2018-09-17: Monochrome Monday

I flagged this image as I was going to work on it over the weekend for my raw conversion comparison that I was doing, but 3 images repeated a few times seemed to be enough so I saved it for a monochrome treatment instead.

I’m glad I did!  Doesn’t this guy look striking in back and white?  He was so close to our vehicle, I had to crop out bits of the Land Rover that had made it into the frame.

Wishing everyone a fantastic week ahead.

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The Piva male leopard seen on Londolozi, May 2017. 

2018-09-09: Topic for the Month – Topaz Studio

As I mentioned in my August in Review post, I am going to spend the month of September diving into the Topaz Studio system.  I had the full suite of Topaz plugins that I used to use with Photoshop, but the primary resources I used were the Impression and Remask plugins, and I never really spent the time learning the ins and outs of the others.  I could utilize them, but I was never familiar enough to be sure which one I needed or to be able to use them to their full potential.

I spent some time this week watching a few tutorials to get a feel for properly using the Studio interface.  I had found a few things were not intuitive for me, and watching the tutorials definitely helped.  Studio comes with 10 free basic adjustments, and several of the Pro adjustments are included if you previously owned other Topaz products.  They also have an option to try Pro adjustments for 30 days before you buy them, so I am going to trial a few additional adjustments that I have seen on the tutorials I have been watching.  I have a feeling that may be a bit costly for me, as I have watched and now tried the AI Clear adjustment (which is pretty amazing), but we’ll see how things go once we get to the end of the month.

Below are links to tutorials I have watched so far.  The Topaz Labs page on Youtube seems to have a lot of information and taped webinars, so I’m sure I’ll have more to share as the month goes on.

 

Topaz Studio can do a lot of things, including edit Raw files and save in multiple formats. But there isn’t an option for exporting and resizing for web, so while I am going to try and do all my adjustments through Topaz, I still have to take the files back into On1 to export at the proper size for uploading to the blog or to my Instagram page.

A few other differences to On1 Photo Raw and Luminar that I have noticed are the colour temperature under the basic adjustment is a simple temperature and tint slider, rather than having to opportunity to quickly try different colour temperature presets (daylight, shade etc).

I’ve not had a chance to edit as many photos as I would like this week, but I am impressed with the results of what I’ve had the chance to work on.  I’m posting 3 before and after images for reference; if anyone is interest in the adjustments I used to create the final images, please let me know and I will post screen shots.

Here is a steenbok spotted near the Hoanib Camp in Namibia:

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Before editing in Topaz Studio.
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After editing in Topaz Studio.

An oryx, also spotted near Hoanib Camp:

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Before editing with Topaz Studio.
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After editing with Topaz Studio.

A springbok spotted while on a game drive in Etosha National Park:

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Before editing with Topaz Studio.
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After editing with Topaz Studio.

The springbok image is the only one that I tried using some presets with.  Topaz products such as clarity have the presets for the plugin available for the app.  Using a preset, and then carrying on with other adjustments, was something that I had struggled with on my first pass with the program, but the key is to hit the apply button after working with one preset before moving on to the next.  If there are any other Topaz Studio users that are struggling with that, I can post a couple of screen shots, but I found the answer while watching the Youtube presentation linked above featuring Hazel Meredith.

Well, that’s all for this week.  I am hoping by next week to have had lots more options to put studio to the test and see what I can come up with.

Wishing everyone a fantastic week ahead.

 

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.

2018-08-26: Elephants edited with Luminar

Since it has been far too smoky to get out shooting, I decided I needed a theme for my Luminar editing this week, and I decided on elephants (surprise!).  I’ve not watched any more Luminar tutorials this week, but I have decided for the balance of the month I am going to search out resources on Luminar for Windows, as the program is a bit less advanced than the Mac version.

I actually tried to edit an image on my Windows computer using Luminar, but got frustrated with a clone and stamp issue and gave up.  Currently, I’m letting that computer download the latest update while I write this, so perhaps the issue will be resolved with the latest version.

Editing elephant images has given me a chance to work with a variety of tools to bring out texture and contrast.  An elephant’s wrinkly skin is such a wonderful feature, and raw files really need to be worked with to bring that back to life.  I’ve found that Luminar does an excellent job with this, but you definitely need a gentle hand with the adjustments as they can go up to 11 very quickly.  The other feature I am enjoying on Luminar is the Accent AI slider.  It analyzes an image and tries to adjust automatically for exposure, contrast, clarity, saturation… but like the filters that affect details, I find it it needs to be used with a gentle touch, otherwise the image starts to look overdone.

I hope you enjoy my selections for the week.  Wishing everyone a great week ahead.

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One of the desert adapted elephants in the Hoanib River bed.  Namibia, April 2017.
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A pair of elephants checking us out before heading down to drink.  Phinda Game Reserve, May 2017.
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Seeing double – a pair of juvenile elephants along the edge of a dam on Phinda Game Reserve.
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This bull was not particularly pleased with our presence, and shot out a blast of air from his trunk, sending sand up all around him, like confetti.  We were driving on the airstrip to give him lots of space on the road, but we certainly didn’t stick around any longer, as he was in musth and we didn’t want to chance annoying him any further.
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This young lady couldn’t have been more different to the bull elephant above.  We were parked on the roadway and she approached us and then just chilled out along the side of the road, waiting while the rest of her family had a drink from a broken water pipe.

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. 

2018-07-29: The Tamboti Leopard

Even spending a short time in the bush with a given animal, it is easy to get caught up in the drama of its life, and care how things turn out for it.  Regardless how deeply I realize it is all part of nature and the circle of life, I still find myself feeling sad in hearing of the passing of an animal that I had a special sighting of.

I recently read on the Londolozi blog that the Tamboti female leopard has not been spotted in over a month, and is presumed dead.  I had two sightings of her on my last trip; the first, we arrived to the riverbed moments after she stashed her cub into a new den site, missing what we thought would have been the sighting of a lifetime.  We did catch a brief glimpse of her moving a cub into a deeper part of the bushes she stashed them in, and as we headed back to camp, I was happy to even have seen the briefest glimpse of a cub so tiny.

The next morning, our last on safari, after having an amazing moment with elephants we headed off on a whim back to the clump of bushes where she stashed the cubs.  Our wonderful ranger Dave had an instinct that she might move the cubs again, and as we arrived, we found her with one of the cubs and were able to follow her on a long journey through the bush to her new den site, and then spend some time watching her interact with her two tiny cubs.  I’ve posted about this sighting before, and you can see some other images here.

Reading that she is now presumed gone, and only her female cub remains, prompted me to edit a few more of my images to share, and to relive those wonderful moments in the bush, watching nature unfold.

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This was the best image that I could get during my afternoon sighting of Tamboti and one of the cubs.  Londolozi, May 2017.
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Following Tamboti moving one of the cubs to a new den site.
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Every so often, she would set the cub down for a quick break, and then carry on, over whatever obstacles were in her path.
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My dreams of leopard shots were limited to hoping to see one in a tree one day; this was far beyond anything I had imaged I would see while out in the bush.
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After stashing the cub deep into the hollowed out log, she looks around, scanning for any threats.  We heard the call of another nearby leopard while we were watching the family.
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You can just make out the cubs in the darkness of the fallen tree.
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When she determined it was safe, she allowed the cubs out and here shares a tender moment.

 

2018-07-09: Monochrome Monday

A trio of antelope images to start the week.

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A steenbok pauses for a quick photo op before disappearing behind the scrubby trees growing in the sand.  Hoanib Camp, Namibia.  April 2017.
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A group of oryx get photobombed by a grazing springbok.  Ongava Game Reserve, Namibia. April 2017.
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A lone nyala bull checks out his surroundings.  Londolozi Game Reserve, South Africa. May 2017.

 

Wishing everyone a fantastic week! 🙂