Today’s Highlight is a long overdue look into the person and artwork of Hazel (@hazel_merleyc)! Hazel is impossibly kind and incredibly talented. She captures amazingly gorgeous scenes and somehow manages to improve them with her editing prowess. Don’t even get us started on her composite work. Outstanding! Read along below and stop by her Instagram to say “hello”!
My name is Hazel and I live near beautiful Cambridge in the UK, with my husband David and our two Smooth Collies.
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE IN HIGH SCHOOL?
School really wasn’t my thing- I’ve never been a conventional person and I was the the school rebel! I grew up in a very small conservative mining town in Africa, and I was the one of the very first first punk/alternative kids in the whole country, not to mention a very old fashioned high school that was still stuck in the 1950’s - it caused a storm! Let’s just leave it there.
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?
That’s hard, I’m not sure that I’ll ever really be grown up. One of the things I always wanted to be is an artist so I guess I’m finally achieving that to some degree. I also wanted to be a scientist, but somehow I’ve ended up in financial services even though I was absolutely terrible at maths?!
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE COMFORT FOOD?
My favourite comfort food - difficult to chose as it depends on my mood, but today it’s got to be a very good quality dark chocolate.
WHAT IS YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL?
My spirit animal would definitely be an Albatross, so that I could glide the worlds oceans in peace and solitude as I’m a very quiet person who doesn’t like being around lots of people.
WHAT CELEBRITIES WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO BE YOUR PARENTS?
I’m not really into celebrities and I’d never change my parents, but if I had to - I’d choose someone truly amazing, like Stephen Hawking and Patti Smith. OK so I’m a bit of a nerd!
IF YOU COULD ACQUIRE ANY SKILL, WHICH WOULD YOU CHOOSE?
There are so many skills I’d love to learn, but just a few off the top of my head - I’d love to be able to write books! Learning to do photography properly... And playing the guitar. Mastering photoshop which I never seem to get around to using...
WHAT’S THE MOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT WE WOULDN’T LEARN FROM YOUR INSTAGRAM ALONE?
The most interesting thing that you wouldn’t get from Instagram - I guess it would be that I was was born and grew up in Zimbabwe Africa although I live in the UK now. I was a wild tomboy who always preferred the company of animals to people. Yes I have a funny accent!
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTO PHOTOGRAPHY AND DESIGN?
I’ve always admired beautiful photography, but had never really tried it until I started taking photos on my iPhone just over two years ago when we had a particularly beautiful autumn. It ignited a spark that quickly became a passion!
There are so many things that keep me interested, I originally mainly focused on macro photography as I’m fascinated by the tiny hidden details in nature. In the last year as my skills have improved I’ve also fallen in love with landscape photography, and as discovered the joy of walking and exploring beautiful places.
Obviously I also create a bit of digital art too and this is something I never expected to do or enjoy! There’s so much more to learn, I can’t imagine ever losing interest.
HAS SOCIAL MEDIA PLAYED A ROLE IN YOUR WORK?
Social media and Instagram in particular have been absolutely fundamental in developing my interest in photography and art.
I wanted to share my photos with a wider audience than my friends and family, which led me to Instagram and all the fantastic people and communities there. I quickly discovered that it was not only possible to share your work, but that there is also a huge creative and artistic aspect that I never knew existed. It really has been incredibly inspiring and has changed my life!
IS THERE ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR YOU TRY TO COMMUNICATE THROUGH YOUR WORK?
I try to convey a sense of beauty and mood through my work, whether it’s emphasizing some tiny details in a macro shot, adding some tones and texture to a landscape shot or bringing a sense of dramatic atmosphere to one of my edits. I like to combine photography with art to add an extra dimension which captures the attention more than a plain photograph would do.
HOW DO YOU GENERALLY APPROACH YOUR EDITING PROCESS?
I do all of my editing on my iPhone at the moment.
I always start with Snapseed to make the basic adjustments - cropping, curves, shadows and so on.
Sometimes I’ll do further adjustments to texture and tones on iColorama.
At this stage I’ll go to Mextures. I start by trying some of my saved formulas to see what looks good. Sometimes I’ll tweak and adjust one of these formulas but if it’s not quite right, I’ll create a new formula specific to that image.
Once I have the perfect formula I may then add a little extra flare or bokeh with ColorStory or LensLight.
Finally back to Snapseed if any final adjustments are needed.
HOW SPECIFICALLY DO YOU USE MEXTURES IN THAT PROCESS?
I’ve been told that my style is soft, which isn’t a conscious decision I make during my editing process but as I love light, texture and depth this seems to be how my editing finishes up. Mextures is perfect because you have almost unlimited options to enhance all of these.
I particularly love the way Mextures can be used to change the direction that light falls in an image.
I usually add a couple of layers of colour first with the Landscape, Radiance and Vintage filters, then have a look to see if I want to add a film filter. At this stage I’ll often add an Atmospheric filter too. I’ll then have a play with the blending modes to see what looks best. I’ll try some light leaks and texture before making any final adjustments to highlights, contrast, fade etc. Quite often I’ll save a couple of different formulas for the same image as the moods can be completely different and I can’t always make up my mind which I prefer!
WOULD YOU SHARE TWO OF YOUR FAVORITE FORMULAS?
BRACKEN - SVIIQDI - this formula is quite dramatic, it emphasises the light from above, and throws the bottom of the image into shadows whilst adding some warmth and some faded notes.
HIGHLANDS - MSYBKGB - this formula adds depth and intensity with an emphasis on warmth and structure.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT MEXTURES THAT MAKES IT A VITAL PART OF YOUR EDITING PROCESS?
I seldom post a photo without using some form of Mextures on it. It may just be one or two layers to change the direction of lighting a little, or it could be a very intense moody formula with loads of layers to create the perfect artistic effect.
Mextures gives me the tools to create almost unlimited moods.
PICK TWO OF YOUR FAVORITE PIECES - WHAT IS IT ABOUT THEM THAT MAKES THEM YOUR FAVORITES?
This old tree stands on the shores of beautiful Loch Lomond, and somehow survives a really harsh environment on that stony beach. I took this photo on a freezing dark November morning and I’d like to think that my edit and the very distinctive Mextures formula capture the frozen and rather bleak beauty of that incredible place.
I have a penchant for somber and slightly dark edits. This creation is a favourite because it’s quite ambiguous and provocative yet still beautiful, what is the story behind the girl in those stormy waves - will she be saved, does she even want to be saved or does she long for the cold embrace of the Ocean? Mextures helps to create the cool faded tones and very moody feel here.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO CREATE MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE?
I’ve always wanted to do something creative and artistic. Discovering all of the fantastic communities on instagram has been a life changer for me. There are so many amazingly talented people there, how could you not be inspired by their enthusiasm, support and incredible creativity! I’m also inspired and influenced by my interests in the Natural World and my love of Space and Science Fiction/Fantasy and music. The urge to share something beautiful and hopefully a little magical is my main motivation, both in my photography and my edits.
IF YOU COULD TAKE CREDIT FOR AN INSTAGRAM FEED, WHOSE WOULD IT BE?
As far as photo manipulation and edits go, it would undoubtedly be Lily’s amazing account @lvnatikk - she has incredible imagination and I love her style!
As for nature and photography accounts, that’s much harder! It would have to be Susie @soulfulwanderings because she has created one of the loveliest accounts on Instagram using only an old IPhone 5 to take her incredible shots. If that’s not inspirational then I don’t know what is! There are so many truly amazing accounts I can’t mention them all!
WHO ARE THE PEOPLE THAT HAVE MOST INSPIRED YOUR WORK?
Apart from my long suffering husband David who has spent many a walk waiting for me to get a good shot, I would say that certain communities and hubs with their incredibly hard working teams have inspired me more than particular individuals.
Of course the Mextures community and @mexturescollective are fantastic, so many lovely supportive people there!
And of course all of the wonderful nature and mood hubs, too numerous to mention, who inspire us all to do so much more than just take that quick selfie or holiday snap.
See more work from the wonderful Hazel right here!