The Land of Magic


This time I will share some of my pictures that I have taken during  Elena Shumilova’s workshop and edited for this blog. To those who haven’t read my previous posts about the workshop, there are two links: and

To start with, I want to make it clear that I have never had any intention to copy Elena’s style, but I did wonder how she makes all her images to look so warm and alive, and how she brings every single detail of her composition to perfection.  I wanted my photographs to be perfect too :). I did learn some of Elena’s techniques, I came home enriched and joyous,  but I know that it is just a beginning of a magic journey, where hard work and inspiration walk side by side.

Elena’s workshop encouraged me to use my painting skills in my photography – something that I do very seldom, and only when it is absolutely necessary.  Elena says that to know is not enough. It will take time and experience to learn what opacity and brush size to choose, and where to put a stroke.

I was playing with Photoshop, and want to share the pictures I have edited straight after the workshop. Some are heavily painted, some just retouched. There are no added textures or presets – I have only used Photoshop brushes and painted manually. If you don’t mind, could you please tell which of the images you like better.

This is Sean. I know, I know, it is impossible to take a bad picture with Sean as a model. I am so grateful that he agreed to model for us, and sure he deserves a better portrait than this one I took on the run. Sean is a musician, a local Father Christmas, and one of the nicest men I ever met, with a personality larger than life.

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I have always had a love for backlit scenes. Unfortunately we got that thick cloud sitting on the horizon –  there goes the golden and dreamy light… This one got a little bit of light though.


In this image, I painted the background more deliberately, making it look like watercolor.


In the opening image, I painted it a night. This is the real scene, with just a basic editing.


In the end of the day we are all exhausted. Tried my best to squeeze a smile.

Sean Derry

Some more photographs to acknowledge our beautiful models.


elena shumilova workshop


elena shumilova workshop

That’s it from the workshop. In my next blog I will share some pictures of Inishowen –  the land of magic and beautiful people.

I had been on the road many hours, and did a lot of thinking ( it is probably why I had missed my turn and got lost somewhere between County Cavan and Monaghan)…

As we are living our life, unpleasant things happen. We may meet some people or groups of people who act unethically and mean; who destroy others with lies and themselves with envy. We can get hurt. We can be targets or collateral damage victims. There is some ugliness always lurking in the shadows, but you know what? The rest of the life is magic! Most of our life is magic. I would be a fool if I let this perfect life to be overshadowed with bitterness and negativity. This precious, exciting, glorious life! Sadness, and even frustration takes over at times, but the magic has never failed me – after every unpleasant experience something wonderful happens.

I would love to share another few links as a Thank you to all of those who made that weekend unforgettable.

Strand Hotel, Ballyliffin – highly recommended!

Famine Village  – photo shoot location

Malin Stables



Irish TV

And again, thank you Elena Shumilova and Brendan Diver, and all our beautiful models! More workshops scheduled for 2016, including two in the USA ( Long Island and Orange County).

More to follow…

IneseMjPhotographyHave a wonderful weekend!


    1. Thank you so much! Aren’t the little girls sweet! I haven’t yet decided how much of the ‘dream-painting’ I am going to use in my future pictures, but I really loved to play with the workshop images.

  1. Great! I’m glad to see the follow up to your earlier post. I love the contrast between wisdom and youth. By the way, the toddlers in Ireland are really huge and I– Oh wait, those are tiny ponies… Em, never mind.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! I just edited the images I took at the workshop. I guess if you google Elena Shumilova workshop and open Images, you will find another thirty almost identical pictures 🙂 I still don’t know if I am going to use this techniques on a regular basic, but I like to play with them, and I am grateful for the comments like yours :).
      I would love to work with Sean in the future. He is a wonderful model.

  2. Your photographs are so beautiful, Inese, and Sean and the little girls make wonderful models. I love the way you edited the ‘header’ photo to make it look like night, and the one of Sean in which you painted the background to look like watercolour is beautiful too. You certainly know a lot about photo editing! I wouldn’t know where to start with Photoshop.
    Wonderful photos altogether.

  3. Congratulations Inese, the pictures are really beautiful, great work !!
    I am also a follower of Elena Shumilova, is an excellent photographer and artist … like you.
    I loved to see you both in the image of the previous post, I feel great envy 🙂 congratulations again.
    Hugs from Spain.

    1. Oh that is too kind of you. Have you seen my previous blog post? Elena’s images are perfectly composed and technically excellent. I am only learning how to apply the technique, and I am not even sure it will work out well with my style. These pictures are only my homework, and if you think they are good, it makes me very happy. Yet, it is only a homework and I am planning my own project for near future. Thank you for believing in me!

        1. Thank you! 🙂 The models were hand-picked by Elena, and of course all the pictures are more or less staged. The only personal touch in these pictures is my own editing. Some of them are composites – I won’t reveal every secret, don’t want to kill the magic 🙂 I used these techniques before, in my graphic work, and only a few times in my photography – to save a ruined image. Thank you again!

  4. Boy, these are simply stunning. While you are so correct in the magic Sean brings into a photo…what you have done with the photos of your little models are amazing. Those photos are as if taken from a dream ~ simply beautiful. I cannot imagine the processing you took ~ but can confirm 100% that what you have create is incredible, and you have me wishing to join a future course 🙂 Wish you a great weekend Inese.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! They mean a lot to me. You can host a workshop in your city, I am sure that Elena will agree. Think about that 🙂 The workshop in Ireland was her first, and now she is invited to almost every country in Europe.
      Wish you a great weekend too! 🙂

    1. Thank you so much Linda! The girls are adorable! You can imagine that I have got hundreds of pictures, and it took me an hour or so just to make a choice 🙂 We had the most gorgeous models one could wish for. Thank you again!

  5. I really enjoyed The Land of Magic today, Inese. Your photos, your models, your earnest learnings, and your words — you clearly demonstrate a love for life, the real magic of all. 🙂

  6. As wonderful as they all are, I kept returning to the very first, as if it were illustrating or telling part of a story.

  7. Breathtaking, Inese. So beautiful. Difficult to choose. I love the black and white picture of Sean and the one with the lantern is also gorgeous although all are great (the girls are so pretty!). I agree with Teagan that they’d make great book covers, but they’d also be lovely inside of your own photography book…:)

    1. Thank you so much Olga! Really happy that you like the same pictures that I like 🙂 Now I am looking for a lantern. It does look great, and I want to own my own 🙂

    1. Thank you! She has two workshops scheduled for 2016 – in Long Island and Orange County. I think $800 for two days? Anyway, if you live in a different state and can arrange a workshop, just contact Elena. These two are her first workshops in the US.
      Thank you again!

  8. These are all amazing… Full of magic, of stories behind them. Difficult to choose one! But I would go for the portrait of Sean with a lamp and the little girl. I love the others as well! But there is something very special in that one. I have also loved the following picture, with you, it’s great to see you!
    Have a wonderful weekend too! xx

    1. Thank you so much Montserrat! I am sure you would pick up some beautiful music to go with the pictures 🙂 I too love the pictures with Sean – but it is not possible to take a bad picture with him 🙂
      Love xx

  9. How absolutely fascinating, Inese- I love the air of mystery this technique gives! Great set of images, I can’t choose….

  10. A love specially the photographs with the laterns, I think they give a nice contrast of warmness to the blue atmosphere; and also they make me think in the kind eyes and warm smile of the portraited persons.
    About the unethical people, I guess they need help, probably once other persons when kids could make them harm so they could be victims as well, just they didn’t have the chance to break the wheel of hate and envy.
    Thank you, Inese. I don’t see a copied style but your skill to get the moment with the richness of knew knowledge. Greetings.

    1. Thank you so much Francis! I agree with you that most of unpleasant people are victims – either of their own vices, or misled by others. It is why I take it easy. I am busy fighting with myself 🙂 Anyway, this trip was amazing, and I look forward to going back 🙂 Thank you for your words of encouragement!

  11. I love the black and white. And the one with the gentleman and little girl looking opposite directions. Although they’re all terrific! Love the ethereal aspect of this technique

    1. Oh thank you very much! I too love these two pictures the most. I cannot believe I didn’t try this before. I have a huge collection of human faces ( from my own pictures) and I use them as a color library in portraiture, but I never thought of using the brushes for painting the background. I used multiple exposures in digital and sandwiching in film, but I wouldn’t make a composite image without a good reason. Now my mindset is completely changed 🙂

      1. It’s amazing what’s possible now with technology. I remember making all those alterations and color enhancements in the dark room. Now, click of the mouse and boom! I miss my film and processing of that film though.

  12. Thank you for sharing! These pictures look alive and I also appreciate the hard work to get these out they way you like it. I like all of them in different ways. They all very good!!!

        1. Oh thank you! I did enjoy the workshop and my trip in general, even though it didn’t went the way I expected… I will write more in my next blog post 🙂 Have a wonderful weekend!

  13. Inese, these pictures prove what a wonderfully talented lady you are. They took my breath away. Truly, they are magical. What a gift you have for all mediums of photography. Thank you so much for sharing these. I love them all, especially the little girl in pink with the pony. It is magical xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    1. Thank you so much!!! I was playing with the pictures, to be honest, combining them together, painting different colors – having fun. Trying to figure how much of this technique I can use in my photography. Glad you like them, and thank you again!

      1. Well, sorry ignore that other reply, the internet did its usual and flickered and there was the reply sent. Although I guess, ‘well’ does sum it up. For someone just doing that they are brill. I loved them all. Not that your work needs that other dimension but it does open up other possibilities x

        1. Thank you! It is exactly what I think 🙂 The funnies thing is that I have always used all of these techniques as a tool for fixing flaws, not for making art. This workshop gave me more perspective.

  14. You can claim the praise belongs to the models, but the true gift lies with the one who presses the camera button. The models respond to the personality of the photographer! Congratulations. They’re stunning!

    1. Thank you so much! These are images from a workshop, and only my editing makes them different. We had over thirty people there pressing the shutter at the same time 🙂 It was crazy 🙂

  15. I have to say that I love the first one best as it poses so many questions about a whole life. There’s such depth to it.
    The others are of a different nature to me and I especially like the girl with the pony. Such innocence!
    A lovely collection all round. Well done.

    1. Thank you so much! It was a wonderful workshop, and everything was perfect – models, location. I am really happy that after this workshop thirty people can take this beauty to the world. Thank you again!

  16. Hi, Inese! First: I wanted to thank you so much for liking so many of my posts and following my blog:) That really means a lot to me!!! I truly love your pictures! They are so full of life, not just the ones you´ve presented here on this post, but the other ones of course, too! You´ve got a wonderful talent to capture people and atmospheres and I enjoy looking at your pictures very, very much. And since you´ve asked: I love every picture in this post, but the seventh one with the two girls reminds me very much of one of my favourite photographers, Margaret Julia Cameron, so I´ll have to choose this one:) Sarah

    1. Thank you so much Sarah! I too love Margaret Julia Cameron, and I might write about her some day. Thanks for the compliment, I cannot tell how honored I am! The thing is that the children models were hand-picked by Elena Shumilova, and it was also her idea about the setting. I only waited for the right moment to press the shutter, and I edited the image as I liked. Most of the images are composites – I have combined two or even three different photographs together. The image with two girls is a composite too.
      Thank you again!

      1. You are very welcome, Inese:) And I meant it! For me, having an idea, sorting things out and then carrying it out is indispensible for being an artist. Besides, Choosing the right moment to press the button is not as easy as most people unfortunately think it is. But this is of course a discussion that started right at the beginning of photograohy;) I for one am convinced that it needs an artist´s eyes to produce so beautiful pictures like you do and I consider photography equally as art as paintings:) And I´m sure you know Henry Peach Robinson as well as Margaret Cameron – and most of his best pictures were composites, too! I´m so glad to have found your blog and I will be looking forward to many wonderful pictures from you! Thanks again and have fun being creative! Sarah

        1. Thank you so much for the encouragement, Sarah! I hope to act boldly and make more composites in the future. It is much easier done on Photoshop than in darkroom 🙂 Some day I will post my darkroom composites just to show how hard it was to make them.
          Have a wonderful weekend!

          1. Yeah, I can imagine it is;) And I´m already curious about seeing your darkroom composites! Must have been awefully difficult! Wish you a wonderful weekend, too! (I´m planning to feed some squirrels – the brown ones – with my mum:)

            1. Oh I would love to feed squirrels too 🙂 I might share one of the composites some day… It is complicated, I am not sharing all my work here in the blog for many different reasons.

            2. Well, and I would love to hold a fox in my arms;) Love the picture!
              And no worries about the composites – I´ll be happy with whatever you choose to share, be it composite or not:) Hope you have a lovely evening! Sarah

  17. Inese you’ve given me an impossible task. Choose which one I like best? My friend, you have absolutely outdone yourself with this collection. I am awed. I loved the first one — then I saw its original and love it as much but differently. I also particularly liked the one you describe as a watercolor background — love Sean’s expression and body language in that one. And of course the little curly-red headed moppet with the pony. But I don’t think I can narrow it down further — and I hate to leave any of them out. It is a true gift to get to see this photo-art. Thank you so much. Mega hugs my friend.

      1. Teagan, I am truly honored! The problem is, that some 35 people who attended the workshop have basically the same picture, more or less, only the editing differs. I don’t think it is ethical to use any of these photographs without telling where they came from, however some individuals already used them in competitions… Oh well… You know what? When you are ready I will drive up North again and take a new picture with Sean 🙂 That’s the deal ! The terms? A great book to go with the picture :). I don’t think it will be a problem 😉

    1. Teagan, thank you so much for your comment! It means a lot! Isn’t the curly little princess stunning 🙂 These kiddies are pure gold, it was a pleasure to work with them.
      I still don’t know either I am going to use so much painting in my photographs, or leave it only for fixing the flaws. Probably there is no answer, and all depends on the message I want to convey. I am really glad you liked the watercolor picture. They are sitting in the center which is not too sophisticated, but they are busy each with their own things, and I love it, because it makes a story.
      Thank you again for your kind words!

      1. I’m going to be wicked and put a seed in your mind for a model. My epic fantasy (that I have not released) (okay there are many characters and it’s complex but…) has 3 Nordic-type family members. One is an older man, but fit, wiry, and strong, a long ago king named Halr. He wears a fur vest (without shirt – they’re tough folks) and fur topped boots, and a gold circlet as a crown. I can’t stop imagining what gorgeous work you would do with such a model. (Or his sister, or tall grandson). Sorry — i’m just dreaming out loud. Hugs! 🙂 ❤

    2. Oh my goodness! These photographs melt my heart! There is so much beauty and honesty in this series. Im going to reblog this so my Facebook friends can experience your work.

      1. Beautiful photos Inessa and what a beautiful, lovely blog. It was an amazing weekend for us all and I think something that will stay with us for ever 🙂

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