Symphony Of Lights

Every night in Hong Kong Victoria Harbour is lit up with a dazzling multimedia light show which illuminates the exterior of 45 buildings on both sides of the harbour. Developed by Laservision, an Australian firm, the show features music, decorative lighting and lasers. Guinness World Records has recorded the show as the world’s largest permanent show and I think it makes a good subject for this weeks Weekly Photo Challenge, especially as the subject is Night Time.

Hong Kong

Organised by the Hong Kong Tourism Board, and as long as there is good weather, the show can be seen every night commencing at 8 pm (2000 hrs) and lasts for about 14 minutes.  Each night the show alternates the commentary language between, English (Mon, Wed, Fri), Mandarin (Tue, Thu, Sat) and Cantonese (Sun). Best places to see the show are the “Avenue of Stars” on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront or Wan Chai promenade outside the Golden Bauhinia Square. Both places get very crowded so make sure you pick your spot and stick to it. Tripods will get bumped by the crowds, there’s no getting away from it.

Topaz Impression – Release The Artist.

Over the past few weeks I have been beta testing a new plugin for Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom called Topaz Impression. Many people were upset when Adobe removed the Paint Filter from Photoshop but it looks like Topaz have managed to fill the gap with their new plugin Impression which allows you to create a paint look to your photographs. I’m not giving you a formal review here, just a quick look at what can be achieved with very little effort.


The interface is really simple and there about 43 presets that you can use to get an instant look. All you have to do is select the preset from the right hand side and Topaz Impression will do the rest.


For the more adventurous and for those who want to experiment you can click on the preset which will enable you to adjust individual settings, such as brush stroke, paint thickness, smudging, type of brush, texture etc. You can see here how I have changed this photograph of the robin.


Topaz Impression is not something I’m going to use very day, far from it.  It’s one of those tools I will keep in my arsenal and when I want to add some texture to a photograph I will blend in something like this black and white sketch to my original photograph


In the photograph below I have layered in the black and white sketch which gives me the starting point for working on this photograph which I am going to use in a composite image. I wanted the pale floors and wall because I will use this later to colour match the additional items that i will be adding to the image.


When I took this photograph a couple of years ago I always thought it would make a great painting. It’s sat on my hard drive, I’ve used it a couple of times for blog posts but by using Topaz Impression I’ve finally managed to get this photograph how I originally envisioned it would turn out.


When you use Impression you can add textures to the final result. As usual Topaz supply a batch of them for everyday use. Can you add your own textures? I’m not sure, that’s something I really must check out. In the image below I used one of the ready-made canvas textures. Whilst I was writing this i decided to check out if I could add to Topaz Impression some of the textures that I have created myself. Directly through the program interface you can’t but you can by saving your own textures as PNG files and a size of 512 x 512 pixels and then placing them in the Textures folder for Topaz Impression. Now that is handy.


This photograph with the pink flowers was one of those that I screwed up when I was taking it. Slightly out of focus, especially in the foreground area with t he pink flowers, I had got the lighting wrong as well but Topaz Impression has made a good job of turning it into a nice soft painting. I’d like to leave you with this final photograph. Couple of weeks ago I created this out-of-box image as a demonstration for someone and yesterday I thought it would be a good idea to turn it into a painting. I’m quite pleased with the results. What do you think?


Here’s the disclaimer part. As a beta tester for Topaz Labs I was supplied with a free license at the end of the trial and that’s as far as it goes. I do not make any money for mentioning Topaz or any of their products. It is not my intention to recommend any product that I may talk about in my blog, all I am doing is letting you know what I use and why. I leave you to decide if that product could be of value to you in your work and as such I will provide a link so that you can read for yourself what the developers have to say.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Endurance

At last! A weekly photo challenge theme that I have no trouble interpreting. Endurance lets me use some of the old churches that I have spent the last six month photographing. So as an added bonus I’m going to include a few photographs from the village of Llanelidan, North Wales. Like many small villages, the church, village hall and pub all lie within 200 yards of each other overlooking the village cricket ground and pavilion, but it’s the church I am interested in.

Saint Elidan-Exterior

The exterior of the church is like many in this area, built from solid stone, nothing garish, and like many churchyards in North Wales, there seems to be the obligatory yew tree present. Inside though Saint Elidan’s has a totally different look from the plain exterior. For a start there is a double nave, not obvious when you are looking at the church from the outside, it doesn’t look large enough.

Altar and Sstained Glass

The stained glass maintains a simple look, but there are some medieval fragments embedded in these plain windows. To be honest I prefer this to the more ornate glass that can be found in some churches, mainly because it lets in a lot of light. I visited on a nice sunny day and the light streaming through the windows gave me some nice light and shade areas, making it perfect for some HDR photography. I’m standing in the second nave, looking towards the rear of the church, the altar you see in the photograph above is behind me and to my right

Saint Elidan-Interior

In the photograph above you can see an example of a Box Pew which dates from at least the mid 18th century. It may be earlier though as I’m dating it from the date carved into one of the doors in the pews. I wonder who RP was?


Box Pews were prevalent in England and other Protestant countries from the 16th to early 19th century. Up until the Restoration only the Lord of The Manor would sit in church. But after 1569 because the congregation were expected to listen to sermons, seating was installed, mainly stools but later pews and box pews, which allowed the family to sit together and also provided some elements of privacy. Unlike the pews shown in the photograph which are laid out in a formal way, many of the pews were random personal constructions with windows, curtains tables and even fireplaces.  By the 17th century the panelling in many of the pews had become so high it was difficult to see out, or more importantly see in. This led to many of the pews being used for anything other than prayer and William Hogarth was quick to satirize this trend with his paintings and sketches.  Eventually the ad-hoc box pews were replaced with more formal uniform designs providing a classic line in the church. Later these were replaced by benches but as you can see examples of them still exist to this day.

Whilst I was in the church I was allowed to photograph the old bible that you can see in the glass case. It felt brittle and I was conscious that I was handling something really old. Flash photography wasn’t allowed so I had to rely on the natural light in the church.

The Bible

Let me take you back to the churchyard where I found this stone. There’s no name on the stone as you can see from the first line and later the inscription goes on to say

Where I was born or bred it matters not
From whom descended or of whom begot
I was but am not ask nomore of me
It’s all I am and all that you shall be

Anonymous Grave

Well that’s it for this week. As usual you are free to use any of the photographs on my blog as long as you abide by the licensing terms which you can find from the menu at the top of the page. In essence you can use them as long as it’s not for commercial use and that you credit me as the photographer, but read the license terms for full conditions

Araneus Diadematus

I’m still experimenting with the Olympus and it’s extensive menu and  yesterday I found this feature called Digital Teleconverter which seems to add a 2x magnification to any lens you use. So where better to try it than my garden and the numerous spiders that seem to be inhabiting many parts of it.

Spider, Spider

This is a female Garden Spider, Araneus Diadematus, which spins orb webs across pathways, between trees and shrubs. It has a distinctive cross mark on the abdomen and because of this it is sometimes it is called the “Cross Spider”. Can you see why? An adult female can grow to about 15mm (body length) and this makes it one of the largest of our spiders. Males by comparison are much smaller at about 9mm. For those who don’t use metric 15mm is slightly larger than half an inch. At this time of the year they are common in British gardens, I have five that I know about, but, by November there will be none as the first frost kills them.

Anyway, back to this Digital Teleconverter. I’ve never been a fan of digital zoom but this seems to be different. The image is sharp, there’s a great depth of field, over nearly all of the spider. The background is blurred, isolating the spider in all of it’s glory. I could see myself using this again for close-up work.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Humanity

Humanity! I knew I was going to have trouble with this one right from the start. I don’t photograph people, well rarely, and it’s usually more a case of them being in the frame by accident, rather than me deliberately putting them there. Looking back through my back catalogue I did find this one from 2011.


So what’s the story? I wish I knew. I was at an air-show, mad pilots were doing what mad pilots do with aircraft. Everyone was saying Ooh! and Aah!, well almost everyone. The photographers like me weren’t and neither was this guy. He was in his own world, not looking at the aircraft. Maybe he was an ex-pilot, dreaming of days long gone. Maybe he just hated flying? Who knows?

But he looked interesting and I guiltily snapped this photograph. I felt I was intruding, even although he didn’t notice me…but that’s why I rarely photograph people.