Tag Archives: Liz Mackney Photography

Filter Play For A Cold Winter’s Day

Winter In New England

It’s been an interesting winter here in New England thus far. We’ve certainly seen an extreme range of temperatures, not to mention some “wicked” ice storms and a recent Nor’easter blizzard.

During this time of year, many of my fellow photographer friends love to grab their camera equipment and venture out to face the elements head on. I wish I could say that I was one of those adventurous photographers, but alas my thin blood and extremely low tolerance to the cold has me instead living vicariously through them.

While I’ve added many new “To Buy” items to my “Winter Photography Clothing Gear List,” in reality I spend most cold winter days indoors staying warm and exploring my creative side through a variety of post-production filters and techniques. I will touch on a few of my favorite post-production filters here today.

I Know I’m Not Alone…

I suspect I’m not the only photographer who tends to avoid the possibility of frozen fingers — and exposing my equipment to ice, snow, and sub-zero temps. So for those of you with simpatico minds — and I know there are more than just a few of us — this article might give you a few new ideas on how to reinvent an existing image, or perhaps take your post-production process in a new direction altogether.

So let’s get to some of those favorite post-production filters of mine…

Poster Edges

Photoshop comes equipped with several built-in filters. Poster Edges is one of them. You can easily access it from the Filter pull-down menu at the top of your screen. (Filter > Artistic > Poster Edges). The filter’s image adjustment sliders then let you alter such things as Edge Thickness, Edge Intensity, and Posterization to your preference for that image.

For this image, I took a macro shot of a coneflower. I then added a texture layer for a fine art effect. For a final step, I applied the Poster Edges filter to give the image a contemporary look.


Coneflower with texture layer and Poster Edges filter applied.

Oil Paint Filter

Another favorite Photoshop filter of mine is the Oil Paint Filter. This filter comes packaged with Photoshop CS6 and Photoshop CC. The Oil Paint effect also shipped as a free Pixel Bender Gallery plugin for Photoshop CS5.

Note: Variations of an oil paint effect are also available as third-party PS plugins from software makers such as Topaz Labs.


My beloved Mia. Pixel Bender Oil Paint Filter applied.

“Less Is More”

To what degree one applies the Oil Paint Filter to an image very much depends on personal taste. I’m a big proponent of “less is more” when it comes to using this filter. Being conservative with the adjustment sliders gives the image a far more realistic oil painting look in my opinion. However, there are no “rules” to creativity. Surrealism certainly has its place, so by all means feel free to experiment and turn reality into something as abstract as your imagination envisions.

Annisquam Lighthouse Oil Paint Filter

Annisquam Lighthouse with PS CC Oil Paint Filter applied.



Motif #1 with PS CC Oil Paint Filter applied.

Flaming Pear Flood Filter

I love the Flood Filter by Flaming Pear. You can use it to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary, or to give added dimension to a visual story.

In this shot, I used it to add a dramatic — and somewhat surreal — effect to one of my HDR Battleship Cove images taken in Fall River, Massachusetts. The adjustment sliders for this filter give you great latitude for “flood placement” and water detail manipulation.


Battleship Cove Reflection with Flaming Pear Flood filter applied.

Topaz Star Effects

Who doesn’t like adding a little pizzazz to images that already feature an illuminated light? I certainly thought this sunrise shot of Maine’s Portland Head Light deserved such a treatment — and Topaz Star Effects made it possible. Again, I believe in the “less is more” approach. The “blue hour” of morning was beautiful in and of itself. Adding a subtle star effect to the beacon seemed like a nature fit to accentuate the beauty of the moment.


Portland Head Lighthouse at sunrise with Topaz Star Effects applied.

Experimental Fun!

So there you have it. Several examples of the different type of post-production filters you can play with on a cold winter’s day.

As you know, it’s only mid January. We still have a couple of months of this New England winter to go. Since we can’t change it, I say let’s embrace the opportunities it offers.

For some that means bundling up and dazzling the rest of us with spectacular winter images. For the rest of us, it means having fun — and staying warm — at our computers while we enjoy some post-production experimentation.


Macro image of a sunflower transformed into a kaleidoscope. PS CS5 Pixel Bender Oil Paint filter then selectively applied to the background.

However you choose to survive this winter’s cold weather, enjoy!

~ Liz Mackney

My Website

My NEPG Gallery

My Fine Art America Gallery

My Facebook Fan Page



Posted in Blue Hour, Cape Ann, Creative Processing, Filters, Flowers, Lighthouse, Maine, Massachusetts, Reference Info, Sunrise /Sunset, Technique | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Leave a comment

Cape Ann’s Halibut Point State Park

Fun to Explore in Every Season!

Cape Ann’s Halibut Point State Park on Gott Avenue in Rockport, Massachusetts, attracts a wide variety of people year round. Regardless of the season, there’s always fun to be had. Everyone from hikers to birders to coastline explorers and photographers love this idyllic location that borders the Atlantic Ocean.

A view of the quarry and Visitor Center

A view of the quarry and Visitor Center from the walking trail 

Historic Granite Quarry

Once home to a large granite-quarrying operation around the turn of the 20th century, the park is now cooperatively managed by The Trustees of Reservations and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management.

Views of the former Babson Farm quarry are diverse and include scenic vistas, granite reflections, changing foliage, and some magical sunsets.

Halibut Point State Park quarry reflection

Granite walls cast a reflection

Hiking Trails, Dramatic Surf and More!

Featuring 2.5 miles of trails and a rocky coastline overlooking some dramatic surf, the park is a wonderful place to explore. Hikers enjoy climbing the rocky ledges and traversing the trails that make their way through the woods, around the quarry, and along the edge of the ocean.

Walking trails at Halibut Point State Park

Canopied walking trail

A shoreline photographer at Halibut Point State Park

Photographer braves the ocean surf

A Birder’s Paradise

Bird watchers get a diverse eyeful year round — including loons, grebes and a variety of ducks. Tidal pools delight visitors with harbor snails, hermit crabs, and sea stars. I love to visit every season, as migration patterns bring different feathered friends to the park throughout the year.

Shoreline birds at Halibut Point State Park

Shoreline birds gather in groups along the rocky coast

A harlequin duck along the coast at Halibut Point State Park

A harlequin duck flies along the coastline

An eider duck flaps his wings in the waters off the coast of Halibut Point State Park

A male eider enjoys showing off

View from the Visitor Center

The park’s Visitor Center is housed in a renovated World War II fire-control tower near the edge of the Babson Farm Quarry. This 60-foot tall structure offers a panoramic view that includes Crane Beach in Ipswich, Massachusetts, Mount Agamenticus in Maine, and the Isles of Shoals off the coast of New Hampshire.

An autumn view of the quarry at Halibut Point State Park

An autumn view of the quarry from the top of the Visitor Center


Halibut Point State Park is open year round from sunrise to sunset. A small parking fee is charged year round. Admission is FREE for Trustees members (proof of membership required), and also for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Self-guided Tour

On weekends from Memorial Day through Columbus day, tours of the quarry are offered by staff and volunteers.

A self-guided walking tour brochure is also available for download by clicking here.

For a closer view of the park’s map, click here.

Note: Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times.

Worth The Trip!

So if you’re heading to Cape Ann — or looking for a great new place to explore — make sure to check out Halibut Point State Park. It’s worth the trip any time of the year!

~ Liz Mackney

My Website

My NEPG Gallery

My Fine Art America Gallery

My Facebook Fan Page



Posted in Bird watching, Birds, Cape Ann, Historic, Historic Landmarks, Massachusetts, Migration, Nature, Scenic New England, Scenic Travel, Water fowl, Waterfowl, Wildlife | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 2 Comments

The Six Lighthouses of Cape Ann

Beautiful & Bountiful Cape Ann

Cape Ann — the “other” Cape — is located approximately 30 miles northeast of Boston, Massachusetts. Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on three sides and separated from the mainland by the Annisquam River, Cape Ann’s picturesque coastline is home to six very different lighthouses. With each lighthouse being within a relatively short driving distance to the next, Cape Ann makes for a perfect day trip with lots of visual bang for your gas tank buck!

The six lighthouses of Cape Ann, Massachusetts.

The locations of Cape Ann’s six lighthouses

Even though Cape Ann consists primarily of four towns — Gloucester, Rockport, Essex, and Manchester By-The-Sea — the locations of the six lighthouses are evenly split between Gloucester and Rockport. A 19-mile route along Rt. 127 to the north, Rt. 127A to the south, and then over to Gloucester Harbor’s Stacy Boulevard covers the entire lighthouse viewing territory.

But as they say, a picture’s worth… well, you know. So, let’s get to it!

Annisquam Lighthouse

Annisquam Lighthouse stands on the east side of the Annisquam River at its northern end known as Wigwam Point. The present day 41-foot cylindrical brick structure was built in 1897 on the same foundation that supported two previous towers — both wooden — back in 1801 and 1851 respectively. The original keeper’s house, enlarged and altered over the years, still stands today.

While the actual grounds of Annisquam Lighthouse are now closed to the public, the lighthouse can be seen from Wingaersheek Beach and also nearby from Lighthouse Beach which is part of the Squam Rock Land Trust. Some boat tours also pass Annisquam Lighthouse for a close-up view from the sea. Sunset is a beautiful time to be there…

Annisquam Lighthouse at sunset in Annisquam, Massachusetts.

Annisquam Lighthouse at sunset

Straitsmouth Island Lighthouse

Straitsmouth Island Lighthouse can clearly be seen from the tip of Bearskin Neck in the tourist friendly town of Rockport. Originally constructed as a 19-foot lighthouse in 1835 to help direct vessels to the harbor at Pigeon Cove, it was later replaced in 1896 by a 37-foot brick tower and moved 500 feet to its present location.

This relatively small lighthouse is maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. The island itself, however, is now owned by the Massachusetts Audubon Society as a bird and wildlife sanctuary.

Straitsmouth Lighthouse as seen from the end of Bearskin Neck in Rockport, Massachusetts

Straitsmouth Lighthouse from the tip of Bearskin Neck

Thacher Island’s Twin Lighthouses

Thacher Island’s Twin Lighthouses are the only surviving multiple lighthouses on the coasts of the United States. The two 124-foot granite towers that stand today — the North Tower and South Tower — were built in 1861. The original lighthouses, constructed and lit in 1771, were unique historically, as they were the last built under British rule and the first in the U.S. to mark a dangerous area, rather than a harbor entrance.

During the summer Thacher Island is open to visitors. A shuttle boat operates out of Rockport Harbor. I’ve been fortunate to have visited the island several times, including at sunrise to capture some magnificent blue hour color, and also to climb the North Tower for a great view of the island.

When on Cape Ann, I love to view and photograph Thacher Island and its twin lights from Loblolly Cove. Every time I go there, I hike around to a different vantage point. On this day, sunrise was masked by storm clouds. All was not lost, however, as I loved the moodiness it created, as well as the flashing lights of the towers, the fog on the water, and the bright spotlight in the distance of a solitary lobster boat.


Thacher Island’s Twin Lighthouses from Loblolly Cove

South Tower

Sometimes each tower features its own magic. Such was the case this day as the full moon majestically rose beside the island’s South Tower. I knew it was going to rise there as I had checked The Photographer’s Ephemeris that morning. Once again, my location was Loblolly Cove, but this time I had hiked over to the far side of the cove so that I could shoot directly across to the island.

Full moon rising over Thacher Island's South Tower

Full moon rising over Thacher Island’s South Tower

Eastern Point Lighthouse

Eastern Point Lighthouse was originally built in 1832 to mark the entrance to Gloucester Harbor. The stone 30-foot structure was later replaced in 1848 with a new 34-foot lighthouse. A two-story duplex house, oil house, garage and fog signal building were all later added between 1879 – 1951.

Today the lighthouse station serves as active housing for the U.S. Coast Guard. While the grounds to the lighthouse are closed to the public, you can walk the 2,250-foot granite Dogbar breakwater for an excellent view.

Eastern Point Lighthouse from the Dogbar breakwater as a storm rolls in.

Eastern Point Lighthouse from the Dogbar breakwater

Note: Eastern Point Lighthouse is easily accessible from downtown Gloucester by following Eastern Point Avenue to the very end where there is a small parking lot for lighthouse visitors.

Ten Pound Island Lighthouse

Ten Pound Island Lighthouse is located within Gloucester Harbor. The island itself — named for the number of sheep pens (pounds) that it could hold — boasts housing America’s first Coast Guard Station. Originally constructed in 1821, the lighthouse marks the island and assists in navigating Gloucester’s inner harbor.

Famous artist Winslow Homer boarded with the lighthouse keeper in the summer of 1880. During that time, Homer painted approximately 50 scenes of Gloucester Harbor, several of which included Ten Pound Island Lighthouse.

The lighthouse can easily be viewed from many locations along Gloucester’s waterfront, especially from Stacy Boulevard. Views can also be had from tour boats that pass through the harbor.

Sailing past Ten Pound Island Lighthouse in Gloucester, Massachusetts

Sailing past Ten Pound Island Lighthouse

Great Day Trip!

Well, there you have it. Six great lighthouses all in a small square mile radius. Pretty sweet driving route too. It doesn’t get much better than that. As you can see, Cape Ann makes for a great day trip for anyone who is a lighthouse lover — or for anyone who wants to become one quickly.

So, the next time you’re looking for a fun day trip, come visit Cape Ann’s six lighthouses!

~ Liz Mackney

My Website

My NEPG Gallery

My Fine Art America Gallery

My Facebook Fan Page



Posted in Cape Ann, Historic Landmarks, Lighthouse, Massachusetts, Scenic New England, Scenic Travel, Seascapes, Sunrise /Sunset, Touring, Travel | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Leave a comment

Antique Shops & Flea Markets Yield Great Photo Subjects

It’s That Time of Year!

Now that warmer weather has finally arrived here in eastern Massachusetts, the local antique shops are brimming with new inventory, and farm fields are playing host to large-scale flea markets.

Whether you’re an antique lover, collector or photographer, this time of year means one thing — treasure hunting!

The White Elephant Shop on Main Street.

The White Elephant Shop

This Photographer’s Search

When I stroll these venues as a photographer, I look for a variety of things:

  • Small items for macro photography subjects.
  • Interesting items for editorial photography subjects.
  • People for street photography subjects that can also be used for editorial photography.
  • Unusual items that can be transformed into an interesting piece of digital art.
  • Items that can be used as backdrops for staging, or for props on a specific shoot.
An unusual statue figure stands outside of the White Elephant Outlet.

Unusual figure becomes a perfect subject for Photoshop Oil Painting Filter fun.

Every Picture Tells A Story

Sometimes I have a vision in my mind of what I’d like to create. Basically, a visual story for the imagination to enjoy. For instance, I have a series of leather-bound books that date back to the early 1800s. I love their shape, size, color, and aged appearance.

In my mind’s eye I can see an image that incorporates the books stacked in a specific manner, along with just the right pair of antique reading glasses and an antique candle holder or oil lamp.

I have the books, but I need to find the other items to stage the shot. They must be authentic and be of the size, color and shape that I know will enhance the image. So where does someone from Cape Ann go to look for such things?

My Hunting Grounds

I live in an area where I have easy access to many antique shops. However, like anyone else, I believe in the art of the deal. Why pay more for something than you have to when you can negotiate? Especially when that something is an antique or collectible? Here are a few my favorite hunting grounds for interesting items that won’t break the bank.

White Elephant Shop & Outlet

Not too far from my home here on Cape Ann are the White Elephant Shop and its nearby companion shop, the White Elephant Outlet. Located in Essex, Massachusetts, the White Elephant at 32 Main Street has a little bit of everything including antiques, collectibles, jewelry, pottery, tools, books, toys, furniture, paintings, musical instruments, architectural pieces — even a knight in shining armor!

White Elephant Shop Knight in Shining Armor

Standing Guard

A mile further down the road is the White Elephant Outlet. Only open on weekends (Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and Sunday 12 noon – 5:00 p.m.), the outlet offers everything at half price.

There’s much to see — both inside and outside — at both White Elephant locations. The inventory changes frequently, so it’s always worth a stop to see what’s new.

Todd Farm Antiques & Flea Market

Todd Farm Antiques & Flea Market on Route 1A in Rowley, Massachusetts, features up to 240 vendors from all over New England and New York. Open Sundays only, this event runs from April 7 to November 24 for 2013. If you’re an early riser, this is the place for you. The flea market hours are from 5:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. However, some vendors do begin packing up around 1:00 p.m. so don’t get there too late if you’re looking for something in particular.

An old trunk outside of the White Elephant Outlet.

An old trunk makes a great prop for staging.

Fell In Love

Last weekend I arrived at Todd Farm at 11:30 a.m. and spotted a very special item right off the bat. Although I wasn’t looking for something like that, when I saw it I knew I had to have it. What was it? Well, I’m going to have to save that for another article, as I have not yet had time to photograph it and don’t want to spoil the surprise. I will tell you, though, it only cost me $5.00 — and I love it. Stay tuned…

One thing to take note of is that the best pickings are typically early in the day. However, the best deals can often be had later in the day when vendors just don’t want to pack everything up again.

Brimfield Antique Show — The Mother Load!

There’s nothing like the Brimfield Antique Show in Brimfield, Massachusetts, both in terms of antiques and photography subjects.

Held three times a year (May, July and September), this event is a jaw-dropping dream come true for collectors and photographers alike!

As the largest outdoor antiques show in the world, the Brimfield Antique Show features over 6,000 dealers spread out over 23 neighboring fields along a mile stretch of Route 20. It’s absolutely amazing to see.

Mark Your Calendars

2013 Dates:  May 14–19, July 9–14, September 3–8

2014 Dates:  May 13–18, July 8–13, September 2–7

Click here for directions

Believe me, there is nothing in the world like the Brimfield Antique Show. Definitely wear comfortable walking shoes!


Get Your Camera Ready!

So the next time you pass an antiques store or flea market, you might want to check it out with a photographer’s eye. You just never know what you might find that your lens and creative eye will love.

Happy treasure hunting!

~ Liz Mackney

My Website

My NEPG Gallery

My Fine Art America Gallery

My Facebook Fan Page


Posted in Antiques / Flea Markets, Cape Ann, Events, Festival / Rally, Massachusetts | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , Leave a comment

The Crane Estate at Castle Hill

The Crane Estate in Ipswich, Massachusetts, is comprised of three properties encompassing more than 2,100 acres. On this day, my focus was on the property known as Castle Hill – a National Historic Landmark upon which proudly stands The Great House.

The Great House

Sitting high above the Atlantic Ocean, The Great House stands majestically. Just as impressive are the 165 acres collectively known as Castle Hill. The incredible beauty of this location is continually displayed through the attention to detail. From the 17th Century Stuart style architecture of the 59-room mansion, to the rolling landscape and historic gardens, a visual feast exists. Expansive views include not only Crane Beach, but also the sandy shore of Plum Island’s Parker River National Wildlife Refuge across Ipswich Bay. It’s no wonder The Great House is a popular venue for weddings and corporate events.


The Crane Estate Great House at Castle Hill

The Great House

Guided Tours

The Great House is just as spectacular indoors as it is outdoors. In addition to period antiques, features include a grand staircase, a rotunda with painted ceiling, ornate woodcarvings and Italian marble. Needless to say, a guided tour is certainly not to be missed!

2012 Guided Tours Schedule:

May 23 – October 13

Wednesdays – Thursdays | 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM 

Fridays – Saturdays | 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM (except July 4th)

Adults $12, Child $5 (8 years old min.)

Trustees of the Reservations Members: Free 

The Grand Allée

Perhaps the most breathtaking landscape feature of Castle Hill is the Grand Allée. Measuring 2,060 feet in length and 100 feet wide, this “rolling carpet” leads visitors from the stately mansion to the scenic ocean vistas.

The Grand Allée at the Crane Estate in Ipswich, Massachusetts.

The Grand Allée


Statues & Accent Pieces

Grand Allée statue at the Crane Estate at Castle Hill

Grand Allée Statue

A stroll along the Grand Allée is never a lonely journey. The many statues standing tall along the way are always there to greet you and guide your way. Decorative accents adorn the walls and gardens.

Decorative wall urns at the Crane Estate at Castle Hill.

Decorative wall urns

Every detail and its placement has been carefully considered along the landscape. At the end of the Grand Allée, the ocean views delight. A cozy bench awaits your arrival, beckoning you to kick back, breathe in the fresh air, and enjoy the scenery.




Stone Structures & Outbuildings

In addition to the Great House, the Crane Estate at Castle Hill also features 21 outbuildings. Many of these buildings are attached to the stone walls surrounding the estate.


Stone structure and stone walls at the Crane Estate.

Corner Structure

Step Into History

Clearly showcasing the estate’s historic past are gates such as these that seem to transition time before your eyes.


Wooden gates and stone walls at the Crane Estate

Gates to the past

Hollywood Come Calling

Perhaps you’ve already seen the Crane Estate at Castle Hill without even realizing it. According to the Massachusetts Film Office, the location was used for filming on several well known projects that included “The Next Karate Kid” in 1993 and “The Witches of Eastwick” in 1986. Reportedly, a turn-of-the-century television pilot for ABC is currently being filmed there now.


Castle Hill is home to some diverse wildlife. From time to time deer and foxes my cross your path. Turn your eyes to the sky and a turkey vulture or red-tailed hawk may soar by. One thing I learned upon exiting the Crane Estate at Castle Hill is to keep an eye on the salt marsh and tall grass along the side of the road. You never know who might be a part of the scenery.


Great Blue Heron in the salt marsh as you exit the Crane Estate at Castle Hill in Ipswich, Massachusetts.

Great Blue Heron

With an early spring knocking on our door, the grounds and gardens of the Crane Estate at Castle Hill will be flourishing before you know it. It’s hard to believe this was all built as a summer retreat for the Crane family back in the 1920s. If you’ve never been here, I suggest you add it to your list of “Places To Visit.” It truly is a sight to see.

~ Liz Mackney

My Website
My NEPG Gallery




Posted in Historic Landmarks, Massachusetts, Scenic New England, Scenic Travel, Touring, Travel | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 6 Comments