Fountains Abbey

Last Sunday I visited Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire with my parents, a day out to celebrate both my birthday and their 45th wedding anniversary. It’s a wonderful place to visit for several different reasons. The ruins of the Cistercian abbey, destroyed with the dissolution of the monasteries under the orders of King Henry VIII, are fascinating for anyone interested in history, whilst the grounds within which they’re set contain both a medieval deer park and a Georgian water garden. It’s a beautiful place to walk around. There are so many different things to look at that it’s practically impossible to see it all in a single visit.

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We began our day by walking around the deer park. We saw a few deer, though most were too far away to photograph. Within the area there is also a cottage, a church, an obelisk, a 400 year old sweet chestnut tree and lots of gorgeous views.

As I’m sure you all know by now, I love taking photographs of paths and random countryside scenes – there were lots of these for me to enjoy snapping. I especially loved all the autumnal colours.

The paths led us around to the lake, where we paused for a time at the lakeside tea rooms, and then on to the water gardens.

All around the water gardens are lots of little follies.

We then followed the River Skell away from the ponds of the water garden. Before long the ruins of the abbey could be seen through the trees…

… until finally we reached the abbey itself.

After we’d enjoyed a tasty Sunday dinner in the Abbey restaurant and explored the ruins we walked out past Fountains Hall, where a wedding party was gathered for photographs (which unfortunately meant I couldn’t get a clear shot of the hall). It was nearing time for us to leave by this point so we caught our last few sights before heading back to the car.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed my virtual tour. 🙂 If you’d like to know more about the history of this wonderful place, my mum, Millie Thom, has also written a post, looking at its changing role over the centuries. You can find it here.

Now I need to return to my NaNoWriMo prep – this post took me far longer to put together than I’d intended!

Bye-de-byes. 🙂

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One-Four Challenge: October Week Four

Here’s my final October edit for Robyn’s One-Four Challenge. My main aim for this month was to learn how to layer images to create a composite. I also wanted to build up to a really spooky image for the final week. I’m feeling quite happy with everything I’ve achieved but I’d love to know what everyone else thinks!

Week Four Edit

Week Four Edit

This week I began by opening the original image in Photoshop where I gave it the same crop as week two’s edit. Next I found a picture in my archives that I could crop down to show only the eyes – one of the very rare pictures of me! I gave this a black and white gradient map before copying it into the main image. I reduced its opacity to 20% and used the eraser tool to blend it into the background. I then added a violet, green and orange gradient map with a 40% opacity.

I then took the image into Camera Raw where I  increased contrast, clarity, blacks and shadows by a lot. Highlights and whites were also given a slight boost but I mainly wanted to give the image a more menacing feel.

Next I returned to Photoshop where I added a textured layer that I found on freestocktextures.com. I lay this over the lower two thirds of the image with a hard light blend at 10% opacity and I used the eraser tool to fade its edges into the background. I then finished off by extending the canvas with a dark green fill to create a border.

As it’s week four it’s time to include a poll so you can all let me know which of the four edits you liked best. Here are all the edits together for comparison:

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And here’s the poll:

As those of you who also follow my writing posts may already know I’m joining in with NaNoWriMo during November so unfortunately won’t be taking part in with the One Four Challenge. The only posts I’m likely to be doing are the occasional writing update and some Wordless Wedsnesday. Hopefully I’ll be back for the review month in December but that depends on how engrossed I am in editing! If I haven’t managed to make my way over to your posts this month, I apologise – I’m trying to get the whole novel thoroughly planned before November!

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Cee’s Black and White Challenge: Things Made From Wood

It’s time for another post for Cee’s Black and White Challenge. This week’s theme is, Things Made From Wood.

All of today’s pictures are of a wooden statue that my grandfather brought back from Africa in the 1970s. She’s probably quite basic tourist wear, not to mention she’s rather battered nowadays, but she’s been a part of the family for as long as I can remember. She sits on top of a cabinet in the living room. I like to think that she watches over us.

Before I post pictures on the blog I always like to have a little play around with them, trying out different levels of contrast, clarity, luminance, etcetera, to see which version I like best. This week I felt that each edit gave the image a different feel . The lower clarity and contrast made her appear soft and motherly while increasing them makes her appear sterner – especially in the second image. I loved how the high luminance gave the pictires the appearance of charcoal sketches. Because of this I decided to post three versions of each of the two shots.

I would love to know which version people like best or whether you’re just as divided as me!

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FFfAW: Flutterby

This post is for the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers (FFfAW) Challenge, run by Priceless Joy. This week’s photo prompt was provided by TJ Paris. Thank you TJ!  The challenge is that you write a story of 75-175 words inspired by the photo prompt below. I hope you like it.

Photo Prompt: © T.J. Paris

Photo Prompt: © TJ Paris

Flutterby

Sometimes she forgot that the world kept turning. Her own life had frozen in a single moment of despair. Annabelle gazed out over the bare field, a veil of tears obscuring her view as memories taunted her mind. It seemed only yesterday the place had brimmed with life: brightly coloured wildflowers swarming with insects; long grasses swaying in the breeze. Now the meadow was as empty as her existence.

Only a lone butterfly drifted along the hedgerow.

Nova had always loved to run among the flowers, the tattered wings of her fairy costume trailing behind her as she chased butterflies from blossom to blossom. Her joyous laughter had filled the air. “Mummy look! I’m a flutterby!” she’d called.

Annabelle choked back a sob, trembling fingers swiping away tears. Dark bruises had marred pale flesh. How could she not have known? It was a mother’s job to protect her child – how could she have failed so abysmally?

The butterfly landed on her hand, tattered wings aglow in golden light. “Mummy look! I’m a flutterby!” she heard.

Word Count: 175


I’ve always loved the symbolism of butterflies. Mostly this relates to themes of transformation and movement from one phase of life to the next. They’re also said to symbolise joy and the soul, among a number of other things. This story, however, was mainly inspired by a line on this website that states that in some parts of England the folklore has it that butterflies contain the souls of dead children brought back to life.

The story was also inspired by one of my favourite places to sit and write – the wildflower meadow in the village. This picture was taken in August:

August 5 edited

and this was taken two days ago, on the same walk as yesterday’s Wordless Wednesday picture:sunbeam over meadow edited

It gives a rather different view!


In case anyone didn’t see the note on this week’s MFtS, I’m taking part in NaNoWriMo this year so my blogging will be slowing down over the next few weeks and during November will reduce to only the occasional photography post and writing update. I’ll be working on the first draft of a fantasy novel called ‘Age of the Dragonlords’, an idea that’s been sat in a file on my computer for several years now and really needs writing! If I don’t manage to get to your blog over the next few days, I’m not ignoring you – I’m just distracted by planning out my characters’ exploits. 🙂

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MftS: Within Shadows

Here’s this week’s entry into Monday’s Finish the Story flash fiction challenge, run by Barbara W. Beacham. This challenge gives you a picture prompt and the first line and asks that you finish the story in 100-150 words. The given line is in italics.

Photo Prompt: © 2015 Barbara W. Beacham

Photo Prompt: © 2015 Barbara W. Beacham

Within Shadows

Not knowing what to expect, he made his way into the dark of the forest, fingers clenched on the hilt of the ancient dagger as he picked a careful route. His eyes strained, peering into the shadows that crouched beneath the trees. Each branch that scraped against skin made him flinch; every rustle of movement caused his heart to race. They could be anywhere: watching, waiting. Ready to strike.

So many people – friends, family – had already died, their faces twisted into agonised rictuses. Those who still remained huddled within the dubious safety of their homes, too scared to venture outside. This was their only hope. He was their only hope.

He wasn’t a coward but…

How could he fight an enemy he couldn’t even see?

Word Count: 110


Some of you may have noticed that my presence on the blog has reduced recently. This is mainly because I’ve decided to join in with NaNoWriMo this year and have been spending a lot of time planning the novel I’m intending to write – tentatively titled ‘The Age of the Dragonlords’. Because of this I’ll be blogging less and less over the next few weeks and during November I’ll be on the blog with only the occasional update or photography post. I’ll miss visiting everyone’s posts (I love you all!) but hopefully I’ll be back in December and not too engrossed in editing…

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To read other entries or to submit your own, click the little blue frog.

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One-Four Challenge: October Week Three

Here’s my October week three edit for Robyn’s One-Four Challenge.

Week Three Edit 3

I’ve been playing around with this week’s image so much that I’m really not sure what steps I took to reach the final version – but I’ll try to remember as best I can!

I began with the week one edit which I opened in Camera Raw where I increased both contrast and clarity by quite a lot. A number of other sliders also moved, but I’m not sure which or by how much.

I then took the image into Photoshop Elements 13 where I added a black and white gradient map. This was then shifted into the reddish tones using the smart brush (which I’d never used before) on the ‘spooky’ setting.

Next I added a texture layer that I found here. Using the eraser tool I removed the texture from the spider web, bokeh and from some areas of the gravestones. I also faded it slightly in other areas. The opacity of the layer was then reduced. I might have also changed the blend mode. I then repeated the whole process with the texture layer reversed.

The next addition was a few spiders. As someone with a severe case of arachnophobia this was not a pleasant process! Even looking at pictures of spiders makes my skin crawl. I found two different spiders on Pixabay that I copied and pasted into the image several times, changing their sizes, orientation and opacity to suit. Several different blend modes were tried out, though I’m not sure which ones I actually used. As they all still looked a little too sharp I used the blur tool to soften their edges.

Whilst I’m not completely satisfied with this week’s edit (the spiders just don’t look right), I am glad I managed to create the composite image I’ve been wanting to for this month – even though it took me most of the week just to work out how to do it! I’m already looking forward to trying out some of the ideas I have for next week.

Here is the original image and all the edits together for comparison:

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