• How to Create a Digital Photo Montage

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    Photomontage of Chinese adoption I thought I’d take a break from my “Balance” series to introduce you to one more facet of my creative life in the hope that it might inspire you. I created above photomontage to celebrate the adoption of my friend Susan’s oldest daughter from China. Photomontages make wonderful gifts and are a creative way to honor a person or event. I started making photomontages for friends and family to celebrate milestone birthdays, weddings and Bar Mitzvah’s. The finished product, when printed on the right paper is suitable for framing.

    1. The first thing you’ll need are some photographs. 5-15 images are good to start with. Adding pictures of documents such as birth announcements or wedding invitations or other tokens that have meaning to the recipient can add some interest to your montage. You’ll also need Adobe PhotoShop.

    2. If your photos are not digital (those great old photos from childhood rarely are) scan them at a high resolution (at least 300dpi) at the size that you think you’ll want to use them, or larger. This is so that when re-sizing images to fit in a layout you won’t end up with pixelated images.

    3. Decide what size you want your final printed piece to be. This is important since once you have finished your project you’ll want to reproduce it without losing quality. For printing on an ink-jet printer you’ll need at least 150dpi at the size that you want it. If you designed your piece to be 8-1/5 x 11 at 300dpi, the effective resolution of a blow-up of 17 x 22 would be 150dpi.

    4. Set up your photoshop document to the size and resolution that you want with a transparent background.
    Look at your photos and decide upon a rough layout. Is there one photo that calls out to be the centerpiece? If it’s for an anniversary, maybe the couple’s wedding photo. This is a creative project so you decide what looks good. You can always change things if it doesn’t look right once you get going.

    5. Open the images that you want to make a part of the montage and drag a couple onto the new document. Make sure that the image resolution is the same for both the images and the new document or your images are going to re-size according to the document’s resolution. This is ok if your images are larger than the new document (you can then just re-size them down if you need to) BUT you don’t want to re-size images up.

    6. You’ll see that each image that you dragged over is now on a separate layer. Roughly place various images next to and overlapping each other to form an attractive layout. Pay attention to backgrounds that might blend well together when choosing which photos to place next to which.

    7. The key to creating photomontages is layer masks. Using layer masks will allow you to make non-destructive changes to your images which can be easily undone if you need to change them later. I learned this after using the eraser tool and later discovering that I couldn’t put something back that I had erased a few saves ago!
    Select your layer and select Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All. (Make sure that the layer mask is highlighted when making your edits.)

    Using the brush tool, and making sure that the black is in the foreground of the tool palette, you can now erase away parts of the images that you want to hide so that and parts of the image in the layer below that was hidden is now viewable. If you make a mistake, switch to the white foreground and you can paint your image back in. Play with the size of the brush and it’s opacity for more creative options. I tend to use a fairly soft brush to avoid any hard edges.

    8. SAVE OFTEN! You don’t want to spend hours on your masterpiece only to lose all your work if you computer suddenly decides to freeze (it happens, I know from experience).

    9. When you are satisfied with your montage save your layered photoshop file for future reference. Then flatten your layers and SAVE AS a jpg or tiff file for printing.

    50th Birthday digital photo montage for a sailor and a dad

    50th Birthday digital photo montage for a sailor and a dad

    10. Then print on your ink jet printer. I recommend using Epson Enhanced Matte Photo paper. Also, to be sure that your image looks as good on paper as it does on screen, make sure to adjust the settings for your printer in the print dialog box. Set the paper type based upon which paper you’ve chosen and ask PhotoShop to manage color. All you need now is a frame!

    If this all sounds greek to you and you have an upcoming event or occasion that you like some help creating a custom photomontage for feel free to call on me. Click here for more info and to see more of my photomontage work.

  • Balance Your Life with Yoga

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    Yoga pose at sunset with Life is Balance yoga logo

    When was the last time that you could shut away all the problems and stress from your daily life for an hour or so, and spend some quality time with just yourself? I usually do this at least twice a week during my yoga class. I’ve been feeling under the weather for the past week and a half with a late winter cold and have not been able to get to my yoga class. I am definitely feeling off balance. There is something about yoga that feeds both my mind and body. Without it, I feel under-nourished.

    I read an interesting article by Robert Steven Williams today about balance and yoga that I think is worth reading. If our physical bodies are not in balance how can we expect the rest of our being to be, and vice versa.

    I started taking yoga classes at the gym a couple of years ago. I can coax my body into many poses that I never would have thought possible, and there are even more that I still can’t. The one thing that I have learned through my yoga practice is patience. My body will tell me when it is ready for a new pose and how far I can push it. Listen to your body, Surya my yoga teacher tells me. It’s ok if I can’t do what the person next to me is doing. The fact that I am present and in the moment is all that counts. While I still cannot do a handstand or a headstand (more from fear I think than anything else), I almost did a side crow during my last class! The sense of accomplishment that I feel when I am able to achieve a pose that I have been working on is great but the feeling of peace and balance that I feel after each yoga class is the real payoff.

    Surya my yoga instructor wearing a Life is Balance T-shirt

    Surya, my yoga instructor wearing a Life is Balance yoga t-shirt

    If you are new to yoga, don’t be afraid to take your first class. There are different styles of yoga classes for students of all levels. Most instructors will give variations on poses depending on a student’s skill level. Try out a few to decide which style is for you. I practice more of a Vinyasa, or flow-style. Some of the other yoga styles are Iyengar, Ananda, Anusara, Ashtanga, Bikram, Integral, Kali Ray TriYoga, Kripalu, Kundalini, Sivananda, Svaroopa Yoga and Viniyoga. There are some good descriptions of these different styles of yoga at About.com and at The Yoga Site.

    I can’t wait till my cold and cough is gone and I can once again get my life in balance through yoga.

  • Swimming for fitness also balances life

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    Swimming laps with life is balance logo

    I love to swim. Ever since my dad taught me to swim when I was 5, I’m most at home in the water. When I was younger, I used to race. I was on my summer swim club’s swim team and later, in camp I  was known for my speed. Other kids excelled at softball or archery. I won races. I no longer swim to compete however. I swim for exercise and to relax. There is nothing like a long swim to stretch out my muscles after a long day. What is nice about swimming, is that you use all your muscle, with little or no stress or impact to your joints. My usual routine is to swim a little over a mile in the pool. In the pool at my gym, Asphalt Green, this is about 72 laps (or lengths of the 25 yard lanes).  This takes me between 40-50 minutes, depending on how I am feeling.

    If you’d like to calculate how many laps you need to swim a mile, here is how I did it:
    1 mile = 1,760 yards
    pool length = 25 yards (pool lengths vary so be sure to ask how long yours is)
    1760/25= 70.4 lengths

    I swim back and forth repeating the lap number in my head so I can keep track, boring, right? Not since I discovered the waterproof headphones and ipod case that attaches to my goggle strap. I have lots of songs programmed into my ipod shuffle, which makes my swim ever so much more enjoyable! This is the same system that Olympic champions, Natalie Coughlin and Michael Phelps helped to design and both use for their workouts.

    Want to know what I listen to while I swim? Here’s a sampling of one of my playlists:

    Get Your Own Free Hypster.com Playlist.

    The symbol on the image above is the Life is Balance® swim design. I am gearing up to having that design available on t-shirts in the next couple of months. Sign up for our newsletter and like us on Facebook for access to our sales, Fan-only coupons and be the first to know when new styles are available!

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