Tuesday, April 30, 2019


This is the first time I have shared what I sometimes do with my photo editing software, beyond just fine-tuning my images. Sometimes I take my images outside the realm of "photography" and into the arena I call either "hybrid photo art" or "digital mixed media."

This is no longer photography. It starts with a photograph, the way many canvas painters use a snap shot as their starting point then build from it. For this reason, I don't refer to it as my photography, or my photography skills. It's a different type of art done via computer software. If I had an exhibit of my art, I would have a different section labeled either Digital Mixed Media or Hybrid Photo Art. 

With that introduction, let me share some fun things I do in my downtime when I have extra time to just play around and have fun with it. 

My goal is to encourage some of you to experiment with whatever software you have. If you don't consider yourself a good photographer, you might try converting some of your photos to digital mixed media. Or, even if you are a good photographer, some of your images might also look good in this format.

Hot Springs, Arkansas is known for its natural hot springs. There is one hot springs where you can actually soak in them, like in old Greek fashion. I photographed a group of bathers, then took my photo and used an application called Artistic Cut Out. It gives a photo image an interesting painterly effect. 

                                                           "The Bathers"

I found this surreal abandoned manufacturing plant in Laramie, Wyoming. One of the exterior walls was riddled with graffiti. I liked the image, but this also looked interesting. I applied what's called Poster Edges, which posterizes adjoining pixels to give it this effect. Before photo editing software, it was used to create posters. It's the most-used application in my repertoire.

This old fire truck in Colorado was done the same way (poster edges). Although it's the same application, the results are different, depending on the subject, lighting, etc. There are also three different sliders to which you can adjust three different variables, which also varies the final results. 


Here is what Poster Edges looks like when applied to photos of people. The original photo to which this was applied was a double exposure, thus the "double" feel to it. 

This is a more severe application, with very dramatic effects. It's called a Solarize filter, which I think is a misnomer. I see it as a computer-generated application, not a filter. But, hey, I didn't design the software. 

This next effect is for intentional distortion. It's called Spherize and distorts the image into a sphere shape. You can control for the degree of distortion. The original image is a photo of plants. As with any art, it all depends on which application you prefer and the degree of that application. Sometimes I try a certain effect and reject it immediately as an experiment that just didn't work for me.

Here is another example where I applied the Solarize filter, like the butterfly above, but I liked the effect on this particular image better. I like what it did to the sky on the original photo of a sculpture. 

I also applied the Poster Edges effect to the following example, but, again, different results on these tulips.

These next two examples have the same application, but, as you can see, it too also has different effects on different subjects. This application is called Plastic Wrap.

Here's the second Plastic Wrap example--a totally different feel to it. I really liked the effect it had on this kite. For this one, after I applied plastic wrap, I converted the sky to black & white and left the kite in its original color. Kites have come a long way since I flew them as a kid!! 

I'll leave you with one more application--Glowing Edges. This is nothing other than a close-up of a large light bulb. 

I shared six different computer-generated applications. So, as you can see, you can have a lot of fun with the medium of Digital Mixed Media, aka Hybrid Photo Art. Take any photo and start experimenting. You might surprise yourself and discover a new form of art! 

Follow me on Facebook (Eli Vega Photography). All images shared on my blog and on FB are available as fine art prints. 


Monday, April 22, 2019


I have been fascinated by surrealism since my art days in college. Of all the masters of the genre, Salvador Dalí still remains the godfather of surrealism. 

Some of the characteristics of surrealism include the element of surprise and the unexpected, both of which might cause a sense of awe and bewilderment. Imagery can at times be a bit bazaar and leave folks scratching their heads.

As for my photography, it isn't always bazaar like some of Dalí's works. Most often it's the angles I choose, the subjects I pick to photograph, and the techniques I use. Combined, they all possess some of the characteristics of surrealism. Sometimes, when seen out of context, my images might take a few seconds before the viewer figures out what it is.

With that, let's start with this image. I'm always on the lookout for the "out-of-place"--scenarios that are unlikely, not the usual, not the common. Such was this scenario. I was on the second floor of an old historic hotel. I walked up a long spiral staircase to get to the second floor. As I looked down from the second floor, looking back at where I had just walked, I saw this. Someone who worked for the hotel had decided that at the bottom of the stairs, on the first floor, would be a great place to set up an office. Note the office table, a computer monitor, lamps, and office chairs.

I love coffee shops, especially home-grown local shops. They are so much friendlier and the atmosphere so relaxed and personable, compared to those "chain" coffee places. I found one of those local places in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Unfortunately, it no longer exists! Before I ordered, I had to go to the restroom. The moment I opened the door, Salvador Dalí greeted me with this!!


A local artist had painted a jungle themed mural inside the men's restroom! Of course, I never found out if the women's restroom was similarly decorated. I call it "It's A Jungle In There." 

One of our neighbors has an artificial skeleton. I don't know what material it's made of but it looks amazingly real. He places it on a tree in front of his house and decorates it according to the seasons or annual holidays. It was dressed up for St. Patrick's Day the day I saw this surreal backdrop of dogwoods. If you look for it, surrealism can be just around the corner, literally.

Believe it or not, I saw this grove of mysterious pines from a two-lane road. I was going around 60 mph when I got a quick glimpse of them. I just had to turn around and follow my intuition. I walked in front of this grove for several minutes, left-to-right; right-to-left. Then I saw it! It was as if the trees had created a path for me while whispering, "This is your path."
The conversion of the original to a B&W image enhanced the mystique, especially the way the tall dry grasses turned ghostly white. 

I will show this next image first before I comment on it.


Last year, a team of creative folks in the quaint historic town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas (which I call home), including a team from the majestic Crescent Hotel, painted several donated bikes as part of a new downtown bicycle art project. It was fun photographing the bikes as several folks aimed their spray cans at them.

Fast forward to March 2019. We had our first snow, and I just had to tow my camera to wherever I could find some "canvases" to paint with my camera. As I drove down Main Street, I saw all the bikes against a backdrop of white snow. This green one caught my attention. There are several details about this image that qualifies it as surreal. First, a flat green bike. Second, the bow. Third, the Mardi Gras beads hanging from the handle bars.

The unexpected; the unusual; the element of surprise. 

A tip for photographers: you don't need to photograph the entire subject to translate the essence of it. Sometimes, the extraction from the whole can be more powerful.

For this last example, I will again show it first then comment after you absorb it. 


I saw this giant young woman staring at what appeared to be two toy VW buses, as if playing with them. The buses are real. The woman is a giant mural on the wall of a building nearby. I positioned myself to where I could only see one of her eyes between the two vehicles to add to the surrealism. By the way, this was in Colorado--those are not pine trees depicted on that sign on the door. Think what plant is legal in the state. 

I hope I gave you some ideas for you to go out and look for the unexpected, the unusual,
the weird, the surreal. 

Have fun with it!

Eli Vega, author of the award-winning book, Right Brain Photography (Be an artist first).