Category Archives: Friday Challenges

These posts are about work I submitted for Friday Challenges.

Friday Challenges – On the Wing & Amnesty

Here it is, what you’ve all been waiting for! Finally, another Friday Challenge post. If you’re new to the blog, you can view some previous ones to come up to speed. Otherwise, without further adieu, let’s dive in.

On the Wing
For Caplin’s 511th Friday Challenge he gave HotChiPs forum members this picture to work on: wingman

The narrative and his instructions were:

I’m indebted to Vibeke for this week’s image, which features a tourist sitting on the wing of a plane. He looks very relaxed here – but how laid-back would he be if the plane were up in the air? Can you make this plane fly?

I have to admit I received considerable direction from Gordon Bain, who not only is a forum member but also a pilot and photographer.  He gave me tips on how the propeller would look if it were photographed while spinning.  I have to say my image wouldn’t have come out as well if not for his advice.

OnTheWingMy caption for the image:

Clement always felt like his late mechanic, George, was with him whenever he flew and disapproving, as always, on how he was handling the plane.

Here is what Caplin had to say about my submission:

A great spin from srawland, and a very neatly inserted background. I like the way you’ve turned the man into a ghost sitting on the wing – subtly achieved, a clever idea.

The hardest part about this image was getting the propeller to look as if it had been photographed spinning.  I used the motion filter but had to run it several times at different settings until the image finally looked right.  Thank you, again, Gordon!

Friday Amnesty – A Fountain Revisited
The 512th Friday Challenged coincided with the 10th anniversary of Caplin issuing his first Friday Challenge. Here’s what he had to say:

This week marks the 10th anniversary of the Friday Challenge, which posed its first puzzler on 2nd July 2004. Sadly, a move to a different server means most of the entries for that Challenge have now gone the way of all websites, although the original image still remains.

I’m indebted to Deborah Morley for coming up with this week’s Challenge idea: a global amnesty. She reckons there’s always at least one Challenge everyone thinks they should have entered but missed, or which they did enter but feel they could have done better.

So now’s your chance to revisit any Challenge from the last 10 years, and show us what you can do. Note: please provide a link to the original Challenge in your entry, so I can remind myself of the original image and entries!

Have fun with this one.

I went back  and looked at every Friday Challenge.  I kept coming upon ones where I thought, “Yes, I can do this one!” But, then I’d realize the reason for my enthusiasm was because Caplin had turned the Challenge into a tutorial in his book,   How to Cheat in Photoshop, 6th ed., so I’d completed them as an exercise.  Turns out Caplin sure got a lot of ideas from those Challenges and they weren’t just exercises for us. Very clever.  My only regret was not finding his book and joining the forum sooner.  And, I will never see one of my submissions as an example in one of his books because Caplin says the latest edition is his last. So much for my nanosecond of fame.

After visiting all of the Challenges, I decided to just work on one I had regretted not doing better or trying harder.  I came up with two entries. The first one was from Fill the Fountain.  At the time I had not tried making  spray.  It turned out to be remarkably easy. I should have tried it in the first place!

ChallengeAmnestyFountain I included images from four Friday Challenges that were before my time.  See if you can spot them.

Here is what Caplin had to say:

A fine revisiting of the recent Fountain challenge from srawland, with a neatly cut out spray bursting into the air. And is that someone playing the guitar behind it? I can’t see evidence of the other two Challenges you refer to.

Friday Amnesty – Creative Female Builder Redux
Not satisfied with one entry, I decided to work on another one.  In this case, Caplin had been underwhelmed by my original submission to Challenge 510: Creative female builder which featured an image of a woman standing next to a van that said “Kim Can, Creative Female Builder.” Caplin asked what a female creative builder was and what did she create?

For my original submission, I’d created a back story for Ms. Can. Then, I placed it in an image of on open magazine, subtly modeled after a noted U.S. thought leadership publication, The Atlantic, which I named The Pacific. If you need a magazine layout designer, I’m your woman.

But, it wasn’t what Caplin was looking for. It should be noted the Caplin is also a sculptor. Anyway, here is the explanation for my  second Amnesty submission:

While I didn’t actually miss the “Creative female builder” Challenge, the magazine wasn’t my original idea. The image below was. When I told my sister my idea, she said it was sexist and suggested I come up with something else. I worked hard at making that magazine look realistic, but it used words to tell how Kim was a creative female builder, instead of showing it. I did put this in the Reader’s gallery but it really deserved being here.

ChallengeAmnestyMuseumMy caption for this image was:

We’re all set for the opening on Tuesday, Ms. Can.

Here is Caplin’s Critique:

I’m interested in your second entry, creating a piano and what appears to be an artist out of some sort of shiny plastic material. Good old Plastic Wrap, eh?

Just knowing that I, as such a newbie to Photoshop by comparison, could cause Caplin to wonder how I did something was a huge thrill for me.   I did use the Plastic Wrap filter, but it was the next to the last step in creating the “statues.”  What really gives them that solid acrylic plastic look is the Chrome filter, set to a lowered opacity.

Well, I’ve had so much fun revisiting these that I think next time I’ll cover another set of Friday Challenges.  See you then!

Next: A Desk, A Comedian, and The French Resistance.

Friday Challenge – Distorting Mirror

Sharp-eyed readers probably noticed the previous posts discussed Challenge #508 and #510, but skipped #509 altogether. As #509 was more involved than the other two, I thought I’d post it separately. And now the wait is over…

The Distorting Mirror
Caplin must have been in a rush for Challenge #509 because he shot the photo with his phone instead of his usual camera. Here is the image and his instructions:


“I was visiting a hospital this week when I noticed a curved mirror, placed high up in the corner of a corridor. I was intrigued by the extreme distortion of the view.

Can you remove me from the scene, and add someone else who matches the distorted view? I shot this on my iPhone, which was the only camera I had to hand, and that means the images is rather blurry and noisy – so you’re going to have to try to match that as well. It’s not going to be easy. Good luck! “

Well, Caplin was right. Just finding suitable images at the proper angle was difficult, let alone distorting them plus giving them the proper blur and noise to match the rest of the mirror.

After a little searching on Google images I found an image of someone who would work. Almost immediately, someone posted a submission using the very image I was going to insert.  My sister happened to call right while I was stressing out about it. She suggested that I not submit an entry, if it were that stressful. However, I am not one to admit defeat at the first little difficulty.  I took a deep breath and decided to look at this Challenge in a different light.

Right after that, another member posted that she’d planned to insert the same image, but then needed to switch.  Here is my reply to her:

vibeke wrote:
Mine’s pretty boring after looking at the other entries.

When Gordon posted his hint, I decided to find a suitable figure to replace Steve. I found someone right away, but before I could even begin to work on my entry, Frank used the same figure I had found. My sister suggested I just sit this one out, but then I thought, “This is not a contest. I can look at this as an exercise in learning how to remove one figure, replace it with another and match the background.” If I am successful at this, then I have accomplished something. The point is to learn how to do it, not to “wow” anyone.


Ultimately, I came up with the following (which includes the helpful feedback my sister and brother-in-law gave me during the process):


Caplin posted this critique:

I like srawland’s collection of assorted odd bods, who populate the corridor rather well – nicely achieved. I especially applaud your sentiment:

“This is not a contest… If I am successful at this, then I have accomplished something. The point is to learn how to do it, not to “wow” anyone.”

Absolutely. The spirit of the Friday Challenge in a nutshell.

When I made the “not a contest” comments, I’d intended to them solely to help another forum member.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that my remarks struck such a cord with Caplin that he quoted my posting to emphasize the point.

Next: Shiny Surfaces – Part 1

Friday Challenges – A Lighthouse & A Creative Female Builder

Thank you for being patient through the long, and important, chapter “Heads and Bodies” in How to Cheat in Photoshop, 6th ed. by Steve Caplin. Now for what you’ve all been waiting for – more Friday Challenges!! So, let’s get to it…

Oslo Lighthouse
For Challenge 508 Caplin posted the following image and instructions:


I spent three days in Oslo, Norway, this week…on a stroll around the harbour…I chanced upon this rather splendid miniature lighthouse, perched on the quayside next to the boats. Any chance of moving it to a location where it might be of some practical use? And can you get it to work?

Most people submitted lighthouses on a rocky coast.  However, having spent 5 years living in New England, where nautical motifs are very popular in residences, I had a different idea. Here is my submission…OsloLighthouse

…and Caplin’s critique

I like the idea of srawland‘s image, using the lighthouse as a domestic light. It’s surrounded by other nautically-themed interior design elements, making it blend in cleverly. The shadows of the table and chairs work really well, particularly the outstanding shadow of the glass table top. But should it be casting a shadow of itself on the wall behind? Surely not! And the shadow of the left chair does need to be pointing towards the light source.

I still get a thrill  when I read Caplin calling the shadow for the glass table top “outstanding.”   I used the grey brush technique I discussed way back in the “fruit fly” picture for Natural Selection.  On a cultural note, native New Englanders call their living rooms “parlors.” So, I wasn’t lapsing into British English with the word, but I did with the spelling.  I have noticed that spending time on the How to Cheat in Photoshop forum definitely has made my language usage more interesting.

Creative Female Builder
For his 510th Friday Challenge, Caplin posted:


I recently spotted this builder’s van, owned by KimCan – a self-proclaimed “creative female builder.” I realise I might be opening the forum to a gender war here, but can anyone suggest what such a builder might look like? And what might she build?

There were several very funny construction-themed entries for this Challenge. I ran my original idea past my sister, she felt it sounded sexist. So, I took a different tack.  On the KimCan website I  found an actual image of the builder. As an avid reader of The Atlantic, I used it as inspiration and created a magazine called The Pacific from what started out as a grey rectangle:  CreativeFemaleBuilderMagazineIn case it’s difficult to read on your screen, here is what the intro (or standfirst, as they call it in the UK), says:

When unemployed middle-aged administrative assistant Kim Carson decided to follow her passion in 2009, little did the mother of four cats know that blogging about her new remodeling business would inspire women worldwide to leave their dead-end jobs and follow their dreams.

And, of course, here is Caplin’s critique:

I like the way srawland has built her montage into a magazine spread, compete with standfirst and headline. What is the builder holding, though? I can’t think of any tool you’d hold like that other than a sledgehammer! Oh, and small point: on the headline, don’t capitalise every word, only the first one.

Caplin’s comment about the headline perhaps belies a difference between British and American magazine headlines. Or maybe it’s that Caplin has spent so much time working for newspapers that he just doesn’t get around to reading magazines. In any case, as every Atlantic reader knows,  my headline capitalization is definitely correct.

Next: Friday Challenge – Distortion Mirror

Friday Challenge 4 – A Procession, A Woodworking Shop and A Beach Hut

As regular readers will be happy to discover, this week’s post features three Friday Challenge images.  I know you’ve all been waiting, so lets get right to them.

The Procession
For the 505th Friday Challenge Caplin posted this image:

processionOriginal His comments and instructions were:

“I photographed this church procession in a back street in Cambridge. I have no idea who they were, or why they were in such an incongruous location. Can you move them to a more appropriate setting?”

Wanting something humorous, I created this entry:take shotsProcessionThe caption: “Father Dunphrey had no idea why the tourists were so out of hand this year.”

Caplin’s critique:

“A splendid choice of background from srawland, with crowding camera-wielding tourists pressing right in on the procession. 

The Woodworking Shop
Then, for the 506th Friday Challenge, came this image:


Caplin’s comments and instructions were:

“I visited a remarkable renovated windmill near Sandwich, on the south coast of England, last weekend. In the grounds of the windmill stood a number of workshops, including this rather splendid woodworking shop (as you may know, woodworking is a passion of mine).

It’s a shame the scene is lit by a strip light behind the beam, though, especially since there’s a convenient lantern hanging right next to it. Can you move the light source? And remove that cable? And perhaps add a carpenter to the scene?”

Since Caplin noted his passion for woodworking, I decided to put him in the picture. However, I soon discovered there is a dearth of photos of Mr. Caplin. But,  there aren’t exactly many of myself to choose from either. In any case, I finally found one I could use.  I also decided that, if the tables were turned, I would like it if my head were put on a lovely body. So, I decided to do the same for Caplin and located a very well-muscled woodworker:

Right after submitting the image it occurred to me that Caplin might get the wrong impression as to why I made him look so buff. So, I decided to make him look bad.  And, I have to say it was much more fun making Caplin look bad than it was making him look good. I actually deleted the first two submissions I posted because I felt they were mean spirited.  Finally, I submitted this one:


Caplin’s critique:

“Great shadows from srawland, with the scene now definitely lit by that lamp. The scene seems rather foggy around the light, though; best not to just paint yellow over the lit area – and the light itself could be brighter. I don’t think I’ve ever been depicted quite as musclebound as that – it’s rather impressive. I’m sorry to see you felt the need to delete the later entries, though, as I thought they were progressing really well. Seriously, I wasn’t offended! Always amused to see how I’m treated, and I assure you it’s been a lot stronger than that in the past. I do like the remaining entry, though, featuring one of my sculptures and a rather neatly stained T-shirt. But… who’s going to get inspiration from Red Bull? Every great artist needs Absinthe! Oh, and of course you’re welcome to use the image on your blog. I didn’t know you had one, and it’s not listed in your profile – what’s the address?”

While I was astounded that he actually interested in a blog written by a lowly student, I was also pleased that he cared enough to ask. So of course I gave him the address!

The Beach Hut
Next up, the 507th Friday Challenge image:


As always, Caplin posted comments and instructions:

“I spent the weekend in the charming seaside town of Whitstable recently. On a stroll along the beach I noticed a long series of colourful beach huts, which may be a peculiarly English phenomenon: people fit them out with little gas stoves and sit outside them on deck chairs, drinking tea. This newly-renovated example has yet to be painted. Can you brighten it up? And perhaps open the doors so we can see inside.”

Apparently, people in the UK buy these tiny buildings in order to have a a place to change at the beach.  They tend to be very spartan, but some do have electricity to ensure water can be boiled for the all-important tea. Anyway, here is my submission:

One of the apartment houses I lived in Providence, RI, was painted with this color scheme. I had originally intended to find some images of children peaking around a corner as I wanted it to look like they were playing hide-and-seek.  However, when I googled “sneaking around” the gentleman on the porch popped up.  I decided to use him, but then I needed an explanation for why he was sneaking out of the beach hut.  Since he might be eluding the police, I went in search of an appropriate police officer by  googling “back to wall with gun.” This netted me the woman with the gun (at the back right corner of the building), which I knew would make for a much more interesting picture.

Apparently Caplin liked the paint job a bit more than the cloak-and-dagger additions:

“Dazzling colours from srawland – I think there are probably rules preventing this sort of outbreak of enthusiasm! I like the picnickers, although the woman with the gun does confuse me slightly. As to the interior – yes, plain wood is usually the right approach, but isn’t yours rather too brightly lit for an inside view?”

Despite Caplin’s ding on the interior wood lighting, I was amused enough by my creation I decided to make it into a birthday card. Here is the image from the front of the card along with the message I put inside:


Hopefully it gave you a laugh, too.

Next: Heads and Bodies  – Part 1

Friday Challenges: On Rheas, Fountains & Leopards

I often wonder whether it’s difficult for Steve Caplin, author of How to Cheat in Photoshop, 6th ed., to keep coming up with ideas for the Friday Challenges after 500-odd consecutive Fridays.  But, you came here to see some pictures – not participate in idle speculation –  so lets get to it.

A Game of Hide and Seek
Caplin entitled his 502nd Friday Challenge “Rhea on the Loose” and posted this picture of the ostrich-sized flightless South American bird:


Regular readers might recognize this bird from an earlier post, Transformation and Distortion.

Caplin provided the following instructions:

A series of news reports in the UK this week detailed the escape of a pet Rhea from captivity, and detailed the difficulty the authorities had in tracking it down. How would such a large beast go about concealing itself? This week, I’d like you to take this rhea (or choose your own) and see how well you can hide it in your own choice of background.

As my sister will attest, when I was a child playing Hide-and-Go-Seek, I could not be found. So this Challenge was right up my alley. See if you can spot the Rhea in the image I submitted:RheaInRuinsBlog

If you had trouble, apparently Caplin did, too, as he said in his critique of my submission:

It took me ages to spot srawland‘s rhea, and I’m still not entirely sure I’ve got it – is that it in the foreground, a third of the way from the left? A tricky one indeed! I think the image may be just too small to be able to make it out clearly. (Unless it’s larger and much more camouflaged, that is.)

I found Caplin’s critique amusing as he did challenge us with how well we could hide the bird, after all! I’m pretty sure Caplin found the Rhea but for others viewing this post who might not have spotted it, here is where the  bird is hiding:RheaInRuinsPointed OutBlog


Getting All Wet
Caplin’s 503rd Challenge was called “Fill the Fountain,” with this accompanying image: fountainOriginalBlog

Caplin’s instructions:

I was in Paris for Easter, where I went to the outstanding Bill Viola exhibition at the Grand Palais. Outside the entrance is this rather splendid fountain. Well, it would be splendid if it had water in it. Can you oblige?

Caplin has the uncanny ability to come up with challenges that are either right where I was working in his book, or very close to it.  In this case, I’d just started the chapter that deals with creating water. Here is what I had to say about my submission and the image I submitted:

When Steve announced this challenge I had just completed the “Hot Dog” lesson in Chapter 9 of the 6th edition. In order to have something to submit, I got through the “Making Water from Thin Air” lesson, despite working full-time this week. However, I couldn’t figure out how to create the water spray in a beautiful fountain, as so many of the other entries. I hope someone can give me pointers on how to do that.

Here is my humble pool. I stand in awe of all of the other members’  greatness:


Caplin’s critique:

Some very nice water from srawland, with reflections of the fountain – sorry I couldn’t work a hot dog in there for you! I suspect the fountains other people have used have been taken from photographs, but extracting them must have been a tricky task.

Another forum member, Puffin31939, also posted this response to the comment I posted with my entry.

Sara, I also attempted to draw my own fountain but it ended up looking like a glass mushroom! I had expected cutting out the fountain to be a nightmare but Select > Colour range worked like magic. I was really surprised how easy it turned out to be.

Later, for the 10-year anniversary of the Forum, Caplin provided a “Challenge Amnesty,”  where we could resubmit any previous Challenge. I chose add a spray to my fountain, using Puffin’s  suggestions. But, that image will be for a later post.  However, astute readers might have already noticed that I added more than just water to today’s fountain!

A Dangerous Situation
“Snake in the Grass” was the title of the 504th Friday Challenge, for which Caplin posted this image:grassOriginalBlog

And the instructions:

I’m indebted to Michael Sinclair for this week’s photograph, a close-up of a field of grass. What manner of beasties might be hiding in this verdant meadow? And how hard will it be to conceal them amongst the grass?

Many forum members had difficulty with the perspective of the original image.  I noticed right away the steep angle of the scene.  I called my sister and asked if she and my brother-in-law could stage a photo shoot for me. (They were on vacation but were game to oblige.) Even their dog, Sox, got into the act (at my sister’s feet on her right), in the image I created: grassBackgroundLeopardBlog

To which Caplin said:

I liked srawland‘s entry, with the leopard neatly hidden in the grass – and the man looking over his shoulder is perfectly placed to look directly at it, making a great interaction between the two. Well judged perspective here.

Now if the “man” in the picture had only been a male and not my sister in layers of hiking clothes on a cold spring day in northern Minnesota! Luckily, she’s a good sport about that sort of thing.

Next: Light and Shade

Friday Challenges – Seeing Double & Back to School

Since last week’s post was so much fun, I decided to post a couple more Friday Challenges.  We will get back to lessons next week.

Managing Multiples
For the next Friday Challenge Steve Caplin posted this:

“Welcome to the 500th Friday Challenge! When I started this series back in 2004 I thought of it as most likely a one-off that, with luck, might keep people’s attention for a couple of weeks. And here we are, nearly 10 years later, able to look back on a vast body of outstanding work.

I’ve given a lot of thought to how to celebrate this momentous anniversary. Rather than setting a standard challenge, or even one of the compilation exercises that have marked previous centenaries, I thought that since, above all, you are the stars of this section, then you really should be the stars of this special edition.

You may remember that a few months ago I posted this image, photographed by the man who cuts my hair and featuring his father: barberdadIt’s an outstanding piece of work. Not only does his Dad feature as every single character in the image, there are several changes of clothes and – this is the best part – there’s a lot of apparent interaction going on here between all the participants.

So for this 500th Friday Challenge, I’d like to see you feature yourself in a similar montage. Position yourself in as many poses and changes of clothes as you can manage, placed at various locations in a scene. I know some of you are camera shy, so if you really can’t bear to appear, you may choose to portray a family member or friend instead.

Remember, interaction is the key here. Show me what you’ve got!”

I don’t have an abundance of pictures of myself nor was I about to go out an take some. However, I knew my sister and brother-in-law took lots of photos so I decided to contact them.  They agreed to put in the effort culling photos, and taking more if needed, with the caveat that I use the product as a networking opportunity by starting a blog to showcase my Friday Challenges.

Sara Cheats Is Born
On the one hand, I knew I really did need to up my networking game. On the other, I’m uncomfortable “bragging” about myself. After further reassurance from my sister and brother-in-law that blogging doesn’t mean I’m braggart,  I decided to start Sara Cheats In Photoshop about my progress working through How to Cheat in Photoshop, 6th ed., by Steve Caplin. And, to my surprise, I’m enjoying myself.

In any case, I waded through my sibling’s standing-in-front-of-something-and-smiling photos until I found some that detailed a few of their traditional Christmas activities. Some activities were food-related. This gave me an idea. So I asked my sister and brother-in-law to take a picture of their kitchen, which I used as the backdrop.

Below is my creation.  When I posted it to the How to Cheat forum (aka HotchiPs), I also issued a challenge as to which people were in the original image. Can you figure out who is original and who I Photoshopped in? (Forum members please don’t give this away.)KitchenScene11

Caplin’s critique and his guesses (not all which are correct!)

A personal challenge from srawland, as her kitchen scene features one original sister and brother-in-law, and three added-in extras. And it is hard to work out. I’d guess from the lighting that the one with the calendar is real – the tomato chopper looks convincing, …  As to the brother-in-law – the one at the back?

Post a comment and I’ll let you know if your guesses are right!

School Days
For the next Friday Challenge Caplin posted this image:EtonCaplin gave these instructions:

“As I was looking for a 501-themed idea for this week’s [501st] Challenge, I came upon the wartime 501 squadron of the Royal Air Force, and its Honorary Air Commodore Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester. One of the images on his Wikipedia page shows him as a young schoolboy at Eton in 1914, dressed in the uniform of top hat and short coat.

Dressing like this today would lay young Henry open to public ridicule. Can you adapt the costume to make its wearer blend in better with modern fashion styles? You may wish to bear in mind that 501 is also a trademark of Levi’s jeans.”

Coincidentally, I’d  just finished  Chapter 8, “Heads and Bodies,” in How to Cheat, where Caplin explains that swapping out heads is relatively easy compared to changing clothes. So, I didn’t even consider putting young Henry in a pair of jeans.  Instead, I came up with this: EtonModern4Caption: Much to the chagrin of his father, King George V, Prince Henry started hanging out with the wrong crowd.

Caplin’s critique:

“An excellent image from srawland, with an electric guitar-playing Prince dressed in decidedly casual clothes. I like the new hat, and the hair that goes with it – a very good updating. Nice work.”

 Now, if changing bodies were only so easy to do in real life…

Next: Beyond the Basics: Composing the Scene

Friday Challenge – Madge Triumphs

Welcome back!  I know you’ve been waiting for this post because, let’s face it, Friday Challenges are way more fun than reviewing my progress through the book.   Although How to Cheat in Photoshop by Steve Caplin is very entertaining, creating something from scratch is much more interesting .

Madge Gets Her Way
On his How to Cheat in Photoshop online forum, Caplin eventually gives regular participants a nickname when he feels their work has improved enough to deserve one. The Friday Challenge entitled “Open the Pod Doors”  finally earned me a moniker: Pixel Perfectionist.

It also happened to be Caplin’s the 499th Friday Challenge, for which he posted this image:3Dcar

His instructions were:

One of the exhibits at last year’s 3D Print Show in London was a prototype of a futuristic car, in which it was claimed that 3D printing played a part – although I’m not quite sure how big a part. The car itself, though, is intriguing. How, exactly, would you get into such a car? How does the door mechanism work? And how hard will it be to take it out of the showroom and put it on a city street?

When I originally saw this Challenge I thought that there was no way I’d be able to open the door. So, I submitted this image, instead:StreetScene2To create the scene I used the Warp tool so the car  would be in perspective.  I also added a dark, stormy sky to dramatically reflect how Madge felt about her neighbors.

I’d planned to post just this image. However, another HotChiPs (How to Cheat in Photo Shop) forum member posted an image he had found of the real car, which showed how the door opened. Then, yet another member – who posted a closed-door image – posted  a new image where she opened the door.  So, I decided if she was willing to make a second try, then I would too.

For my second effort, I created a prequel to the first image:StreetScenePrequelTo get the man’s arm to appear to be holding onto the door I used Puppet Warp. For the woman,  I had to make her clothing  match the original image. I re-colored her dress and put yellow sweater in her hand. To make the sweater appear folded, I used the Liquify filter. Since this it was a prequel, I added a slightly less stormy sky to hint at Madge’s mood.

Here’s what Caplin had to say:

A very strong image from srawland, whose car is well integrated into a suburban street. I like the view of the woman inside the car, although it’s hard to see exactly what she’s doing – and the woman peering out of her front windows. Very nicely achieved. The second entry is splendid: a perfectly integrated scene. See – I knew you could do it! And it’s certainly good enough to earn you a much overdue title. Shall we say Pixel Perfectionist for your great attention to detail? Good work, Sara

I was so happy to receive my appellation that I didn’t bring up the deep ambivalence I felt surrounding being called a perfectionist.  If he knew the story, I’m sure he would have come up with a different title. But, all the same, I’m still pleased Caplin felt my efforts deserved bestowing a nickname.

Buoyed by my success, I decided to add a final image to complete the series. Now it’s all blue skies for Madge:StreetScene3

To give you an appreciation for the whole story, in the proper order, I created this graphic:StreetSceneWholeStory

Like Madge, hope all is well in your world too!

Next: Friday Challenges: Seeing Double & Back to School

Friday Challenge – Mouseton Abbey

Prior to starting this blog, I previewed this challenge to a few folks and received resounding accolades. Please do leave comments if it strikes a cord with you, too!

Caplin entitled this Friday Challenge “Anthorp that mouse” and explained as follows:

“I took my first ever evening class, as a student, this week: Anthropomorphic Mouse Taxidermy. Each of us was given a dead mouse, and over the course of the next four hours we were taught how to skin it, clean it, preserve it, stuff it and mount it.

The ‘anthropomorphic’ part of the title refers to the fact that the trainer brought along a whole range of doll’s house props – hats, rakes, chairs, benches, clocks and so on – which we were encouraged to attach to our completed beasts.

I just couldn’t decide, so I opted to leave my mouse more or less au naturel, rearing up in a pouncing pose. Can you complete the task, and give the rodent some more human qualities?”

He gave us four different angles and I chose this one:mouse3Blog

Of course I used some of my newly learned skills from How to Cheat in Photoshop 6th ed. for this submission. However, I do have to admit the text, and the black banner it sits on, were skills I learned previously in my CS3 class.

Having just finished a Downton Abbey marathon on DVD, I came up with this:MousetonAbbeyBlog

I didn’t like the way the mouse’s teeth stuck out in the original image so I closed it’s mouth using the Liquify Filter.  I only used that modified head one time, it’s the second in from the right. For the others, I decided I didn’t like the way the eyes were set. So, I used the Liquify Filter again to make the other mice heads. Oh, I did go back and correct my spelling error and put Caplin’s recommended shadows under their hats.

Caplin’s Critique:

“A very neatly constructed Mouseton Abbey from srawland, neatly replacing the cast of Downton. And very aristocratic they look, too! Some shadows under the hats would help them to look more in place, though – and do watch your spelling of “Abbey”!”

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of Friday Challenges. I certainly enjoyed coming up with the material! Stay tuned for more, including some with actual story lines.

Next: Hiding and Showing

Friday Challenges – The Problem of Fur

After my early successes, I was starting to look forward to Friday Challenges. Then came “In the Wild.” It turned out to be quite a learning experience for me, but only because I was dissatisfied with my entry.

Here is Caplin’s original image:elephantStatueBlog

His instructions were:

“I photographed this remarkable statue of an elephant outside the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. It’s beautifully detailed: tied to a lump of masonry, it’s being molested by a monkey. It’s a very realistic scene, apart from the fact that it’s all made of dull bronze and is on a pedestal in Paris. Can you return both these beasts to the wild, and make them real?”

Below is my second submission.  In the first one, I forgot to add the monkey.  In case you’re having difficulty seeing it, the monkey is on the stone wall in the background toward the left side of the image.Lodge BalconyCompleted3Blog

Caplin’s critique:

“A very fine image from srawland, with the elephant nestled into the jungle. I found the original of your background image with TinEye, and I like the added woman with binoculars – she draws the viewer’s eye neatly across the scene to the new elephant. Perhaps the monkey could have made an appearance on the terrace? Aha – there it is in the second entry, although it is a little difficult to make out. And as for following my instructions – no-one else takes any notice either!”

I put the monkey so far back in the scene because I couldn’t figure out how to make it look more realistic.  By that time, I completed How to Cheat in Photoshop, 6th ed., through the middle of Chapter 8, but had not yet started on the two lessons about beards and stubble.  Once I completed them, I had a brainstorm.  Below are comparisons of modified versions of just the monkey.Baboon statureFurComparisonBlog

The monkey on the left is a simple cutout from the original image.  The center monkey is what I was able to create for “In the Wild.” Clearly, it’s not very realistic.  However, I created the monkey on the right using variations on the techniques discussed in the lessons covering beards and stubble. Granted this monkey wouldn’t fool anyone by itself. But, inserted in the appropriate background, it could pass for real.BaboonFurInBackground

Although I’m still working on my beard and stubble skills,Caplin responded:

“…[Y]our technique, Sara, is excellent: that’s a really good way of doing it.”

Next: Friday Challenge – Mouseton Abbey

Friday Challenges – The Fun Begins!

Steve Caplin might have stopped with the publication of his book, How to Cheat in Photoshop, and just gone back to freelancing. Or, he might have gone back to freelancing after setting up a Web site to advertise the book.

Instead, he chose to invite contact with his readers by setting up a forum. I am forever grateful he took this path.

Any time I am having difficulty with a lesson in the book, I can post a question to the forum. Most importantly, Caplin posts back within 48 hours. His answers and critiques are both illuminating and constructive, as befitting a top-notch Professor. The whole experience is much more like taking an online course than simply running through exercises in a book. I’m also grateful for “The Friday Challenge” feature of the forum. Every Friday Caplin posts a photo with very general instructions for what he wants done with it. This is very much like a real-world work experience than simply following directions in a book.

On the subsequent Friday, Caplin critiques all of the previous week’s submissions and, of course, posts a new Challenge. His critiques not only point out errors, but also provide the remedy. Caplin seems genuinely interested in helping people not only learn the craft of photo-montage, but also the art of it.

Enough talk. Let’s get on to the Challenges!

The Disused Railway
I began submitting Friday Challenges after I had completed Chapter 5, as I was working on my skill level and building confidence. That week’s challenge was entitled “The disused railway:” Disused-railwayOriginalBlog

Caplin’s instructions were:

“I’m indebted to Michael Sinclair for this week’s Challenge, which features a rather fine shot of a disused railway line.  As you can see, it’s now quite overgrown.

Michael didn’t feel the most was being made of this public resource. What could you do to liven it up? Turn it into a canal, perhaps? Or back into a railway? There must be some good use for a very long, rather narrow tract of land.”

There were many impressive entries. My simple entry used the Refine Edge technique, which I discussed in my “Natural Selection” post, around the feathers in the knight’s helmet and on the Disused-railwayWithKnightBloghorse’s tail. I also used a Gaussian Blur in a Quick Mask gradient, a technique in a Chapter 5 lesson:

Caplin’s critique:

A new member this week, and srawland has added a splendid knight on horseback hurtling towards us. A great cutout, and the tones match well with the scene. I think I’d have made him a fraction smaller and moved him back a little in the shot, so he blended in without dominating quite so much. Welcome to the forum, Sara!

A Night at the Opera

Caplin’s enthusiastic welcome definitely bolstered my confidence so I took on the next Challenge, “A night at the opera:operaOriginalBlog
Caplin’s instructions:

I went to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, this week to see a rather splendid production of Don Giovanni. Our seat were in the second row, with a view of the orchestra.Of course, I wasn’t allowed to film during the performance itself. Can you give me an idea of how it might have appeared once the curtain went up, the house lights went down and the conductor put in an appearance?”


My immediate idea was a “joke” entry. But, as a newbie, I felt I might be breaking some rule about poking fun at the opera.  At first, the other submissions were very serious indeed.  Finally, someone posted an entry that featured Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. Emboldened, I posted this submission.  I noticed that other forum members gave their submissions captions so I entitled mine “How Children View Opera:”operaWithSheetMusicBlogI used a Layer Mask to place the cat’s heads on the Opera singers bodies. Unfortunately, after getting Caplin’s critique, I went back and changed my original Photoshop image and deleted the original .  I darkened the gold using a Curves Adjustment Layer and added the sheet music by using the stands as a clipping mask and Free Transform to get the correct angle.

Caplin’s critique:

“A clever and funny entry from srawland, with animal heads on the performers – and a neatly inserted conductor in the pit. You’ll soon realise that nothing is sacrosanct on this forum, Sara! A strong and entertaining entry – although I’d have, darkened the gold on the right to bring the house lights down.”


Rear Window

The next two Friday Challenges, while they did help me hone skills didn’t require any new ones so I am skipping them in this blog. Then Caplin posted a Friday Challenge entitled: “Rear window:”rearwindowOriginalBlog
Caplin’s instructions:

“This is the view from the window of our hotel room in Paris. It’s all quiet enough during the day, but of course it really comes to life at night…or does it? What sort of French farce might be played out against this backdrop?”


I was pressed for time due to minor surgery and a temporary position (now ended). Having previously managed to progress through Chapter 7 in How to Cheat in Photoshop, which covered changing a building scene from day to night, I created a scene with the party on the roof. I hadn’t decided to start this blog so I deleted that image after modifying it due to Caplin’s critique. In addition to moving the party’s location, I changed the placement of the figure holding his ears by switching it with the figure holding the broom, moved the bra from the roof.
Caplin’s critique:

“A very well lit entry from srawland, despite not having enough time for it – but those rush jobs are often the most compelling. I like the subtlety here: the man banging the broom on the floor, and the one clutching his head at the bottom, both suggest noisy goings-on in the apartment between them. I probably agree about the music. A good entry!”


My post-critique image:rearwindow2BlogIf I were to give this version a caption it would be: “The tenants at Crowne Royale Court always knew when the adults in apartment 3D were away for the weekend.”

Next: Friday Challenge – The Problem of Fur