This week we're highlighting the gorgeous macro work of Layla Nicholson (@laylanicholson)! Always beautiful and colorful, Layla's pictures and edits emphasize often overlooked details with a touch of her own artistry. Enjoy learning all about Layla and taking in the amazing imagery she creates!
Hi, my name is Layla Nicholson. I live in Queensland (Australia) with my partner and identical twin girls, aged seven. We have four fur-babies: one dog and three guinea pigs
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE IN HIGH SCHOOL?
During high school I pretty much went under the radar. I wasn't cool but I wasn't a nerd either, well in my mind anyway. My best friend from high school is still my best friend today. I enjoyed subjects that were creatively driven and allowed my imagination to thrive. I hated maths, but of course life's irony is that I now work in accounts.
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?
Oh goodness. I feel like I have been trying to answer this question my whole life. I have always been a "go with the flow" kind of person career-wise, which has enabled me to experience a few different paths. But, honestly, photography has become a full on love affair that I only wish I had discovered much earlier in life. If I could keep capturing all that is beautiful in my world, for the rest of my life, then I would be unbelievably happy.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE COMFORT FOOD?
There is nothing better than fresh bread from the bakery. Yum!
WHAT IS YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL?
I would say a giraffe. About six months ago, I had the most amazing experience feeding a giraffe at Australia Zoo. They were so gentle and had these big kind eyes, but at the same time you would not want to cross them. I was in awe.
WHAT TWO CELEBRITIES WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO BE YOUR PARENTS?
This is a tough one but I would probably choose James Corden and Reece Witherspoon. I think that James would make life really fun. Reece would be a strong role model. But in saying that, I like that both of these people are family orientated and appear to have strong relationships with their children.
WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT MAKES YOU SMILE?
Oh wow, so many things make me smile. I love watching my fourteen year old dog run around at the park like she is a pup. The way my daughters get into fits of laughter. Michael McIntyre YouTube clips. A good strong cup of coffee in the morning and beautiful sunsets. The list is endless.
WHAT IS THE MOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT WE WOULDN'T LEARN FROM YOUR INSTAGRAM?
My first car was a fabulous 1965 Morris Mini Delux called "Mr Gerald" - who is still in our family today. My dad pimped him up from a light to royal blue with white racing stripes. Back then it was all about the leopard print seat covers and navy velvet interior panels. My friends and I had so many adventures in that car. Great memories!
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTO PHOTOGRAPHY?
I had always wanted to participate in one of those "photo a day" challenges for a bit of fun. So, with my iPhone in hand, I started posting my daily photos on IG starting 1/1/2016. At that stage, I enjoyed the structure as it gave me a topic which could be interpreted anyway that I wanted, either literally or by going rogue. I realized after a short time that I was really enjoying myself and that I was posting additional photos and coming up with my own challenges for myself. For example, #mymonthofquotes where I would post everyday for a month with a quote to fit an image. Over time, it became less about the photo a day challenge and more about what I felt inspired by and what I wanted to create for myself.
Nature will never let you down, so my interest is kept by going on walks and looking at the way a leaf is hanging, or the sun filtering through trees or a butterfly landing on a flower. I love that you can capture nature and truly appreciate its beauty through photography.
HAS SOCIAL MEDIA PLAYED A ROLE IN YOUR WORK?
For me, Instagram has become my most used and loved social media platform. When I first started the photo a day challenge, the support and kindness from complete strangers about not only my images, but all the images that were being posted that day was unbelievable. I never expected that and I believe that because of that initial support, it helped me to continue with my photography and for it to become my passion. Also, Instagram was where I was first introduced to Mextures and its amazing community. It is so cool to be surrounded by like-minded creatives who provide continual inspiration and support on a daily basis.
IS THERE ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR THAT YOU TRY TO COMMUNICATE THROUGH YOUR WORK?
As corny as it sounds, I try to communicate truth - well, my truth. The images I create are a genuine indication and reflection of how I feel in that moment. I decided a short time ago that I would attempt to live more authentically and remove some masks. I don't sugarcoat the dark days nor do I dim the absolutely amazing days. I hope that this new approach is coming across in my images. I would love for the viewer to go on a journey with me. But, In saying that, every viewer's perception is different and what I feel may personify a state of loneliness in an image, another could see as contentment. So, if I am able to evoke some kind of emotion/feeling in the viewer, then I am grateful.
HOW DO YOU GENERALLY APPROACH YOUR EDITING PROCESS?
I always choose the image that I feel resonates with me the most, right then and there. I undoubtedly know when I have found "the one" because the image's possibilities start to flow. I use Mextures as the first step in my editing process. I rarely crop an image in the beginning, just in case there is an area of the image that can stand alone. I then determine what vibe I want to project onto the image. Regardless of the editing direction, I will generally begin with the radiance textures. They all bring such beautiful colours and light, especially when kept in the overlay orientation. I then move through to the light leaks textures which enable me to give the effect of sunlight streaming through the image. I use the sunflower texture a lot in my editing, predominately in the screen and lighten orientations. By this stage, I start looking at the overall image and whether the colour needs to be saturated further/less, its brightness, sharpness and contrast etc. I will always use the fade function to make the image appear softer. I also flick through the preset filters to see if there are any that enhance my vision. I generally find golden hour and punch are my go-too's. When I want my image to have a sense of magic, I turn to the anomaly textures. This pack rates highly for me and I can not love the space dust and effigy textures enough, especially in colour-dodge and lighten orientation. Once I am happy with the image, I then move to Lightroom CC to make a few adjustments, generally to noise and colour noise reductions. This is also where I consider the size of the image and whether it would look best from another angle or by flipping it.
When I edit for darker images, I still start with the radiance textures but I will go for the waterfront or abalone textures. The light positioning within the texture, for me, works best. I then add landscape textures with my favourite being dawn in the overlay orientation. Next, I will use the atmospheric textures to create beautiful mood, generally using barren, elation and staid. I adjust the overall look as I would with the lightened images via colour, sharpness etc but the brightness drops and fading increases. I then decide if I need to add any other textures such as twilight or okefenokee found in the vintage pack. After a quick preset check and adjustments in Lightroom CC, I have finished my image.
CAN YOU SHARE TWO OF YOUR FAVORITE FORMULAS?
I instantly fell in love with macro photography. I was amazed and inspired by the intricate details that could be captured with a macro lens. I knew that I needed this in my life. This is one of my favourite images using my "I SEE YOU" formula - YDPWJLN. When I created this formula, I was in an extremely happy place. My family and I had just moved houses and we were settling in fabulously. This sweet creature was in our back garden, which was somewhat overgrown. I remember that he loved to pose and literally stayed there for multiple shots. I feel like the formula really highlights my happiness as all these textures incorporate an element of warmth, depicting sunlight and positivity. Texture 1 - Soothsayer (hard light 50%) darkens the background, but highlights in golden the entire insects body. Texture 2 - Ashes (screen 50%) - More golden light, picking up the insects beautiful colouring. Texture 3 - Dawn (overlay 50%) - Brings more darker gold to the base of the grass shrub and top left of the image. By this point, the textures have all focused on making the insect the prime focus, which is what I was wanting to achieve. Texture 4 - Apotheosis (screen 50%) - Continues to make the background darken, with main focus being the top of the image, bringing out a small feature of bokeh .Texture 5 - Taffy (overlay 14%) - Overall the image lightens, but I have dropped the overlay back to 14% so that it still has enough of the dark areas to make the insect pop, but will bring out the white areas of the image. To finalise, I flipped the image to have the insect looking directly at me. I then made adjustments to the light, clarity, saturation and noise/colour noise reduction.
I have always felt connected to images that have a melancholic, moody vibe. For me, there is a rawness and vulnerability to them that I just love. I created the six textured formula - DARKNESS (LDXAVUL) when I was in a bit of a negative headspace. But, despite the formula being created during a low moment, it still follows my philosophy that even in dark times, there is always light ahead. Texture 1 - Waterfront (overlay 75%) brings the majority of the left side of the image into darkness, yet lightens the tip of the flower. Texture 2 - Dawn (overlay 59%) continues to darken the background further. Texture 3 - Staid (screen 99%) adds a beautiful moody haze and cools down the image. Texture 4 - Okefenokee (overlay 50%) accentuates the green tones and re-highlights the flower tip due to the lighting within the texture. Texture 6 - Effigy (screen 74%) adds a streaming light leak incorporating colours of white/grey and gold. I decreased the brightness and saturation to be more in line with a darker feel. I then cropped and reversed the image to finish.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT MEXTURES THAT MAKES IT A VITAL PIECE OF YOUR EDITING PROCESS?
Mextures has literally been life changing. I never dreamed in a million years that I would reconnect with my creative self again. I love that I am able to take a simple picture with an iPhone, and then through the numerous textures and orientations of Mextures, turn it into an art piece that tells a story. The image can take on so many different possibilities - vibrant, moody, distressed or magical and it is all up to me on how I want to direct the image. Mextures provides the opportunity for me to be able to create images from my heart.
WOULD YOU SHARE TWO OF YOUR FAVORITE PHOTOS THAT YOU'VE TAKEN?
This image brings back some wonderful memories. I started a little routine every Wednesday that I called #detourwednesday. Basically, I would take the scenic route to get to the train station before work. Most times, I would run late to get to the train as I got lost in my photography. I love the feeling of calmness and tranquility in this image. It was a real moment when I could just take time for myself.
When I first bought my macro lens, raindrops were at the top of my list to try and capture. Being able to see the delicate intricacies of the droplet absolutely amazes me. In this image, I love how Mextures has contributed to the beautiful moody vibe along with highlighting the mini rainbow within the droplet.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO CREATE MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE?
I am constantly inspired by nature and its beauty. How could you not be? With the changing seasons, a new energy ensues and enables a different creative direction. I also create for myself. Being able to immerse myself in my art, and work through or highlight particular emotions, is very special to me. It gives me the opportunity for “me time” and I hold onto that dearly.
IF YOU COULD STEAL CREDIT FOR ONE INSTAGRAM FEED, WHOSE WOULD IT BE?
Only one! This is tough. But, I would have to say that I absolutely love the work of Nicole (@pic_nic_time). Nicole’s gallery gives me shivers. I love the gorgeous dark tones, moody feels and amazing content. Each and every capture and caption that accompanies it, is perfection. This is one feed that I would gladly steal.
WHO ARE THE PEOPLE THAT HAVE MOST INSPIRED YOUR WORK?
There are so many amazing people that I follow on IG whose feeds have all made me go “wow". I first came across Mextures through the fabulous landscape captures of Kevin (@takes_picture). I subsequently followed @rsa_mextures where I was introduced to the ever so lovely Charla (@charla_yvonne). I am in awe of her work, it is constant inspiration. Such beautiful captures wth the most amazing tones and vibe. I always “feel” when I see Charla’s work.
Other artists that I love seeing on my feed and look up to, include Lisa (@monalisamonkey), Sneha (@snehabhadri), Susie (@soulfulwanderings), Alycia (@starryeyed_and_restless), Joanna (@joannakatd) and Louise (@my_twilight_garden). I could easily keep going with the name dropping.