This week I have really been trying to look for signs of spring. Honest, I have. But waking up today, the temperature was -29C with a high of -12C for the day, and it really does feel like spring is far away. I have noticed a few things though. I can see about a 6″ band of shingles on the roof of my house, from the days when it has been warm enough for a bit of melt to happen. I noticed one lone willow tree, buried in about 4 feet of snow drift at the side of the road, starting to bud (despite the cold in was enveloped in). But mostly, I have noticed the trees.
It has been stark white for a very long time in my back yard, and over the past two weeks, between the strong winds and the the (slightly) warming days, the evergreens have shed the huge cloaks of snow from their branches. There are still bits of snow tucked into the crook of branches here and there, but finally when I look out my windows, I see a bit of green, rather than just white.
Pictures of bare branches in my backyard seemed a bit boring, but frankly, getting all bundled up to do a photo walk this weekend also didn’t hold much appeal. So I went out for a short time to photograph some of the birds feasting on the sunflower seeds. Today, only the chickadees were around, though usually there is a pair of red-breasted nuthatches plus the woodpeckers that pass through. The chickadees made a steady stream from branch to feeder and back again; I couldn’t count them all as they were constantly coming in from every direction.
As a bird lover, one of the sad parts about the temperature warming is soon the birds will have to fend for themselves, once it warms enough for there to be a threat of bears visiting the feeders. I think we have a ways to go before that is an issue though.
Here are a few chickadees for today; fingers crossed next weekend there are more signs of spring around.
This waterhole was in Nxai Pans National Park in Botswana. We stopped there after a trip out to the Baines Baobabs, and watched as a lone bull elephant approached the water. We all thought he was an enormous elephant. A few minutes later, another bull appeared, even larger, and the first elephant made way for the newcomer to choose the spot he wanted at the water. Then the third came along, and both the bulls at the water had to give way to the last that arrived to drink. I love watching these dynamics play out in nature. There was no struggle, no tension, just a simple understanding amongst the group of who got to be in charge.
I met a friend for a tea and a visit last week, and as she also feels a connection to elephants, I started telling her about the elephant encounter I had on the last day of my last safari trip. Since I still had a few flagged images from that sighting that I wanted to edit, I thought they’d make a great post for today.
I posted a bit of the story of these elephants before, which you can check out here if you’d like, along with a couple more images.
I hope you enjoy my selection of images, and hope you have a wonderful week ahead.
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.
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.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my selections for the 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 🙂
My Mom was looking for some elephant images to hang up, and originally thought she would like a sepia tinted photo, so I worked on this edit for her in Luminar.
In the end we decided a colour image would look better in the frame that she had, but at least I had another opportunity to do some editing of my very favourite animal.
Wishing everyone a fantastic week ahead!