“Is it a photo or a drawing?” folks may wonder when viewing modern works that combine camera images and a wide range of embellishments, from vivid backgrounds and textures to additional images.

Welcome to the world of digital photographic art!

Photo editing software is a popular tool these days for many daring camera enthusiasts who have loved photography for years and now are experimenting by adding digital photo enhancements to their pictures.

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Digital photographic art is an obsession for Green Valley resident Jerry Marrion, who started taking pictures at about age 15.

“I can't draw a straight line, but I can take a snapshot, picture or photograph and create one-of-a-kind 'you-gotta-look-twice' picture pleasures,” he explains.

“Everyone has that inner artist. It is just that some of us are not that technically astute to put it down in pen/ink, watercolor, pastels, oils, etc. But with some Dynamic Auto Painter, Photoshop Elements, and a myriad of other softwares that the GVR Camera Club offers with membership, let your fingers and creativity go gonzo!”

Digital photography GOES ARTISTIC!

Jerry Marrion created this digital photographic art creation using a scene from Watertown, S.D.

Choose from filters, blending modes, opacities, masks and more, Marrion says. Try more than a dozen variations of just one single photo, if you like. Then come back and reconstruct what may be just right for you to re-do or add to a digital art creation, he says.

Also, old photos can be put into a digital format, bringing new life to snapshots that may have missing corners, splotches, stains or are out of focus.

“Digital photography lets one correct or enhance snapshots into either pictures or even up to a full-fledged photograph. There is a difference. Lighten, darken, crop, sharpen, vignette, frame, title, border, remove unwanted objects, insert wanted objects, tint, change colors or hues, make composites, do panoramas, collages, note or postcards, calendars ... and that is before one gets into photo editing software,” Marrion points out.

Digital photography GOES ARTISTIC!

Jerry Marrion's original background photo taken of common ground in Green Valley's Continental Vistas neighborhood.

Many Photoshop Elements online tutorials are available, from the ultra simple to ultra advanced. Plus, he notes, the GVR Camera Club has a vast library on all aspects of photography, and books can be checked out to GVR Camera Club members for free.

The popular club has classes for video, black & white, bird photography, “Showtime” (10-minute arrays of photos submitted by individuals) or “Travelogue” (20- to 30-minute “travel the world” mini movies) from Antartica to the Grand Canyon. Somewhat new is a free Digital Photo Art course the club has held on Monday afternoons, usually running about 90 minutes. Photos are displayed at various Green Valley locations, rotating pictures about every 30 days.

The GVR Camera Club's free 10-week photography course usually is available starting in early January, although it may be canceled or postponed due to the virus.

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At about age 10, Green Valley resident Linda Gregory was taking photos and developing the film in the basement of her family's home. However, she recalls, “my photos were awful.” Her interest in photography waxed and waned until about 1967, when she purchased a used Konica SLR film camera.

“I purchased my first serious digital camera, a Panasonic bridge camera — a camera that you don't have to change lenses to get a good telephoto — in 2006 when I joined the GVR Camera Club,” says Gregory. And digital cameras totally changed the way she approaches photography.

“Prior to digital cameras, when my husband and I traveled, I would carry two film cameras, each loaded with a different kind of film, and several lenses, and because film was so expensive to process, I would only allow myself to take one roll of 36 images a day,” she recalls.

Digital photography GOES ARTISTIC!

Green Valley photographer Linda Gregory created this digital photo artwork of a Tombstone stagecoach driver.

“Now, of course, there is no limit to how many photos a photographer can take. Digital photography has allowed me to be more creative with my photos. I can also shoot in burst, which allows me to capture moving subjects that I wouldn't be able to get with film.”

Photoshop Elements was one of the classes she took as a GVR Camera Club member. Since she shoots in a format other than JPG that must be processed to bring out the reality of the subject or scene, Gregory likes to use Elements for that process.

“Elements has also allowed me to experiment with layering of photos to create photo art. I have tried Photoshop CC and Lightroom, but find that I can do everything I need in Elements,” she points out. And she teaches a Photoshop Elements class for Camera Club members.

“I have tried all sorts of creative outlets — painting, stenciling, etc. — but digital photography will always be my go-to medium. It allows me to experiment in ways that I wouldn't be able to do otherwise. And, best of all, it's instant gratification. Take the picture, put it on the computer, and print it.”

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Digital photo editing is Gene Komaromi's favorite medium, as it gives him a license to create a work of art from his imagination.

Photography has been a part of his life since he was 5 and received his first camera. He recalls that by the time he was in high school, he had a special allowance for film and processing.

Digital photography GOES ARTISTIC!

Gene Komaromi's “Hotel California” digital photographic image.

Working as a middle school teacher in Detroit, Komaromi also taught night school photography classes. Plus, he and his wife had a photography business in Michigan and did all kinds of photo shoots, from weddings to graduations.

In the late 1990s, Komaromi retired to Green Valley, joined the GVR Camera Club, and purchased his first digital camera.

“I found with digital photo editing I could do tasks in a few minutes that would have taken hours in a wet darkroom. Even more, I discovered that I could edit digital photos in a way that could never have been done before. I could turn wild imaginary ideas into photographs,” he says.

“I do almost all of my photo editing in an open source photo editing program called GIMP. I get inspired by a song or an event and find photographic elements that I could use in a composite photo art work. I try to create something that only exists in my mind.”

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Photos of dams and bridges that his father, a civil engineer, took sparked a lifelong love of photography for Green Valley resident Carl Sparfeld when he was a teenager. He went on to teach photography in private schools back east before moving to Green Valley in 2004 and eagerly joining the GVR Camera Club.

“That was one of the reasons I moved here,” Sparfeld points out, and it spurred him on to learn about and shoot with a new digital camera.

Digital photography GOES ARTISTIC!

One of Carl Sparfeld's rodeo photos turned into digital photographic art piece by his pal Jerry Marrion.

Among his favorite photo shoots are rodeos in Sonoita and the annual Fiesta de los Vaqueros in Tucson, as well as that city's architecturally interesting windows and doors, and Arizona's gorgeous sunrises and sunsets.

He also has led GVR Camera Club tours up in Tucson, and he and Marrion enjoy taking behind-the-scenes photos of made-for-TV movies being filmed at the Gammons Gulch movie set near Benson.

Adobe Photoshop allows him to lighten, darken, sharpen and add shadows to his images. And with the PhotoFunia app, Sparfeld can use a template to put a favorite photo in a calendar, put a person's face on a dollar bill or on show them on a ski slope.

It truly is a new adventure for photographers delving into artistic digital photo creations.