birds flying to and from birdhouse

It’s always humbling (and often amusing) to check my blog stats, which admittedly don’t get checked as frequently as they should… I tend to rant and rave with little regard for whether or not anyone is listening.

In fact, I was beginning to grow complacent in the solitude… like the liberation one feels after moving to the country, miles away from civilization, unable to even see or hear one’s neighbors!

As if the entire world was your own – just you and nature – so you strip off your clothes, running naked through the field and singing to yourself.

Uninhibited and free! Rolling in the buttercups… La-de-dah …La la la….

Until the UPS truck pulls into the gravel driveway…

…with a belated Christmas package from your mother; one that requires your signature, because she’s obsessed with lost packages.
And you realize, with equal parts horror and sadness, that you aren’t alone on the planet after all. *blush*

Thanks to Google and a few followers, my solitary ramblings are occasionally chanced upon (usually in awkward moments)… such as when I’m having a bad hair month week: my experience using homemade shampoo bars has been my top-viewed blog post to date!
Other high-ranking posts included my infamous Question of Ethics, and Twitter’s humorous take on Super Bowl Madness.

bird feeder house on tall post

Ranked 5th on the list of Top Posts, and one that Google tends to favor with daily traffic, is my Anti-Tutorial for Photoshop. Despite the thousands upon thousands of PS tutorials running wild and mating out there in cyberspace, people can’t seem to get enough of them!

I spend a fair chunk of time using Photoshop… more time than I ought, considering I’ve changed my artistic direction in favor of traditional acrylics. But PS will always be my guilty pleasure – a chance to reinvent my world into something altogether surreal and magical.

Last weekend, Joe and I were both fascinated by this ginormously, tall birdhouse at Carolyn’s farm. (This image wasn’t Photoshopped… it really is leaning!)

He captured a dozen really cool shots of birds in flight, making trips to and from the house…. as I scrolled through the nearly identical images, it occurred to me: these photographs would look even better if we incorporated more birds!

I decided to use these two:
two birdhouse images with flying birds, photos by Joe Teach

• I decided my background image would be the photo on the left. I cropped out some of the excess to frame it better, which downsized it from an image measuring 10″ x 6″, to an image measuring 6″ x 8″ (at 300 dpi).

• I used the Spot Healing tool to remove some dust orbs, and stray marks which came from the camera lens. Probably cat fur, LOL

Using Spot Healing tool in Photoshop to remove marks

• Next, I adjusted the lighting with Levels. There is an excellent article here on the blog – Cambridge In Colour, that discusses Levels in-depth, if you’re interested in using the tool properly.
I just play around with the white, grey, and black sliders until I like what I see. 😉

adjusting the grey value Level sliders in Photoshop

Now it’s time for the birds!

• I opened the other photo, and dragged the rectangular Marquee Tool (with the dotted lines) across the flying bird to select and copy him.

Selecting the flying bird with Marquee Tool in Photoshop

• I clicked Edit>Copy and toggled back to my working image. Edit>Paste plopped him down next to the birdhouse.
I opened up Levels again to adjust his color to match other photo… and then began erasing the block of sky around him with the Eraser tool, because there was foliage underneath.

Erasing part of a layer in Photoshop to reveal layer underneath.

When he looked indistinguishable from his surroundings, I right-clicked on his layer in the right column, and he “merged down” to join the sky.
Then I repeated the above steps to include the bird perched on the railing…

Adjusting image layers in Photoshop

Except in this case, I had a birdhouse to deal with as well….
In hindsight, I should’ve just erased everything else, save the bird, just as I did with the previous image… that would be the easiest thing to do. I don’t do things the easy way, however, so ignore the following steps….

• I decided to line up the birdhouse with its counterpart underneath – choosing the Layer Screen Blending mode, and later Hard Light, so that I could see both layers together in order to match them.

Using Blending mode in Photoshop to line up images

I dragged the upper layer slowly back and forth, and even tugged at the corners to resize it, until the image underneath was directly in line with my birdie layer.
See how both images lined up appear darker and solid?

Then I reset the Blending mode of the layer back to “Normal”, and merged it down into place.

Birdhouse photograph with flying birds, by Tara Fly.

At this point, I could say the image of our birdhouse was finished. It looks realistic enough…. however, I wanted to play with it a bit more, adding some textures and lighting effects. So I saved it first, just in case I made a huge mess. LOL

At the moment, I’m obsessed with sparkles and bokeh…. and my favorite photographer for all-things sparkly and textured is Night-Fate-Stock on
One of these days, I’m gonna experiment with photographing my own sparkles… as Julia claims to create hers by pouring glitter onto the pavement (on a sunny day, with clear skies), and using an unfocused lens – the glitter reflects everywhere. 🙂

Adding sparkle bokeh texture to birdhouse image in Photoshop

• I used Night-Fate-Stock’s Texture 26, (which is stored in my Go-To stock folder), and set the Blending mode to Screen and Opacity to 97%.

I also removed a few of the sparkles because they were distracting from the birds…. I picked up some of the orange color from her background, and brushed it across the sparkles to “erase” them.

Using gradient tool to add color to image in Photoshop

• Next, I created a gradient by selecting two colors – butter yellow and light pink – and using the Gradient tool on a new layer to create a diagonal sweep of color.
I set the Blending mode to Color Burn, at 100% Opacity.

This gradient gave the sky a warm, pinkish glow and increased the saturation of the leaves.

• The last thing I do, after playing with textures: I create a duplicate layer of the background, drag it into the top position, and select “Multiply” from the Blending options. It softens the overall effect, tying everything together…

Using Multiply Blending mode to soften effects in Photoshop

And now you think I’m finished! Right?!

Well…. sorta….

I thought so, too. But I wasn’t quite satisfied, and kept looking at it, wondering: “Something’s missing…..”
What if…?

How about adding one final texture – a linen fabric weave – to give the entire photograph the “look” of a fine art painting on canvas. I found the perfect swatch of fabric – here in DameOdessaStock’s gallery. ♥

Adding a linen fabric weave texture to a photograph in PS

I shared my finished image on my Facebook fanpage on Sunday, and sure enough, someone commented on the lovely details of my painting. *snicker* I did confess that it was a photograph… but see?! Fabric textures do make all the difference. 😉

I also couldn’t wait to print this lovely creation on my Epson R2880 (I used matte photo paper)…. and with an inch border on each side, it looks gorgeous and can easily be framed with or without a mat.

birdhouse photo on matte paper with archival inks, TaraFly Art