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. 

2018-08-20: Monochrome Monday

I was inspired by my post yesterday on white balance to continue editing images from my time at the Skelton Coast in Namibia.  Given the flat light in a lot of the images, I thought black and white edits might be a good option.  I am quite happy the way the turned out.

All of the images from my time at the coast were shot with my Panasonic FZ1000, which I have mentioned before is a great and capable camera, but sometimes the quality is a bit lacking when comparing to the files I got out of my Nikon or that I now get from my Fuji.  But these were shot at the start of a long trip and I thought it would be wise not to subject the Nikon to blowing sand, given its terrible habit of picking up dust particles.  So, I’ve done the best with what I got that day.

 

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Ripples in a sand dune leading down to the ocean.  All images April, 2017 during a trip to the coast from the Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp.
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A group of seals perched on a rock.  The seal colony had a smell that was out of this world (and not in a good way).  We were all grateful our vehicle had windows, and we kept them closed as much as possible.
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No image I took did justice to the number of seals in the water.  At least here one is jumping, so you know what all the other little black specs in the water are!
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A lone seagull on the fringes of the seal colony.  We had hoped we might see a brown hyena during our visit, but only saw remnants of their visits littered along the shoreline; they seemed spoiled for choice with all the baby seals.

2018-08-19: Creative white balance

I recently watched a Luminar editing tutorial discussing technically correct vs creative white balance.  Since I am almost always shooting outside, in changing light conditions, I don’t have a shots with a grey card in it to actually come up with the technically correct white balance.  I tend to leave my camera on auto WB, and then adjust it as needed in post processing.  But the tutorial still got me thinking about the different mood and feel that an image can have, depending on the choice of colour temperature.

I decided to play around with this concept a bit with a few images that I took on the Skeleton Coast of Namibia.  We took a short flight from camp to the coast and took a drive through the dunes, where it was warm and sunny with clear blue skies, but once we were at the coast line, low cloud and fog swirled around in strong winds, causing subtle, but rapidly changing light conditions as we visited a seal colony, explored a few of the wrecks along the coast, and enjoyed a picnic lunch on the beach.

On a previous trip I had flown over a portion of the Skeleton Coast, and found the abandoned buildings and shipwrecks fascinating to see, so having the change to see some of the wrecks up close was really interesting for me.  The different colours and textures of the rusted, twisted metal against the natural sand, rock and water provided lots of options for photos.

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A portion of wrecked boat on the Skeleton Coast.  Here I chose to play up the blue of the background water and intensify the textures in the rusted metal.  I feel the cooler tone of this image intensifies the feeling of desolation I get from this image.
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Taking things in a different direction, this image is much warmer, as well as a bit faded and matte.  Combined with the subject, I think it lends a sense of age to the image.  You begin to wonder just how long this boat has been breaking apart on the coast.
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This image would be closest to a technically correct white balance, though given the changing light conditions, all of the images are representative of how the area actually looked at different moments throughout the day.  I thought this small piece of metal looked a bit like the blade portion of a ice skate.

 

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.

2018-07-23: Monochrome Monday

A giraffe reaching for a choice morsel, high up in an acacia tree.

Because of an abundant wet season, there was a lot of food (and relatively speaking) a lot of water on offer in the desert while I was there last April.

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2018-05-20: Painterly Effects Project – Namibia

I was inspired this week to explore images from Namibia with my painterly effects project for the month.  In the brief time I have spent there, I have found it to be a magical place. The light is beautiful and the landscapes are at times surreal.  From the air, the vast open spaces seem lifeless, but on the ground, it is a completely different story.

I hope you enjoy my selections for the week.

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A group of oryx walking in front of one of the impressive dunes in Sossusvlei.
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A lone elephant moves through the desert, looking to catch up to her herd that had already reached the river.
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Sunset over the desert in Hoanib.
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A group of flamingos in flight over the Skeleton Coast.
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The land of vast deserts sometimes surprises with lush greenery.  This lion was lounging in the cool grass with the rest of his pride nearby.
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Large groups of seals awaited us when we visited the Skeleton Coast from Hoanib Camp.  Inland it was a clear, blue sky day, but on the coast, fog and mist obscured the view.
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A group of lions, newly evicted from their pride, roaming through Etosha National Park.
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In Damaraland, you can easily feel like you are the only people for miles around.