2018-01-01: Monochrome Monday

A group of bull elephants on the banks of the Boteti Rover in Botswana.  These males had come down from Nxai Pans to enjoy the water and the lush vegetation around the river, as the seasonal pans dried up.  We watched this group cross from one side of the river to the there, stopping part way for a bath and then a wallow in the mud at the edge of the river, before carrying on their way.

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Elephants along the Boteti River.  Botswana, May, 2017.

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.

2018-09-03: Monochrome Monday

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!

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A zebra appearing shy while having its photo taken in Etosha.  namibia, April 2017.
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A glance over the shoulder by this gorgeous leopard, seen in the Okavango Delta. May 2017.
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A large male lion giving us a bit of a dirty look as we followed him down a roadway.  Londolozi, May 2017.

2018-09-02: Leopards in Luminar

I mentioned in my post last week that I would concentrate on using Luminar in Windows for the balance of the month.  I missed getting this posted before the end of the month, but still wanted to share the images and my thoughts on Luminar in Windows.

First off, thankfully the clone and stamp issue that I found the first time I opened my version of Luminar in Windows had been corrected once I updated the software.  Basically what was happening is the clone and stamp layer would appear to work normally, but then would disappear once you clicked done on the clone and stamp module.  A bit frustrating, so I am glad that is no longer an issue.

I had read in a few blogs that there were a couple fewer filters on the Windows version; I didn’t count them myself and never found I was missing a tool I wanted to use, so that’s definitely not a concern for me.  The one thing I really enjoyed was using the touchscreen for creating masks; my Windows machine is a Microsoft Surface complete with the Surface Stylus.  What a huge difference using that made in terms of accuracy.  I never transferred my logo file to my Windows machine, so I had to open up the edited files on my Mac to add a logo and then export.  I didn’t have any issues with using the files on different systems, which is a good thing as I don’t see leaving my Mac as my main editing machine any time soon, but it does mean that I can work on the road and transition to home in a fairly seamless way.

I’m going to say for my editing purposes, there really isn’t any difference between Mac and Windows for using Luminar.  Others may have a different experience, but I didn’t have any issues.

I decided on leopard images as I knew I had some that had some with contrast issues,  some wonky colours to deal with and an images where I would need to test the clone and stamp.  And Leopards in Luminar just has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

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A leopard cub explores the bottom of a ravine.  This image had some serious contrast issues due to the deep shadows and very bright mid morning sun.  I am happy with the way this turned out.
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A mama leopard carrying her cub to a new den site.  This image had some strange colour casts, and despite being able to correct it in Luminar, I tried a black and white filter and much preferred the result.
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This is definitely not the look you want a leopard to be giving you. This mama heard another leopard calling nearby, and was not at all pleased.  There weren’t too many issues with this image but it did need detail enhancement to be applied carefully so as not to accentuate the noise in this early morning, shady, high ISO shot.
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A leopard perched in a tree at sunset in the Okavango Delta.  This image had some need of the clone and stamp tool; I don’t know if it was a sensor spot or a bug, but there was something that was very distracting in the blue sky that I had to get rid of.