2018-09-16: Topaz Week 2

I am continuing to enjoy working in Topaz Studio, and now that I am getting more comfortable with the interface, I am starting to notice some differences that may affect how I use the program for future images.

First off, I have noticed that there can be a dramatic difference in how Topaz renders the raw file prior to having any processing done, and it seems to be very dependant on which camera I was using.  This lion image was shot with my old Nikon D610 (which I traded in late last year for a Fuji XT-2).

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This is the unedited image, exported from ON1 Photo Raw.
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This is the unedited image from Topaz Studio.
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For comparison purposes, this is the raw file out of Luminar.  The results are quite similar to the On1 version, especially in terms of the colour rendering.

As you can see, with this image there are fairly dramatic differences in the colour rendering, the amount of contrast and detail in the image, and how bright the image is.  The raw file appears to have a significant magenta cast in the Topaz file, compared to a more neutral tone in the On1 raw file.  I have been finding colour correction a bit tricky with Topaz so far.  I think of all the tools I have available to me, Luminar does the best job at correcting colour and especially removing colour casts.

But, even though I started from a different spot editing the raw file in Topaz than I would have from On1, I am happy with the results I was able to get with the image.

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Here is the finished image.  I spent time with this gorgeous lion early one more whilst on Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa.  May, 2017.

With this next image, the difference in colour rendering was far less between On1 and Topaz Studio, so as with all photo editing, images do need to be looked at on a case by case basis.  The landscape image below was shot with my Panasonic FZ1000.

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The unedited raw image from On1 Photo Raw.
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The unedited image from Topaz Studio.

In contrast to the lion image, the raw file in Topaz Studio looks better to me than through On1, a little bit brighter and with a bit more detail.

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Here is my final edit of this image through Topaz Studio.  I was able to bring out depth of colour and detail in the image, without completely removing the grainy haze from the sand storm that was kicking up in the distance.  Taken at Hoanib Camp in Namibia, April 2017. 

Here is an image from this summer, shot with my Fuji XT-2.  I sure miss sitting outside watching the hummingbirds zip around the yard.

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Unedited from On1 Photo Raw.
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Unedited from Topaz Studio.

The difference in rendering on the Fuji files is far less dramatic.  The one out of Topaz looks flatter, but that’s what the editing process is for.

Here is the edited image:

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Edited through Topaz to bring out the detail, and get rid of the distracting elements of the background (in this case by cropping them out).  On second glance I could have made the image a bit brighter, but since the purpose of this exercise was to look for differences in how the raw image looked, I’ll leave it as is.

After doing a few of these image comparisons, I am finding that there is a consistent, dramatic difference in the way On1 and Topaz render files from my old Nikon camera, with the files being significantly more “true to life” in the On1 rendering.  Since I don’t have the Nikon anymore, this isn’t an issue that will plague me beyond finishing up the backlog of images I have that I would like to edit, so I can make smart choices about what software to use when.  The differences between the raw rendering with files from my Panasonic or Fuji cameras is not so dramatic, and if I am using Topaz Studio, I have a better starting point with files from those cameras than I do with the Nikon files.

 

 

 

2018-08-21: Flamingos – Before and After

I had flagged this image to include with my Monochrome Monday post yesterday, but when I started editing this in Luminar, I was so impressed with the transformation, I thought it would make for a good before and after post.

These flamingos were far away; I had the Panasonic at full 400mm zoom and they still are really small, so I shot this mostly as a proof image.  With a digital camera, there is little downside to snapping a photo or two even if you don’t think they will be great.

At least you have a record of what you saw, and it might actually turn out okay.  Needless to say this isn’t getting printed to hang on my wall, but it is a great example of how far you can recover a rather drab image.

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Here is the before image, even before straightening the horizon.  It almost pains me to post a shot that crooked, but before means before any editing.

As I said, I brought this into Luminar planning to include it with my black and white shots, but all it took were a few sliders to bring to colour and texture of the image back to life.  

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I saved a split shot with the before and after (I really like this view option, I find it much more helpful than toggling before and after on and off).  You really get an idea of how flat and lifeless the image was out of camera, and how much detail and colour be recovered.

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I edited this in under five minutes, so it definitely wasn’t a big time investment to play around and make this image the best it could be. 

2018-07-22: What I’ve seen this week

It’s been a great week for bird watching and wildlife, though I don’t have a ton of images to show for it.  As I expected, the hummingbirds are slowing down dramatically, with only around a half dozen birds remaining, but the purple finches, nuthatches, chickadees and pine siskins remain in force, clearing out two seed feeders every couple of days.  I had a pair of western tanagers through the yard on Thursday, but sadly they flitted through so quickly I couldn’t get any images.  I’ve only had three very brief sightings of the tanagers this year.

After the sadness of finding the destroyed robin’s nest the previous week, I was a bit surprised to find a robin (I assume the same mama, but perhaps a different one) building a nest feet from where the previous one was destroyed.  Fingers crossed she is more successful this time and the cats stay away.

The star of the week though was the bear cub that visited the yard Thursday around lunchtime.  It was on it’s own, and frankly seemed a bit small to be away from its mama, but I never caught sight of any other cubs around or the mom.  He was in the grass near some of my potted plants, making for some nice images out of my dining room window.

I hope you enjoy my choices for the week.

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Taking photos out through a window isn’t ideal, but I do get a great vantage point for creating images.
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Taking a moment to stop and smell the flowers.

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Mama robin tucked into her nest on my well pump house.
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A garter snake that I found basking on the pavement when I was taking Spencer for an afternoon walk.  I was grateful no cars came by while I was walking, and when I returned it had moved into the safety of the bushes.

2018-07-08: Birds and a bunny

Last weekend, I had decided that I was going to carry on with bird posts for the month of July.  I was excited because a robin’s nest was discovered in the yard, and while I didn’t see the babies, mama robin was still in the nest.  I had wonderful thoughts of finding a suitable spot to photograph them, while not getting too close and intruding on their space.  Then on Wednesday morning, as I was leaving with Spencer for our morning walk, I noticed that the nest was off kilter (it was built on top of a hose reel attached to our well pump house).  When I walked a bit closer, I saw that the nest was destroyed, and there were 3 baby robins dead on the ground.

I don’t have any proof, but I believe it was a cat that lives down the road and is allowed to roam outside that did the damage.  There were puncture marks in one of the chicks, but otherwise they were untouched, which leads me to believe that whatever attacked the nest was not in need of food.  Even if a wild cat, fox or other animal was disturbed when they were at the nest, if they were hungry, I would expect them to come back and collect the chicks.  Instead, I ended up having to clean the sad mess up.  I’m not going to share any images from that sighting; no one else needs to see that.

That took the wind out of my sails a bit for bird photos.  I’ve actually decided to not have a formal topic for July, and I’ll just post what I am inspired to share on a Sunday.  Today though, I do have a few bird images from around the yard and neighbourhood.  Who knows what next week will bring.

Before I get to the birds though, there is a bunny I’ve been seeing around the neighbourhood.  It’s not the best image, but I don’t think I am wrong in my assumption that it is a descendant of the bunny that was in the area the winter of 2016/2017.  I’ve linked below to one of the posts that featured the original bunny in the neighbourhood.  In talking with neighbours, there are a couple of these little hybrids hopping around.

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The original bunny

I have been quite excited to see hermit thrushes while out on walks a few times this summer.  Mostly, I just hear them calling from deep in the bushes, but I’ve seen them on different walks hopping around on the road, sitting on fence posts, or up on the power lines like this one.  The link below has some more information about the hermit thrush, as well as a sample of the pretty song they sing.

Hermit Thrush

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The hermit thrush paused here for a brief moment, but only showed off the backside before flying off deep into the bushes.

In addition to the hummingbirds that are going crazy in the yard, I have loads of purple finches and pine siskins (as well as the occasional hairy woodpecker, some juncos and a red-breasted nuthatch family).  I’m grateful there haven’t been any bears in my immediate vicinity, so I have been able to keep the sunflower seeds out for the birds.  I have two large squirrel proof feeders (ha-ha!) that I am filling up every other day at the moment.  I’ve included links to the All About Birds pages for both the birds if you are looking for more information on the species, or want to listen to the lovely songs that I get to listen to while taking my lunch break outside, or while puttering around watering the flowers.

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A group of pine siskins dining on sunflower seeds.

Pine Siskin

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Female purple finch
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Male purple finch

 

Purple Finch

I hope you have enjoyed my selections for the week.

Wishing everyone a fantastic week ahead.

2018-06-24: Monthly Photo Project – Hummingbirds

As promised last week, I have some hummingbird photos to share this week.  I’ve been spending as much time as I have been able outside, enjoying the antics of the rufous hummingbirds.  I probably should have tried taking some video, but I don’t want to delay this post and go out and attempt it.  Perhaps over the coming week I’ll give that a try.

The rufous hummingbirds arrive in Prince George early to mid-May; with the males arriving first followed shortly after by the females.  Their arrival coincided with the weather going from unseasonably warm to ridiculously cold and frosty, so there wasn’t much for them to feed on, making them extra reliant on the feeders that I put out.  I started with one feeder and as more birds arrived hung up extras.  Currently I have four feeders around the yard, and am putting out between 1 to 1.5 litres of nectar per day for the group living in my vicinity.

I have photos of four at a feeder at a time, but have seen more than eight gathered around one, with others hanging out at the other options.  Usually that is early in the morning or late in the evening, when it is challenging to get images.  If I had to guess, I would say there are probably 15 to 18 individuals that are frequenting the feeders, but they move so quickly and erratically, it is really tough to say.  There are definitely lots of juveniles, so their breeding has been successful this year.  With the long days we have, they are busy feeding from around 4am until after 10pm every day.

My yard is surrounded by thick forest, and the hummingbirds retreat deep into the bush between feedings, making it had to get decent images of them on natural perches.  Images of birds on feeders aren’t ideal, but that’s where they are gathering, so I have to work with what is available.  I am going to keep trying to get some images of them on the forest, but I don’t have long to do so, as they usually begin their southern journey mid July.

If you want to learn more about the rufous hummingbird, check out the link below.  They are noted as being feisty – that’s a complete understatement!

All About Birds – Rufous Hummingbird

Now, time for the images.

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An adult female rufous hummingbird.
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An adult male rufous hummingbird.
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Sharing nicely (for once).
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The male taking off to join the fray.
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I nearly got taken out by the birds on more than one occasion while hanging around outside taking photographs.  I think it would have hurt them a lot more than me though.
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Adult and juvenile females heading in for a feed.
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Beak to beak combat.

2018-06-17: Monthly Photo Projects – Birds

I had planned on creating a post about hummingbirds this week, but it’s just not going to happen.  I have been out taking photos of them as much as possible, but I haven’t had a chance to edit them yet.  As it’s Father’s Day today, I want to spend time with Pops rather than at my computer editing images.

Below is a selection of bird images from my travels that I haven’t had a chance to share yet.

Hummingbirds next week – I promise.

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A huge gathering of marabou storks and white backed vultures on the banks of the Boteti River in Botswana.  May, 2017.
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Groups of darters and cormorants in the early morning fog at one of the dams on Phinda Game Reserve.  A few hippos in there for good measure 🙂

 

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A pair of tawny eagles spotted in the Okavango Delta.  May 2017.
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My best guess at identification is a banded snake eagle.  This bird was up and away very quickly; spotted on a game drive through Amboseli National Park.  September, 2016.
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A Coqui Francolin spotted in the Masai Mara.  September, 2016.

2018-06-10: Birds Projects – Sparrows and Swallows

It has been a challenging week for photographing the birds, with dull, cold, rainy days, and flat, lifeless skies.  But, regardless of the weather, the show must go on, and if I were on holiday I wouldn’t give up on taking pictures just because the weather wasn’t perfect.

I took a trip early in the week to a nearby farm where there are nest boxes for swallows and bluebirds.  While I saw a couple of brief glimpses of the bluebirds, I didn’t capture any images, so I will have to go back and try again for those.  I did get some good images of the swallows and bluebirds in the same area a couple of years ago, you can find that old post here.

It looks like the sun may make a brief appearance today, so it’s time to sign off and get outside and get shooting.  I hope you enjoy this week’s images, I am hoping to have some hummingbird images to share next week.

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I find it difficult naming the wide variety of small, brown and beige coloured birds we have in the area, but I am almost certain this is a Clay-Coloured Sparrow.  While it looks like the bird is singing a beautiful song, it actually sounded like some type of buzzing insect, which is the exact description of the song for this sparrow in my bird book.

To find out more about the Clay-Coloured Sparrow (and here the insect buzz call), check out the link below.

All About Birds – Clay Coloured Sparrow

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A tree sparrow peeks out from the nesting box.
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A tree sparrow couple during one of the brief moments of sunlight while I was out.

 

2018-06-03: Monthly Project – Bird Photography

Part of the reason that I chose bird photography this month was to get out and enjoy the nice weather, as well as get familiar with a new lens I have purchased.  So at first glance it may not make any sense that today I’m posting images from my last trip.  I have gotten out a bit over the past couple of days and taken some bird images, and I have been really impressed with the lens so far.  But I’m already half way through Sunday and I haven’t had a chance to start editing, so rather than miss posting altogether or rushing my editing process, I decided to go for some bird images from my catalogue that I haven’t posted before.

I hope you enjoy my selections for this week, and next week I will be sharing some of our local birds.

Wishing you all a wonderful week ahead.

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We came across a very large sociable weavers nest while on a game drive through Etosha National Park.  There was a lot of activity in and out of the large communal nest, here one of the birds pauses in a more open spot where it is easier to see them.
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Up against the nest, the weaver is very camouflaged.
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The nest itself was so large it brought down one of the large branches of the acacia tree.
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This crimson breasted shrike played hard to get for a photo; this was the best that I could do while driving through the Makgadikgadi Pans.
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A beautiful glossy starling in early morning light.
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My personal favourite, the lilac breasted roller.