2019-09-29: Photo Art – The Magnificent Seven

This post was originally going to be the big five, but I had images of cheetah and wild dog that I wanted to play around with, so the magnificent seven it is.

One of the reasons I wanted to focus on my photo art this month was to try and learn a bit more about Topaz Studio version 2.  I’ve played around with it a bit, and watched some tutorials, but for the workflow I am using, at this stage I will be sticking with version 1.  The issue that I was finding is I can’t get files to make a round trip using On1 Photo Raw.  I can get the file into Studio 2, and work on it, but the only option for saving is an “Accept” button, which with the workflow I am using, appears to do nothing.  I select it, but the file doesn’t get saved, exported or anything else.  New software versions are typically a bit buggy, so I’ll give it a few update cycles and then play around with it again and see what happens.

One of the great things about photo editing tutorials is getting the little reminders for things that are outside of the normal workflow.  In this case, the reminder was to play around with blending modes when using AI Remix, Impression and textures.  For example, the cheetah image below was edited using (amongst other tools) a filter in AI Remix called Neon Rise.  But changing the blend mode from normal to luminosity kept the amazing texture that the filter offered, but eliminated the wild and crazy colours for something far more subdued, and suited to the image.

I hope you enjoy the selections below.  Wishing you a fantastic week ahead.

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You can find some of these images in the Photo Art section of my gallery.

2019-07-29: Monochrome Monday

I’ve had the amazing good fortune to see wild dogs on all of my trips to Southern Africa.  I don’t think I could ever tire of spending time with these amazing animals; seeing the interaction between different members of the pack is always an interesting experience.  On this past trip, I had two different sightings; one where the dogs were active and out in the open, and the other, where they were lazing away the morning deep in a thicket.

Here a few of my images from these two sightings.

Enjoy!

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Alert and at the ready.  Lion Sands River Lodge, May 2019.
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Always a good idea to check on who, or what, might be sneaking up on you from behind.
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Two of the pack members greeting each other; the behaviour of our pet dogs at the dog park is so similar.
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Taking the path of least resistance; a pair of dogs set off down the road.
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A pack of wild dogs resting deep in a thicket at mid morning.  This group was seen in the Timbavati, whilst staying at Kings Camp.

2019-05-11: What I’ve seen this week

Here are some images from the past week of my travels, staying at two properties; Lions Sands River and Tinga Lodges.  I have had a wonderful time being back in the bush again!  It’s tea time shortly and then off to see what the afternoon has in store, so I will keep this brief.

I hope you enjoy my selections!

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One of my rare view of a scrub hare in the daylight.
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A group of oxpeckers atop a rhino.
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A long-crested eagle and a fork-tailed drongo.  The drongo had been mobbing the eagle, and resumed its pestering when the eagle took flight again.
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A wild dog looks off towards the rest of the pack.
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A very relaxed lioness.
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Baby elephants are just the cutest!
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Elephants galore on an afternoon game drive.  I think we saw more ellies than impalas!
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An elephant quenches his thirst, with a large herd of buffalo in the background.  Two of the big five in one shot 🙂
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A family of dwarf mongoose in the fading afternoon light.
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An impala making good and sure this lioness was heading off.
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A buffalo making his way past our vehicle, while some rhino look on.  Another two of the big five in one shot.
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A group of wild dogs greeting one another.
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Soon after this was shot, this baby elephant picked up the pace to catch up with Mom.

2019-02-18: Monochrome Monday

I have been incredibly fortunate to see wild dogs on all the trips I have taken to southern Africa.  My very first trip, when asked what animal I hoped I would see, it was the wild dog.  I knew they were rare, endangered, and can be difficult to find, and when our guide Mike found them during our day trip to Chobe Park, I was beyond thrilled.  And I have remained thrilled each time I have had the good fortune of spending time with these amazing animals.

All the images below were from my last trip, when we had wild dogs sightings over 3 days in the Okavango Delta.

 

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On of the pack members breaking off as they set off on a hunt.
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Resting, yet still alert.  After we parked the vehicle, this dog settled in within a few feet of the land rover.
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A classic puppy pose 🙂
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The pack greeting each other as they all awoke from an afternoon of napping.
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Watch dog.

 

2018-09-30: Topaz Studio Week 4

My month of Topaz Studio is coming to a close.  As with my month of Luminar, taking this time to dive into the program has left me feeling a lot more confident using it, and now it is another tool in my photo editing toolbox that I can use to bring out my vision in the images I have created.

Rather than focus on one specific thing for this post, I wanted to share some of my favourite things about the program.

Bringing out amazing contrast and detail

Back when I used Lightroom and Photoshop, Topaz Detail and Clarity were plugins that I would use when I wanted to highlight texture, especially in feathers and fur.  The precision contrast and precision detail adjustments are the same tools found in detail and clarity, though they are still available as the plug in versions or as clarity and detail in studio, which give access to all the fabulous presets that those programs had.  On this cheetah image below, I decided to use the precision contrast and detail rather than the in studio version of detail and clarity.  Since these are sized for the web, some of the fantastic texture of the fur may be a bit lost, but it is definitely there.

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Prior to editing, this cheetah doesn’t look bad, but not great.  Keep in mind that this is a raw image and no matter what, it needs some editing to look its best.
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Using Topaz Studio, I was able to use precision detail and contrast to really highlight the beautiful texture of fur on this cheetah.  Cropped for composition and the usual colour correction adjustments completed as well.

Creating my artistic impression images

I’ve always enjoyed the Topaz Impression and Simplify plug-ins, allowing me to create painterly and whimsical effects to my images.  Sometimes over to the top, sometimes subdued, those programs allow me to create something different with my images, and I love the flexibility they give me.

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A bull elephant crossing the Boteti River to join other members of the bachelor herd that had congregated on the other side earlier in the day.   This version was created in Topaz Studio using some of the adjustments, and then working in Impression in Studio until I had the dreamy feel I was looking for.

Quickly reviving lost detail

I think my favourite discovery in the Topaz Studio program has been the AI Clear adjustment, and it is one I am absolutely going to purchase to make sure I have it available to me.  Many times I find myself out and about with a great scene in front of me, or a moment I want to remember, but the light is fading or there are deep shadows or perhaps fog (sometimes all of the above).  I have found that the AI Clear adjustment can really get images like these back from looking grainy and soft, to full of detail and life.  It’s just one step in the editing process, but it certainly is a powerful tool.

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The unedited version of Wild Dogs in the Okavango Delta.  This group was far enough from the vehicle that I was shooting at 300mm.  Knowing how quickly the dogs move about, I shot at f11 and 1/800 sec to try and keep as much of the group in focus as possible, and freeze the motion.  These choices meant I was at ISO 6400, leaving a lot of noise in the image.
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Cropped for composition purposes, and then edited in Topaz Studio.  I used quite a few adjustments, but I still had the image finished to my liking in only a couple of minutes.  AI Clear did a good portion of the work at the start of the editing process, tidying up the noise and bring back detail to the eyes and the fur, especially to the alpha pair that are on the far left.

I have really been loving the ease of adding my watermark to my images; it is certainly less cumbersome than that current way I have to do so in On1.  One of the drawbacks I have found with Topaz Studio is not being able to resize and export directly from the program.  It means that for images being posted to the blog or my Instagram page, they always need a round trip back to On1 in order to be resized and exported.  Not a deal breaker at all, but just adding an extra step to the process.

If you don’t have it already, I would absolutely recommend downloading Studio and trying it out.  Given that the program is free to use with several adjustments, and there are 30 day trials for all the others, there really is nothing to lose (except maybe a little space on your hard drive) to give it a go.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my take on the program.

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!

2018-09-24: Monochrome Monday

I’m still doing my month of Topaz Studio editing, and decided on a different approach for the images today.  I did the initial colour and tone correction in On1 Photo Raw, and then sent it over to Topaz Studio for further editing.  I did that because the first image shown, of the leopard cub, was rendering so flat in Topaz Studio as a raw file that it would have taken a lot of work just to get it back to a place to start editing.  I figured I would do the same for the other images, just to keep things consistent.

From a workflow perspective, it has definite advantages as the edited image appears back in On1 complete with all my keywords and other tagging that I use, so it is one less step to have to do to organize things.

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A precocious leopard cub exploring a fallen tree over a swamp.  Londolozi, May 2017.
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This magpie shrike was a perfect candidate for a monochrome treatment, being a black and white bird.  The acacia thorns and blue sky in the background did little to enhance the image.
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An African Wild Dog on a pathway through the Khwai region of the Okavango Delta.

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!

 

2018-09-23: Topaz Studio – Week 3

So far I have been concentrating on learning to effectively use Topaz Studio for standard editing, like I would do through On1 Photo Raw or Luminar.  I still have a ways to go to figure out exactly how this would work into my regular workflow, but I decided to do a departure this week and play around with photo art instead.  I watched a few tutorials during the week and one of them featured a new (to me) adjustment called AI Remix.  The effects that the presenter was creating looked really interesting, so that’s where my focus has been this week, along with the more familiar to me adjustments through impression and simplify.

This first image was shot with my Panasonic camera whilst in Botswana, and it was after the sun went down so the image was incredibly dark and noisy; completely unusable as a regular photograph (just being 100% honest).  But, I loved the posture of these two bull elephants jostling in the shallows of the Boteti River, and knew I could make something fun with the image, even if it wasn’t an something that I would traditionally mark as a keeper.

 

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For this image, I did some basic adjustments first to brighten the image and remove some of the noise, and then played around with a combination of AI Remix (Platinum Rose) and Glow.  For me, the posture of the trunks was the most important element of the image, and I feel the boosted saturation of greens and oranges behind the elephants really helps to showcase their shapes.

 

This next image is of a goliath heron.  I wanted to simplify the details without losing all the texture and pattern of the feathers, and bring out colours and tones that reminded me of old film images.  The result looks like a cross between a painting and a snapshot from an old point and shoot camera, but for me the image works.  Perhaps because it brings back memories of the type of pictures I would see around cottage properties when I was younger.

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A goliath heron spotted along the banks of the Boteti River in Botswana.

This last image is bit hectic, but it fits with the subject, the amazing African Wild Dog.  The combination of adjustments I used diffused the background significantly, but in doing so brought out repeating patterns of triangles in the vegetation which corresponds with the triangular shape of the dog’s ears.  It almost feels like the dog rushed through a huge pile of fallen leaves and quickly laid down, while the leaves slowly drifted back down to the ground.

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Creating painterly images or abstracts from photos isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it is something I enjoy playing around with once in a while.  Topaz Studio definitely provides a lot of different options to use to create these types of images.  Because I own the Topaz plug-in collection, I have access to a lot of these tools that aren’t available within the free portion of the software.  The AI Remix adjustment is one that I currently have on trial, and it’s something I would need to experiment more with to figure out if it is a tool I’ll want to have available once the trial period is over.