2018-08-18: Smoky Skies

Like last year, Northern BC has been hit hard with wildfires.  It’s actually pretty scary looking at the wildfire maps, as it looks like most of the province is currently on fire.  Thankfully, there is currently no danger in our immediate vicinity, other than extremely poor air quality from the substantial amount of smoke that has settled in the region, and the airborne ash that lately has been coating my car every night.

Yesterday morning started out normal enough for the past few weeks, a bit smoky but nothing too terrible.  But then as the morning wore on, it got darker rather than brighter, and at 9:10am it looked like we were in the midst of some type of solar eclipse event.  I went outside to try and capture a few images; it was extremely smoky, cold like it would be in the middle of the night, and all the photo sensitive lights had come on.  It was spooky quiet as all the birds had dropped to complete silence.

By 10am the darkness had passed but it remained incredibly smoky throughout the day.

I was in the middle of work so I didn’t have the opportunity to drive anywhere more interesting to take pictures; this is a view down my driveway to the road… not that you can really even see the driveway in the image.  It was just the sky I was focused on.

This shot was taken on my Fuji camera with the 18-55 lens, shot at f2.8, ISO 2000 and 1/60 sec.  I created the merged panorama in On1 Photo Raw, and for efficiency edited it in On1 (back to the Luminar processing tomorrow).  The merged panorama was a bit of a challenge because the images were so dark.  I had to up the exposure slider on all the individual images, and then reverse that on the panorama.  My camera is basically always set to auto white balance, and I changed it in editing to daylight, and that got the sky to be true to life.

Just to give some perspective, sunrise this week is around 5:55am.

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A merged panorama of 5 images shot at 9:18am yesterday morning.  A single shot definitely captured the spookiness of the colour of the sky, but having the panorama really shows the variation in different areas of the sky.

 

All of us here are praying for the safety of all the incredibly brave people working to put these fires out, and hoping that some favourable weather will be heading their way soon.

 

2018-08-13: Monochrome Monday

I’m a little later than normal with my Monochrome Monday post as I have been playing around with using the MacPhun (now Skylum) Tonality plugin with Luminar.  I must say, I am really enjoying using Tonality again!

Tonality was my go-to for black and white conversion when I was using Lightroom and Photoshop.  I found I could dial in the vision I was imagining much faster than using other black and white methods.  Now that I no longer have Photoshop, I am glad I have a way to integrate the plug-in back into my workflow when I want to.

I’ve started watching some Luminar videos on YouTube by Jim Nix, and one of them really resonated with me today.  It had nothing to do with the image or the edits he did, but just the concept of revisiting old work to re-edit photos, to experiment with new software, filters and combinations of tools to keep your creativity and interest peeked.  A lot of that is why I am enjoying this theme so much, as the lack of familiarity with the software has caused me to think a lot more critically about what I want to achieve, so I can figure out how to do it, but it has also allowed me to just open random filters to see what they do, sometimes to great result, sometimes awful.  If you are interested, you can find the Luminar video by Jim Nix here.

Now on to the images for today.

For this giraffe image, I did an extra step to start, and from Luminar opened Topaz Studio and then the Topaz Remask plugin.  I find Remask is excellent for complicated situations like these tree branches against the sky.  The sky was very grainy, and I wanted to apply some noise reduction, and I thought that would be the best way to go.  I shot this image with my Panasonic FZ1000, which is a very capable little camera, but I do find skies are generally quite noisy regardless of the ISO.  There was also a lot of airborne dust so it could have been that rather than a limitation of the camera.  After I created my mask in Remask, I ran the noise removal filter in Topaz Studio and sent the image back to Luminar, and then onto Tonality for black and white conversion.  If Luminar had an option to adjust luminosity masks so I could isolate the sky, I would have gone that route and saved some steps, but right now its not an option.

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Giraffe in the desert.  Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, Namibia.

Things were much simpler for the next two images.  I edited both using the Tonality plug in, though I am sure I could have arrived at similar results just using Luminar.  As with most photo editing programs, there are a lot of different paths to get to the same place.  It’s all about what works for you.

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A zebra calf photographed in Etosha National Park, Namibia.
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A black-faced impala spotted in Ongava Game Reserve in Namibia.  Our guide explained to us that any reserves that add impala to their property in Namibia must add the black-faced impala.  This was started as a measure to help conserve the species and allow them to thrive.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my selections for the day 🙂

2018-08-12: World Elephant Day

As you all know, I am just a bit partial to elephants, so I wouldn’t mind if every day were elephant day.  But today is officially World Elephant Day, so it’s a great opportunity to share some images of my favourite animal.

I won’t get into a discussion on elephant population numbers, conservation challenges and the like.  There are many people and groups far more informed than I that are providing that type of information.  I’ll simply say that my opinion is that no one needs ivory except an elephant, and the poaching of these magnificent animals is an absolute tragedy that needs to be stopped.

I’m sure I have said this many times before, but if there was only one animal I could spend time with on an African safari, it would be the elephant.

I’ve kept with my theme for the month of August, and have continued to learn and explore the Luminar editing program and all of these images have been processed using the software.  Two things I have noticed over the past week:

1) I find the spot removal tool does not work very well for larger dust spots on blue sky; it leaves behind visible traces of the spot removal that are almost more noticeable than the initial spot.  I have found though that the clone stamp tool does an effective job on the larger sensor spot removal.  The majority of these images were shot on my old Nikon D610, which had enormous issues with sensor spots, so this is a feature I rely on quite heavily for working on older images.

2) The luminosity mask function is quite limited on the current software version, offering no opportunity for adjusting the luminance values to dial in the mask.  I use the luminosity masking function a lot when editing with On1 Photo Raw, especially as an effective way to isolate the sky to perform specific adjustments.  The standard masking options also feel a bit more basic than the ones that I use with Photo Raw.  For images that need that type of adjustment, I don’t think Luminar would be my first choice as a raw editor.

I’m finding that most of the editing is start to feel natural using this program, now that I have gotten a feel for what the various filters do.  But coming from Lightroom and On1 Photo Raw, I’m really used to the automatic lens profile corrections, and having to manually enable and adjust that is something I haven’t yet gotten used to doing as part of my workflow.  Generally speaking though, I am finding it an enjoyable program to use.

On to the images 🙂

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Desert adapted elephants in the Hoanib River bed in Namibia.  April 2017.
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A pair of bull elephants play fighting in the shallows of the Boteti River.  Leroo La Tau Camp, Botswana, May 2017.
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A bull elephant giving himself a mud bath in Nxai Pans National Park.  Botswana, May 2017.
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An elephant climbing out of the dry Timbavatio Riverbed in front of the Ngala Tented camp.  South Africa, May 2017.
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A curious elephant calf that kept approaching the vehicle, checking me out.  One of my all time favourite elephant moments.  Londolzi, May 2017.

2018-08-06: Monochrome Monday

My Mom was looking for some elephant images to hang up, and originally thought she would like a sepia tinted photo, so I worked on this edit for her in Luminar.

In the end we decided a colour image would look better in the frame that she had, but at least I had another opportunity to do some editing of my very favourite animal.

Wishing everyone a fantastic week ahead!

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A bull elephant at a watering hole in Nxai Pans Park in Botswana.  April 2017.

2018-08-05: Processing with Luminar

As I mentioned in my July in Review post, this month I am going to be exploring editing images using Luminar 2018.  When I was still using Lightroom and Photoshop, I used the MacPhun plugins quite a lot (especially the Tonality plug-in) so some of the interface and working of Luminar feels familiar, but I really wanted to take a deep dive with the program and get proficient is using it and develop a workflow around it.

Just to get this out of the way, I don’t have any affiliation with Skylum, the makers of Luminar or with any of the creators of the resources I may mention or share links to.  Luminar is one of several editing programs that I use, and any links that I mention are from my searches online for Luminar editing tutorials and resources.  I’m including links to them in case someone else may find them useful.

In terms of resources, the most logical place to start is direct with the developer.  There are loads of videos on the Skylum Youtube Channel from Getting Started videos to tutorials that deal with specific processing situations such as landscapes and portraits.  I watched a few of the Problem Solving, Core Skills, Quick Knowledge and Inspiration videos when I first got the software to give me an overview of where to find things, and have just watched a few chapters from Anthony Morganti’s Mastering Luminar 2018 as a refresher, since I only used the program once since purchasing it.  Over the coming week I’ll post more resources as I work through them.

I decided to work on an image that didn’t need a lot of work, just some basic refinements including removing dust spots, cropping, adding some detail and contrast, and adjusting the tone of the sky.

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This is the Raw file, exported from On1 Photo Raw.  The only thing I did is add my photo logo and resize the image on export.  I use On1 Photo Raw as my main photo editor and organizer tool.

I sent this image to Luminar from On1 Photo Raw, selecting the “Edit the raw file option”.

The settings I used in Luminar for this image are below:

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Luminar has a handy before and after view; the slider can be adjusted to show more or less of the before image.
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Here is the image edited with Luminar.  I’m not really happy with the logo application, but there is a special preset that can be downloaded to help with that which I haven’t done yet.  To be fair, I’m not 100% happy with the logo function in On1 either.

 

 

 

2018-08-01: July in Review

July’s Topic of the Month – Freestyle!

I was finding it difficult to commit to a topic for the month, so I decide to skip July and just post whatever I felt like on Sunday.  Thankfully Mother Nature really worked with me one week with a great bear sighting as well as a doe and fawn, giving me new images to edit and share.

I tried heading back to see if I could capture a mountain bluebird image this year, but after a bit of a heat wave here in Prince George, the bluebirds and swallows were all gone from the nesting site.  There’s always next year!  Sadly the heat wave also spoiled the plans of the nesting robin; she abandoned the nest about a week ago; I guess they know when the eggs are not viable.

 

What’s new this month

I recently discovered that you can send free e-cards through my gallery.  That’s completely free, no strings attached.  So if you see an image you like and you’d like to share it with someone, check out the feature.

Simply head over to the gallery, click on an image, and look for the E-Card option on the top right corner.

 

Five favourites from this month

 

What’s coming up next?

The topic I have decided to work on for August is exploring editing with Skylum Luminar.  I bought the program a couple of months ago and haven’t really used it in depth, so this will be a chance to do some research on how to work with the system.  I’ll share the resources I use in case there are other Luminar users out there also looking for some tips and tricks, and share the images that I work on each week.  I plan to do this one month with Topaz Studio as well, as I never used the Topaz Suite to the full potential, and the move to studio has left me even less confident.

2018-07-30: Monochrome Monday

Hopefully no one is getting bored of leopards, after having a few posts in a row featuring my favourite cat.

If you missed the post from yesterday, you can check it out here, with lots more images of this beautiful cat.

Wishing everyone a fantastic week ahead.

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