2018-12-10: Monochrome Monday

I think elephants look stunning in a black and white interpretation.  The amazing texture of their skin gets emphasized in such a wonderful way.

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Lots of wrinkles, and wise eyes.
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An old bull elephant enjoying a drink in Etosha National Park.
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This elephant gave us one head shake, but when she realized the rest of the family was completely chill with our presence, she went back to calmly grazing.

2018-12-09: Artistic Impressions

This week, I felt inspired to play around in Topaz Impressions and create some of my artistic impression images.  Or as I like to say, what I would paint, if I could paint :).

Next week, I am going to try and work with the new AI Sky Enhancer that Luminar just released.

Wishing everyone a fantastic week ahead!

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A young elephant seen on an early morning game drive.
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A leopard scanning the horizon at sunset in the Okavango Delta.
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A regal lion laying in the tall grass just after sunrise.
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A large warthog moving through camp.
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A fiery sunset – Africa has the most expressive skies!

2018-12-03: Monochrome Monday

A trio of leopard images to start the week.  I hope you enjoying, and wishing you a fantastic week ahead.

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We were lucky enough to spend a couple of hours with this beautiful leopard, as day faded into night.
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Even though I got loads of great photos while it was still out light out, when our ranger got the spotlight out, I had to try for a couple more.
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A leopard cub descending a fallen tree to play with its sibling.

2018-11-26: Monochrome Monday

Wishing everyone a wonderful week ahead!

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A cheetah seen on Phinda Game Reserve during a morning game drive.
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A lion resting in the shade in the afternoon heat on Ngala Game Reserve.
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A leopard pausing alongside our vehicle during an afternoon game drive on Londolozi.

2018-10-29: Monochrome Monday

I met a friend for a tea and a visit last week, and as she also feels a connection to elephants, I started telling her about the elephant encounter I had on the last day of my last safari trip.  Since I still had a few flagged images from that sighting that I wanted to edit, I thought they’d make a great post for today.

I posted a bit of the story of these elephants before, which you can check out here if you’d like, along with a couple more images.

I hope you enjoy my selection of images, and hope you have a wonderful week ahead.

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A tiny elephant calf dwarfed by Mom and an aunt.
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One of the youngsters coming up to the vehicle to check me out.
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An elephant calf enjoying a fresh drink of water from a burst landscaping pipe.
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Adults and youngsters all jockeying for position around the water.  The littlest seemed to be trying to do a balance beam routine on the small log, and nearly tipped over just after this was taken.

 

2018-10-28: Birds

As mentioned last week, I decided to go with bird images for my last round of editing images with On1 Photo Raw, Topaz Studio and Luminar, seeing how the results compare with the different software choices.  I thought bird images would be a great choice because there are lots of fine details in feathers that need to be enhanced, and often things like distracting backgrounds that need to be minimized.

In very broad strokes, I’ve come to realize editing an original image in Topaz Studio that requires colour correction is not something I enjoy doing, and not something I will try to do moving forward (until they provide some updates to that portion of the interface).  I don’t find that the colour temperature slider works well enough to deal with complicated colour scenarios, and I can get much better results using On1 Photo Raw, or even Luminar.

The first images I picked are of a purple roller that I spotted on the banks of the Boteti River in Botswana.  I decided to edit original images in each program, rather than correcting colour first in On1 Photo Raw and editing the resultant images.  For a series of images, it’s obviously not a good strategy, but I really wanted to see the different colour rendering and how well I could adjust the images.  The results are mixed.

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First up is an image from Luminar.  Despite desaturating the blues, the sky still looks a bit too blue and oversaturated.  The roller was quite a distance away from me; all of the purple roller images were shot at 300mm, and I think Luminar brought back an acceptable amount of detail in the feathers.  There’s only so much you can do with images of a small bird on a distant tree!
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This is the version from Topaz and try as I might, this was the best I could do with the sky.  I find it has an odd colour cast, but I am happy with the detail in the feathers.
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This is the On1 Photo Raw image.  I think the sky in this version is the most true to life.  The focus seems a little bit off, but I only had these purple roller images to work with, so I made the best of it.  This is the only time I have ever seen a purple roller, so despite the image series being far from perfect, I still wanted to edit and share them because they really are a striking bird.

Next up are some wattled cranes, also seen along the banks of the Boteti River while staying at the fabulous Leroo La Tau camp.  While these images were all shot on the same morning, the light was changing very fast and the birds were moving around relative to our vehicle, so some images were shot into the sun and others with the sun at my back.  Wattled cranes are listed as a vulnerable species; our guide Calvin had been so excited to see a group of this size while we were out on game drive.

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First up is the Luminar version.  You can tell from the white hot sky this was shot well after sunrise, and that the sun is already quite high in the sky.  I think what I like best about this version is the shimmery effect of the grasses behind the cranes.  There is a bit of a warm cast to the image, especially when compare to the On1 Photo Raw version.
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This Topaz version was shot earlier in the morning, with the sun at a more forgiving angle.  I love the postures in this image, with the three birds foraging while one appears to be on sentry duty.  I did colour correction for this first in On1, as I gave it a quick go in Topaz and was just getting frustrated with the results.
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Here are the wattled cranes edited using On1 Photo Raw.  I think this and the Topaz versions are the most successful in terms of colour rendering. 

Up next are one of my favourite birds, the beautiful lilac breasted roller.  Unlike the purple roller, I have seen this bird on all my trips in Africa, and have gotten a few really good shots over the years.

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The version from Luminar.
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The version from Topaz.
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The version from On1.

These roller images are the best ones for comparing the software, since the bird is fairly close and the light unchanging.  I am finding the version from On1 looking a little crunchy when compared to the other two, and the Topaz version lacking a little bit of contrast.  I think I was able to bring out the colour and tones the best with Luminar on this particular image.  I found Topaz was able to bring out a lot of fine detail in the feathers without making the image look crunchy (it’s hard to see on a web sized image, so you’ll have to take my word for it).  I think the On1 version could have done well with backing off the tonal contrast a couple of points; though if that version had been posted in isolation, I would be very happy with it.

I started getting some editing fatigue looking at so many similar images, so I decided for the last few, I would just pick a few one-off bird images, and edit one of each in the various programs.

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I edited this image of cormorants using On1 Photo Raw.  This was shot during the early morning on Phinda Game Reserve, at one of the large dams on the property.  It was a chilly, misty morning, and this cormorant was flying in while hippos were calling the in background.  It felt like the reserve was just starting to wake up while we were sitting here.
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This is an African Hoopoe edited using Topaz Studio.  I found the colours in this image flat (no fault of Topaz this time) and thought the image would work much better in black and white.
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This is a flock of red-billed quelea heading to a roosting spot at sunset.  This was probably the largest flock that I have seen, spotted while staying in the Okavango Delta.  I know from watching nature programs that these birds can flock in extraordinary numbers.

There are pros and cons to each of the programs; Topaz and the colour correction issues I have been having, Luminar with the lack of adjustable luminosity masks, and with On1, I don’t find the noise reduction function is a good as some other options.  But saying that, all the options are robust programs that have a lot of great features, it’s just a matter of learning how to use the tools to your best advantage.  I don’t feel like I am in any type of editing disadvantage by choosing to use these software options over the more common Lightroom and Photoshop scenario (that I also used for several years).

From these editing immersions and comparisons, I think I am a getting a little closer to knowing where all these options fit into my workflow.