Weekly Photo Challenge: Ephemeral

Light beams shining through a window or breaking through clouds. What could be more ephemeral and as photographers sometimes we have just a second or two to capture the moment. That’s usually the time I have my camera switched off or I’m driving along a road where it’s not safe to stop.

For the camera, the creative moment is brief–a compelling, ephemeral collision of event and artist. Extreme awareness combined with unobtrusiveness becomes the contest the photographer must work within. – Ken Ruth

In effect you have to be in the right place at the right time to get that sometimes illusive shot. Or you could just cheat.

Light Beams

There are plenty of plugins or tutorials for Photoshop allowing you to add light beams in post processing. Is it ethical? I’ve argued this point before and we had a good discussion at the end of my previous blog post. In many ways I haven’t changed my mind since then but sometimes I like to play around in Photoshop adding elements to my original photograph. That’s how I learnt to use the software in the first place. Of course you may disagree with me and I’d like to hear your views.

Oh! And this photograph. Where the light beams captured by the camera or added in post processing?

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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.


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


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.

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 24

52/2013 Week 24

I wouldn’t exactly say this is one of my best shots as required by the weekly challenge. In fact it was a desperation grab of an idea I had been playing around with.

During Week 24 I had been really busy with little or no time to get out and about for some photography. Just one of those things. So on the Saturday with the deadline for the week due to expire I did a quick still life. I didn’t even process this one, instead leaving it on the memory card until I came back from holiday.

It wasn’t the greatest of photographs but I didn’t have an alternative and somehow I had to make it a little more interesting.

It’s been a while since I’ve played around with texture layers in Photoshop which I used to use all the time when I was making dark and grungy composite images. Time to revive that ancient skill and see if I could do anything with the grapes.

In the old days i used to make a lot of my own textures but I’ve always been a fan of the great  textures and artwork that Jerry Jones, a.k.a “skeletalmess” or “ghostbones.” produces. So it was to Jerry’s site Shadowhouse Creations that I visited to find some textures that I could use for this one.

So there you have it. Not one of my greatest for the weekly challenge but thanks to Jerry I’ve managed to pull something out of the darkroom.

And the original image? Here it is, just to show the difference.



Weekly Photo Challenge: Curves

Many of my photographs are taken using the Sigma 10-20mm wide-angle lens fitted to my camera. With a wide-angle lens I can fit more into the frame, especially usefully if I am working with wide open landscapes or the cramped interior of a church as I often do. The downside of a wide-angle lens though is distortion, which is seen in many ways.

When I’m using a wide-angle lens, invariably I will be very close to my foreground interest. With a wide-angle lens the foreground interest objects appear very large in the frame, but as an exact opposite, distant objects will look very small.

Sunset at Talacre

“What has this got to do with Curves”? I can hear you asking. Bear with me. I’m getting there.

Another downside, due to the exaggerated difference in size between near and far objects, wide angle lenses tend to produce a distorted image. This distortion can sometimes work to my advantage by giving the photograph an abstract look, like the curves (at last) in this photograph of Tewkesbury Abbey.

If I had photographed the Abbey on a horizontal plane, i.e. the lens of my camera pointing straight down the Abbey parallel to the floor, then there would have been almost no distortion. But I know that if I point my camera towards the roof, distortion is going to occur and the greater the angle between the floor and the roof my camera creates, the greater the distortion, or curve (that word again) is going to be.

To a certain extent I can correct the distortion, as both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements have lens correction filters built in. Here you can see the result of applying the filter on the image above

The filter has done a reasonable job. There’s still some distortion and you’ll also notice that the image has been cropped quite a fair bit. Personally I prefer the curved image. I deliberately shot the scene the way I did, knowing that there would be distortion. Which one do you prefer?


Paul’s Photography Challenge: Close up

Paul's Photo Challenge: Close Up

One of the problems of close up photography is getting a good depth of field throughout the image, i.e. being in focus from front to back. One way I have got round this problem is to Focus Stack several images and combine them in Photoshop.

For this image I took 3 photographs. In the first image the focus point was the left hand leaf. In the second photograph it was the rear one. In the third photograph it was the right hand leaf.

All 3 photographs were opened and aligned as layers in Photoshop. Next the 3 layers were blended together to give me the final result. You can still see some slight blurring at the edges. I could have cropped this image tighter but decided to leave it as is.

This has been challenge number 8 in Paul’s Photography Challenge