relaxed. This mother was poised on a termite mound, casually scanning the savannah for her next meal. There was some gentle back light, and the background was nice and soft due to a 500mm lens. This resulted in a pretty pleasing image right out of the camera. Here is a view of the unadjusted RAW file.

Chill Cheetah

Chill Cheetah

 

These images are created by combining a colour and a black and white version of the cheetah image using the overlay blending mode. Then a detailed mask is made to reveal a a image of a textured old concrete wall on the background layer. A burn and dodge layer was used to tone down some distracting highlights and add depth to some shadows. Finally, a vignette layer was used to tone down the edges and keep the eye in the centre of the image.

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Preening Ostrich Texture Blend Fine Art

african ostrich blended with a textured background

I am excited to be preparing for my first fine art exhibition in April. This is pushing me to dig deep into my photo archives and re-process some of my old favourite images from the past.

This ostrich image was taken at Melewa, Kenya back 2004. Back then there were three ostriches that would come right into camp and graze between the tents. I was actually able to shoot this image while sitting in lawn chair next to my tent.

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Zebra Herd Texture Blend

zebra herb on stone texture background

Yesterday I went for an “African Photo Safari’ with two of the 13 year old boys from our dorm. Now, in reality we just walked around the guard trail that encircles our campus. But, it was in Africa, and we did take 240 pictures… of rocks. I was seeking interesting textures to blend with animal image from my real African photo safaris. The boys were not really impressed, but I got some great textures to work with.

This image of a zebra herd standing at the top of a hill seemed to have all the ingredients of an interesting image, but still lacked the impact I was looking for. I was drawn to this herd of Zebra for two reasons. First, they were on the top of a hill with nothing in the background behind them, and, secondly, they were all facing the same way. Usually when you approach a herd of Zebra you are presented with a large proportion of zebra behinds. In this case the reason they were all facing towards me is that we parked next to a bush under which two large male lions were dozing.

original image of zebra herd

I didn’t like the way the colour image looked, and was pretty sure a black and white version would work better.  Here is the conversion to black and white using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.

black and white conversion of zebra herd

I liked the simplicity of this image. Because the zebra were at the top of a hill there was nothing distracting in the background. However, I still felt it was lacking something, so I started searching for an appropriate texture to add to the background. On the stone path near my house I found a stone I thought might work.

stone from path

Opening both the black and white zebra image and the stone image in Photoshop I changed the blend mode of the zebra layer to multiply. I liked the result right away, but found that the zebra were getting lost in the texture of the stone. That’s when I started slowing masking out the stone under the zebras, especially around the faces. I used a very soft brush with the opacity reduced to only 15%.

So here again is the final rendition.

zebra herb on stone texture background

Let me know what you think.

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Color and Tonality

elephants grazing in long grass black and white

It is a marvel of modern engineering that allows microscopic red, green, or blue filters to be placed over individual light-sensitive cells on a camera sensor allowing us to capture the full range of colours of the scene in front of us. Software gives us the ability to manipulate those colours, even changing the relationships between colours. How we adjust the various colours can have a huge impact on the tonal values of an image.

unaltered RAW image of elephants and clouds

Here is an unaltered RAW capture of three elephants grazing on the Masai Mara. As we were driving back to camp for lunch I was intrigued by what I was seeing in the sky. The powerful deep blues and the fluffy white clouds were very dramatic. A wide angle lens (20mm) and a polarizer added to that drama. I exposed for the clouds because they were the most significant players in the scene. The elephants and the trees played supporting roles. The fact that there were three of each was a happy accident.

Back home in Lightroom I set to work to start shoving the colours around to increase the drama in the scene and try to convey some of the exhilaration I felt on that day in the Mara. The big open spaces and hugeness of the sky are things you need to experience to really grasp. But Lightroom allowed me to help you to get a bit of a sense of what it would have been like if you could have been there with me. Here is what I came up with.

elephants grazing under fluffy white clouds colour

This was accomplished with the following Lightroom adjustments. I brightened shadows, increased clarity, and lowered the whites slightly to bring back some detail that was blowing out in the clouds.

lightroom basic adjustments

I found that the blue of the sky and the green of the grass were too close in tonality. Despite the tremendous depth in the scene, the image still looked flat.elephant image with only basic adjustments

Dropping down to the HSL panel I deepened the blues of the sky by reducing the luminosity and then I increased the brightness of just the yellows and oranges on the grass. This not only brightened the scene and increased the feeling of depth, but it also added some interest in the grass by more clearly defining the darker clumps of green.

HSL lightroom adjustments

A slight tone curve adjustment enhanced the contrast in the sky and the grass while leaving the shadows and highlights alone.

tone curve lightroom adjustments

Here is the final colour version.

final colour image of elephants and dramatic clouds

I was really starting to like the textures of the grass and the clouds, and the elephants for that matter. If you want to show off texture, you remove colour. Colour distracts us from texture. Without colour our brains look for other sources of information and texture becomes far more evident. Here again is the black and white rendition of the scene converted in Silver Efex Pro 2.

elephants grazing in long grass black and white

In the black and white conversion process I was able to further reduce the brightness of the blues and brighten up the yellows. This further increased the contrast between the grass and the elephants drawing attention to the small portion of the image area they occupy.

So, as a visual artist one of your tasks is to analyze the colours and tones in the scene before you and decide how to manipulate them to achieve the desired emotional response in your audience.

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Use Luminosity Blending to Combine Color and Black & White

a regal looking lion reclines on a small hill.

Photoshop’s luminosity blend mode adds some drama to this lion shot.

While on a long drive yesterday I was listening to some old podcasts of Nik Radio episodes. They were interviewing Australian fine art photographer Tony Hewitt. Tony mentioned a image editing technique that I thought sounded interesting. He suggested using the luminosity blend mode in Photoshop to use a black and white version of an image to add drama and character to the color version using the luminosity blend mode. So I used the majestic lion image from my last post to experiment. The results blew me away.

Here is the technique.

  1. Edit your color image as normal. Lots of color and texture are nice, but no need for excessive clarity or contrast.
  2. Send a copy of the image to Nik Silver Efex Pro and choose a fairly contrasty black and white conversion. I used Noir 3.
  3. Bring both images into Photoshop. Use the move tool to drag one image on to the other. Hold down shift so that the images will be perfectly aligned.
  4. Make sure that the black and white version is on the top layer.
  5. Change the black and white layer blend mode to Luminosity. This allows the brightness of the black and white layer to add drama to the color version, without affecting the color at all.
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