Topaz Glow

Over the last month I have been beta testing a new product from Topaz Labs called Glow. The software works either as a standalone program or as a plugin for Lightroom or Photoshop. Topaz Glow uses fractals to get some interesting results, very similar to Redfield Fractalius. Topaz have released a short product video showing the interface along with some before and after photographs.

I’m sure over the next few days there will be plenty of tutorials released so I’m just going to show you some of the results I achieved using Topaz Glow.

Electric Sky

Glow is not one of those plugins I would use on every photograph. I’m more likely to use it when I am creating some digital artwork and I want to bring in an electric sort of look. Topaz Glow has lots of ready-made presets that you can just click and apply but my personal method is to choose a preset and then adjust the sliders to get more of the look I want.

Engine Bay

Like this engine bay from a Ford. I still wanted to maintain a lot of the detail and by adjusting the opacity and blend modes of Topaz Glow directly in the plugin or standalone program I’m able to get the look I want. Similarly in the photograph below I used blending an opacity levels along with fine tuning the preset to maintain the ripples in the sand but add a bit of light and texture

Purple Haze

Applied carefully you can get a painterly look to your photograph. look at this one of a blue tit sitting on a branch.

Glow-Tit

Admittedly Topaz already have a paint plugin called Impressions but I quite like the effect that Glow brings to this photograph. The tree below is so simple but Topaz Glow has added just that little bit of texture

Tree

Disclaimer: I have been a beta tester for Topaz products for well over a year now and as such I am give copies of the software for testing which has often resulted in my receiving a free license when the product is brought to market.

Greg’s Postcard Made It To North Wales

A short while back Greg Urbano posted an article on his blog entitled Where In The World Is My Postcard? In the post Greg’s suggested that if we supplied a mailing address, in return he would send an autographed postcard.

Freebies. I’m up for that and as Greg wasn’t going to use my address for anything other than sending me the postcard, why not?

The postcard arrived today, Saturday 15th March and here it is featured in this photograph.

My Town

Greg suggested taking a photograph featuring the postcard, which I could mail to him. In turn he would write a blog post around my photograph with a link back to my blog.

Now that’s what I call “Sharing, Link Love”

So where am I? I’m standing on the top of Gwaenysgor hill looking towards my adopted home town of Prestatyn with it’s wide sandy beaches. Unfortunately, the wind is strong and cold and I was having trouble keeping the postcard still.

Prestatyn is a seaside resort, town and community in Denbighshire, Wales. It is located on the Irish Sea coast and has a population of around 18,496

There is evidence that the current town location has been occupied since prehistoric times. Prehistoric tools found in the caves of Craig Fawr, in the nearby village of Meliden, have revealed the existence of early human habitation in the area.

The Roman bathhouse is believed to be part of a fort on the road from Chester to Caernarfon. However, much of ‘Roman Prestatyn’ has been destroyed as houses have been built over un-excavated land.

The name Prestatyn derives from the Old English preosta (“priest”) and tun (“farm”), and was recorded in the Domesday Book as Prestetone. Unlike similarly derived names in England, which generally lost their penultimate syllable and became Preston, this village’s name developed a typically Welsh emphasis on the penultimate syllable and a modification of “ton” to “tyn”, as also happened at Mostyn. Although the Domesday Book only extended to demesnes in England, Prestatyn was included since it was at that time under English control.

An earth mound, visible in fields to the south of the railway station, near Nant Hall, marks the site of an early wooden motte and bailey castle, probably built by the Norman Robert de Banastre about 1157, which was destroyed by the Welsh under Owain Gwynedd in 1167. The Banastre family then moved to Bank Hall in Lancashire.

The town appears to have been primarily a fishing village for hundreds of years. The beginning and end of High Street today mark the location of two ‘maenolau’ (or manor houses) called Pendre (translated as “end of” or “top of town”) and Penisadre (“lower end of town”)

The town’s population remained at less than 1000 until the arrival of the railways and the holidaymakers in the 19th and 20th centuries. “Sunny Prestatyn” became famous for its beach, clean seas and promenade entertainers, and visiting for a bathe was considered very healthy by city-dwelling Victorians.

 

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Digital Art

Vintage paper with plenty of copyspace for text

Way back in the dim and distant past I used to create a lot of images like this using backgrounds I had created and photographed. I would then add the subject such as the lighthouse and blend the two together.

In this one I have used a stock image from Fotolia and then blended in one of my photographs of Talacre Lighthouse.

I had forgotten how much fun it was, playing around in Photoshop to get the effect I wanted, blending layers and brushing in/out parts of the various photographs.

In fact I enjoyed it so much you might just see some more like this. But what do you think? Should I feature more digital art?

Topaz ReStyle

It’s no secret that I am a Photoshop user and that I will enhance my images. In my opinion that’s what the digital age is all about. I’m a great fan of Topaz Labs plugins for Photoshop and I have their Complete Collection installed on my computer.

Recently I did a beta test of Topaz ReStyle which is now on general release. What does it do? Hard to explain in words but you can take a photograph and apply one of a thousand different effects to it. Perhaps the best way is to show you what I mean.

Here’s the base image. Taken as the sun was setting on Talacre Beach. On it’s own I quite like it….but it could do with something a little bit extra.

With one click I can select from any one of the 1000 pre-sets and it will be instantly applied.

But you don’t have to stick with the pre-sets default setting. You can fine tune them using the control panel.

Here you can adjust the strength of the five primary colours, mask out some of the effect, change the saturation and hue of colours, even the luminosity.

Want something a bit weird? ReStyle has pre-sets  for that.  Or maybe something dark and moody?

A thousand different pre-sets is a bit much to look at but you can search by keyword. For instance, I used “blue” to find this pre-set.

Many of the pre-sets look reasonably natural, especially any that have to do with sunset or sunrise.

I’m not saying that ReStyle should be applied to every photograph, nor is it  suited to every photograph. When I was beta testing I found I got the best results from photographs where the light was kind of low and I stuck to something that was believable. i.e. the green and really red just don’t seem to gel.

 

52/2013 Week 33

52/2013 Week 33

This would probably have been suitable for this weeks Weekly Photo Challenge but I already earmarked it for 52/2013.

I was down on the beach photographing the sunset when this pair walked right across the front of the camera, despite me asking them to wait a few seconds whilst I finished the long exposure.

Anyway, they climbed onto the slippery rocks and proceeded to start fishing. I’ll qualify that. The father started fishing, the kid looked like he didn’t want to be there. Look at the way he’s standing.

Now although I don’t claim exclusive rights to the shoreline I do find it annoying when someone walks right in front of the camera, especially when you ask them to wait just for a moment.

Have you ever had a photograph ruined by someone walking into the frame? Or, maybe they’ve walked in and you’ve used it to your advantage?

 

Llyn Geirionydd

Llyn Geirionydd

Llyn Geirionydd lies in a valley in North Wales where the northern edge of the Gwydyr Forest meets the lower slopes of the Carneddau mountains. The lake is almost a mile long and covers an area of 45 acres (180,000 m2), but is never any deeper than 50 ft (15 m).

The lake has a car park (with toilets) and the location is very popular in the summer. This car park site was once a waste tip site for the Pandora mine above, and indeed the planting of conifers in the area of the lake has considerably softened the effects of mining. There are few, if any, fish in the lake, and this, it is believed, is the result of the poisoning of the waters from the adjacent metal mines.

The current road follows what some believe to be part of Sarn Helen, the Roman road which ran southwards from the fort at Canovium (Caerhun, between Trefriw and Conwy) to the fort at Tomen y Mur (near Trawsfynydd), and beyond, ultimately reaching Moridunum (Carmarthen).

 

Love ‘em or Hate ‘em…

On Top Of The Hill

I have a love/hate relationship with wind turbines. From a photography point of view I quite like them as they sometime serve to break up what could be a very monotonous landscape. But on the other hand I have seen them in places were the scenery is absolutely beautiful, only to be ruined by a great big white monstrosity.

I’m not entirely convinced that the benefits from wind turbines are that great, I suppose only time will tell. I always thought they would be quite quiet. Having stood underneath one yesterday, one thing I can tell you, they are really noisy.

What about you? Do you love them, or is your vote for a hate?

 

Loch Lomond – A Quick Visit

Loch Lomond is a freshwater loch 39 kilometres (24 mi) long and between 1.21 kilometres (0.75 mi) and 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) wide. It has an average depth of about 37 metres (121 ft), and a maximum depth of about 190 metres (620 ft).

Crystal Clear Water

Of all the lochs and lakes in Great Britain, it is the largest by surface area, and the second largest (after Loch Ness) by water volume. Within the United Kingdom, it is surpassed only by Lough Neagh and Lower Lough Erne in Northern Ireland.

I only had a very short time at Loch Lomond but managed to capture a few photographs beside the loch and in the nearby village of Luss.

Loch Lomond is one of Scotland‘s premier boating and water sports venues and the scenery draws people from all over Scotland and beyond.

Diving

The loch is open to every kind of watercraft including kayaks, canoes, wind-surfers, jet skis, speedboats and cruisers and they are all very well represented.

Lomond Water Bus

A great way of getting to see various locations around Loch Lomond is to use the Water Bus.

Big Skies

The Water Bus links west, east and south shore locations like Luss & Balmaha, Balloch & Balmaha and Tarbet with Inversnaid & Rowardennan.

As I only had a short time on the Loch I only went as far north as the village of Luss. Nowadays Luss is a conservation village, and many of the cottages have been described as picturesque.

Luss Village

Some while back Luss became famous as a result of being the main outdoor location for the Scottish Television drama series Take the High Road.  Although the programme is no longer made, some in Luss remain proud of the connection: its fictional name, ‘Glendarroch,’ is used for some buildings.

Luss Parish Church is a Church of Scotland church in Luss, Argyll and Bute dedicated to Saint Kessog.

Luss Parish Church

The present church building was constructed in 1875, and subject to major restoration works in 2001. The church site has had 1500 years of continuous Christian presence, being originally founded by Saint Kessog, and has 15 listed ancient monuments in its graveyard.

The church has in recent times embraced the internet, broadcasting its services online, and inviting, in exception to usual Church practice, outsiders to take advantage of the picturesque location on the banks of Loch Lomond for weddings, of which 153 were held in 2009.

It’s a shame they don’t welcome photographers. At least, not those with tripods and DSLR cameras. I was told in no uncertain terms that I wouldn’t be allowed to “set-up” by the photography police who were manning the door to the church.

No visit to Loch Lomond would be complete without a photograph of Ben Lomond which is 974 metres (3,196 ft) in height.

Ben Lomond

Easily accessible from Glasgow and elsewhere in central Scotland, together with the relative ease of ascent from Rowardennan, makes it one of the most popular for walkers. Hey! When I was a kid in my teens I went up it several times.

Ben Lomond’s popularity in Scotland has resulted in several namesakes in the former British colonies of Australia, New Zealand, Trinidad and the United States. The mountain is mentioned directly in the popular folk song The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond.

I wish I had more time to spend at Loch Lomond, visiting Luss and seeing the Ben brings back memories from my childhood. But unfortunately, this really was a quick visit. I arrived in Glasgow at 3 pm. Took the photographs between 4 & 6 pm and was back in North Wales, by 10 am the following morning.

 

Historic Churches and Chapels

Over the past few weeks I have been visiting some of the small churches and chapels in the Conwy Valley, North Wales to photograph them. Some of the churches are easy to find, others not so, being located down remote country lanes or on the top of mountains.

Claimed to be the oldest church in Wales, Saint Rhychwyn’s at Llanrhychwyn, allegedly marks the site where Rhychwyn established his church in the 6th century. The church is known locally as Llewelyn’s Church, and the oldest part dates from the late 11th century.

Set within an ancient churchyard, the church is a good example of early architecture.

The east aisle was added in the 13th century, and the north aisle dates from the 16th century. It has a very old square font, as old as the church itself, and an early example of stained glass in the east window. The roof beams, some 800 years old, are the earliest example in Wales. The ancient oak door has wooden hinges, and the bell, which dates from the 13th century, possibly came from Maenan Abbey. The altar rails date from 1616, and the pulpit from 1691. The chalice is dated 1614 and is of an ornate design. The registers date from 1594.

Down is the valley at Trefriw is the parish church of Saint Mary’s. Llywelyn Fawr, Prince of Gwynedd and de facto Prince of Wales, had a hunting lodge, known in documents as Y Ty Ddu, near Llyn Geirionydd, close to Llanrhychwyn. Llywelyn married Siwan or Joan a daughter of King John of England in 1205. In about 1230 Llywelyn endowed another church for the local community living on the valley bottom, on the site where St Mary’s, Trefriw now stands.

 

Heavy remodelling in the 15th and 16th centuries, and again in the 19th century.means none of the original church built by Llywelyn in the 13th century remains, except possibly for part of the wall of the south aisle.  A 17th-century altar remains in the church, although the one used is a larger Victorian example. The carved hexagonal pulpit dates from 1633, and the church possesses a “Breeches” Bible of 1589, (another term for the Geneva Bible of 1560). There is also a silver chalice inscribed “the cuppe of Trefriw, 1701”, and registers date from 1594.

Llywelyn and Siwan are portrayed in a remarkable stained glass window in the church.

Gwydir Uchaf Chapel, in the woods above Gwydir Castle, was built in 1673 by Sir Richard Wynn as a family memorial chapel for the Wynns of Gwydir.

The simple exterior of the building hides its lavish interior. The chapel is built without a division between chancel and nave, and is very Catholic in its decoration scheme – not too surprising when you consider that Wynn consulted with a Jesuit priest over part of the design.

The interior retains much of its 17th century character. The most interesting feature is the ceiling, painted as a celestial firmament, with angels, doves, cherubs, and other allegorical symbols mixed amid symbols of the sun, moon, and stars.

There are carved and painted wooden cherubs attached to the wall panelling. A royal coat of arms of Charles the Second is set upon the south wall.

This is just a short trip around 3 of the churches I have been visiting in the last few weeks. As you can see some of them have very simple decorations, others are ornate with stained glass or painted ceilings. One thing they have in common; all are steeped in history.

Please remember that churches and chapels are places of worship and contemplation so please respect this should you visit. Many rely on donations to keep them in good repair so if you can please put something in the collection box. Before taking photographs check if it is allowed.

 

52/2013 Week 27

Yesterday on our photography trip to some of the oldest and most remote churches in rural Conwy, North Wales we stopped off at Llyn Geirionydd to have lunch.

Llyn Geirionydd lies in a valley where the northern edge of the Gwydyr Forest meets the lower slopes of the Carneddau mountains. The lake is almost a mile long and covers an area of 45 acres (180,000 m2), but is never any deeper than 50 ft (15 m) according to Jehu’s survey.[1] The lake can be reached by car from Trefriw or Llanrwst in the Conwy valley, the narrow track passing through the hamlet of Llanrhychwyn, or from the road through the Gwydir Forest.

Sitting by the lake, eating our lunch, and in turn getting eaten by midgies, I noticed this brightly coloured Jay visiting other picnic benches looking for scraps of food. It was too good an opportunity to miss as I haven’t seen or photographed a Jay in a very long time.

The RSPB website describes Jay’s as the most colourful members of the crow family, but quite difficult to see. They are shy woodland birds, rarely moving far from cover. This one was tame enough to fly right onto the table where we were sitting to pick up food.