Do you ever see or participate in those Facebook challenges that go around? You're nominated to post photos of something; you nominate others to do the same. Maybe this is just an artist thing?

Anyhoo. I thought the images I chose would make for an interesting blog post. And even the variety surprised me! So here I am presenting them to you today.

A few weeks ago I was nominated for a photo challenge whose theme was "Illusion". That can be interpreted in different ways, right? More than just a magic trick?

For me, photography is my way of creating an illusion. Sometimes it's as simple as capturing what is right in front of me. Other times I also add my own creative ideas.

ILLUSION - Likely to be wrongly perceived or interpreted. Deceptive appearance.

I didn't photograph anything new. I've got other projects I'm working on and didn't want to get too distracted by this. So instead I went through my archives which contain a variety of images (way more than just flowers!). This can be a good way to see your past images in a fresh and different light. (Ok, so this was a little distraction, but in a good way.)

The Collection of Illusions


Mars, Life, and Memory are all very literal images.


Illusion of Mars - A rocky shadow cast over a New Mexico landscape. I took some liberty with increasing the saturation of the color of Mars, but that's about it. Trust me, there is civilization nearby. Earthlings. :)


Illusion of Life - Do you know what this is? It's a metal sculpture in Chicago called The Bean. Looks quite funky and psychedelic when viewed from this perspective. Dozens of lives are reflected in this one image. With sooooo many people around, I really just had to embrace the fact that there would be tons of strangers in all my photographs. So I made the people part of the composition of the image.


Illusion of Memory - This is a reflection of a tree in a puddle - early spring. The funky blur was created by the lens I was using. (One of my favorite lenses for creating illusions!) I was out walking near my house one afternoon, thinking back on some past memories. It was nice to be alone with my thoughts and a camera.

Literal, with a twist


Illusion of a Reflection - This is an in-camera double exposure. Colors have been tweaked by me. This is basically a photo over a photo. I always thought it looked more like a reflection of the trees and leaves in water. But in reality, this is one photograph of the leaves in a tree, and the other is looking up at the trees and sky. I still have this print hanging in my bathroom. The image has a bright watery feel to brighten up the room. (A lot of cameras can do double exposures. Check to see if yours does, because they can be really fun to do!)

Illusion Created

Sky, Desolation, and Of a Past Life all had a little heavier creative hand applied to them.

Sky and Desolation were both created by intentionally moving the camera.


For Sky, the camera was moved horizontally. This is actually a photograph of naturally deep blue water and the shore line. Also photographed in New Mexico like the "Mars" image.


For Desolation, the camera was moved vertically. This was taken on a cold day that had a very pale, bland overcast sky. The movement of the camera created painterly lines of color. And choosing to put the tree at the very bottom of the composition definitely adds to the desolate feeling of the image. Colors were enhanced plus an overlay of reddish tones was applied as well. For me, it's interesting looking for "stories" that I can create with an image. And this fictional story didn't have a happy ending. (No worries, no trees were harmed.)

And last is Illusion of a Past Life. This is sort of a self portrait. I needed a model and I was available. So I wasn't really photographing myself - this could have been anyone. This image, out of all of them presented here, has the most editing done to it.

The illusions are many.


The clothing is meant to look like it's from the past century, possibly the early 1900's, even though it isn't. It could be an undergarment, or a dress. That's open to interpretation by you the viewer.

The necklace was my grandmother's. You can't see the matching earrings, but it does help set the mood for the model (me). And since these were taken with a self timer, I never quite new from shutter to shutter how I'd be standing. (I had to think of how I was holding my body, arms, hands, hair, where I was going to look -- all that in 10 seconds. Good thing I could take more than one.)

This is in my basement. The real background is black foam core (I wanted a dark, neutral background), which is raised off the floor by a wood crate so that it is taller than I am. (I know they make 6' foam core, but that won't fit in my car.) To give the illusion of a real wall, several digital textures were applied to the image to disguise and create something new.

Natural light is from photo right. I was able to punch that up a bit during editing. Shadows are an important part of the mood of the image, and that was intentional on my part.

As I was finishing the editing of this image, I noticed how this was beginning to take on a painterly quality. So as I final step, the entire image was edited in software that emulates different painterly styles (e.g. Monet, Van Gogh, etc). I didn't want the image to look 100% painted, but just enough to give interesting lines to my hair, soften and smooth skin (gotta love disguising lines and under eye circles !), and lend yet another interesting texture to the entire image. An added bonus was enhancing the direction of light from the right side.

I like the end result. It was worth the time spent editing. I think this would be fun to use these techniques for portraits of other women. We all need a little illusion in our life!

~Barb Kellogg, photographer, tea drinker, and dark chocolate lover