Llangelynin–A Very Small Church

It’s been a busy old week. First of all I’ve been trialling some new photography software, not only for HDR but also for post processing my photographs. I’ve never been a fan of Adobe’s Subscription Model and as much as I like Lightroom for it’s cataloguing and RAW Development, Photoshop played very little part in my normal workflow. But what I really don’t like is that if you don’t keep up the monthly subscriptions then you lose the ability to work with your photographs. For me the problem has always been to find an alternative to Lightroom and that’s where ACDSee Ultimate might come in handy. I want to own the software not rent it. But at the moment I’m only trialling it, although I must admit I do like what I’ve seen so far.

So this weeks challenge is Tiny. I thought about this for a while and as you can see from the photographs, TINY is relevant, when you compare the size of the church to say a cathedral.

Llangelynin

Llangelynin is perched on a hill approximately 900 feet above the Conwy Valley in North Wales. There is a single track road that runs nears to the church but the last part of the access is on foot. Inside the church it’s very sparse. Some wooden benches and stone floors. Those flowers are plastic, but they do add a splash of colour. Llangelynin is not used on a regular basis for church services, I think it’s only about a couple of times a year, Easter and Christmas.

Llangelynin Interior

I did say I was working on trialling two bits of software. The other one is easyHDR. For a long time now I’ve been dissatisfied with the results I get from PhotoMatix. I don’t know what it is but PhotoMatix seems to be stuck in a time-warp, just never advancing. I can’t remember the last time HDRSoft issued a major release.

I just checked it was November 2013, that’s 3 years ago. That really is a long time in software terms, sure it’s stable, and there have been quite a few dot releases but it just doesn’t excite me any more. Whereas easyHDR is not mainstream but I enjoy using it.

Anyway, here’s what other bloggers are saying about this weeks challenge

In My Own Words Weekly Photo Challenge- Tiny
Photography Journal Blog Weekly Photo Challenge- Tiny
Weekly Photo Challenge – Small on Tiny – Celina2609’s Blog
Our Own Little Walk of Fame – Aggie’s Amygdala
Say Tiny! – Blog of Hammad Rais
thephotoseye Tiny Thrills
Another Tiny View – Rebecca Wiseman Portfolio
Miss Jerz-tucky Weekly Photo Challenge- Tiny
Words Like Honey Weekly Photo Challenge- Tiny
deetravelssite.wordpress.com Tiny

Advertisements

Goodbye Luminosity Masking, Welcome Back HDR

Over the last few weeks I have wasted so much time trying to master Luminosity Masking. Sometimes I thought I had got it and then I would have a total failure, or several of them. Now you might be asking “what is Luminosity Masking?”

Luminosity masks are the cornerstone of tone-based image adjustments. These masks provide a convenient way to select specific tones in an image which can then be altered as the user sees fit. They have the ability to overcome shortcomings in the tonal values that were captured by the camera or film and to correct tones that shifted during image manipulation. Beyond simplifying these standard adjustments, however, luminosity masks also encourage a very individual approach to interpreting light. Luminosity masks make the captured light incredibly flexible and thereby provide the artist photographer unique opportunities to use Photoshop to explore their personal vision through photography. – Tony Kuyper

I have watched numerous tutorials, experimented on multitudes of photographs, spent hours at the PC, sometimes late into the night, trying to master this technique. All for very mixed results. Why? Because I want to display my photographs in the best possible way……and the experts will all tell you that “Luminosity Masking is much better than HDR. Oh! By the way I’ve got a course I can sell you to help you master the technique”. Look at this photograph. It’s not a great sunset, by any means but the photograph will serve to show what I mean.

Luminosity Masking

After messing around with Luminosity Masks for about 15 minutes I managed to get the image above. Look closely at it. It looks flat, lacks contrast, everything seems muddy, excuse the pun. I had to go an extra step to bring some contrast back into the scene by using ON1 Perfect Effects Dynamic Contrast filter.

Luminosity Masking with Contrast
Previously I had always used HDR to blend my photographs together. HDR is great for high contrast scenes such as sunsets or inside buildings and I like the results I get.

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. For those who aren’t so acquainted with this high-tech shutterbug lingo, dynamic range is basically just the difference between the lightest light and darkest dark you can capture in a photo. Once your subject exceeds the camera’s dynamic range, the highlights tend to wash out to white, or the darks simply become big black blobs. It’s notoriously difficult to snap a photo that captures both ends of this spectrum, but with modern shooting techniques and advanced post-processing software, photographers have devised ways to make it happen. This is basically what HDR is: a specific style of photo with an unusually high dynamic range that couldn’t otherwise be achieved in a single photograph
Read more: http://www.digitaltrends.com/how-to/what-is-hdr-beginners-guide-to-high-dynamic-range-photography/#ixzz43eS4zF3E

However, HDR gets a bad press due to the surreal images that are often seen on the internet. Have a look at the image below this is the type of photograph that gets HDR a bad press.

Awful Awful HDR

The thing is HDR is a technique but it’s also a “look” which can produce results from the realistic through to the surreal. I don’t like this surreal type of HDR but I would never criticise anyone if they produced something like this. After all I have always said “My Photograph, My Vision”.

For me HDR can be used to create a natural looking photograph where the highlights and shadows are balanced to produce a photograph more like I saw at the time of pressing the shutter on my camera.

Lightroom HDR

So that’s it for me. No more Luminosity Masks. It’s back to HDR, takes me approximately five minutes to get the result I want using Lightroom’s HDR module, leaving me more time to get out and take photographs.

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.

Sheep

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.

Interface

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.

Interface2

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

Valle-Crucis-Cloisters

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.

Sketch-and-Original

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.

Portrait

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.

Tryfan

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?

RV8tors

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: Eerie (Again)

After the Red Monk I decided to have another go at putting together something Eerie for the challenge. Only this time not so dark.

The background choice was pretty easy this time as I had a photograph of three trees in a foggy field that I knew I could play with.

Girl in Blue

The next step was to get a subject and for this one I used a stock image from PersephoneStock on deviantART. The model was against a background of trees and bushes. For my image I wanted her isolated and that’s where one of my favourite Photoshop plugins comes in. Topaz ReMask allows me to extract bits of an image to use elsewhere. In this case just the model.

Using Photoshop Brushes I added the birds and the lightning. You know I think the lightning is too much. Maybe I could have done without it. What do you think?

To darken the image I used I used two textures from Shadowhouse Creations. Jerry creates some amazing textures which he freely makes available. If you are thinking of using textures in your artwork check out his amazing stuff and try his tutorials.

Of course there’s more to this image than the steps I just described, blending layers, cropping, resizing and most importantly my imagination all had a part to play in putting this together.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Eerie

Occasionally I get in the mood to dabble with Photoshop and this weeks challenge seemed like a good time to have a go. Of course it could also be that with all the high winds and heavy rain we’ve been having I haven’t set foot outside the door with the camera. However……

The Red Monk

It’s a bit dark this one but in keeping with eerie I wanted to make it that way. I started off with a photograph of Gloucester Cathedral Cloisters, trust me it is there in the background, not obvious, but it’s there.  Often when I start something like this I will try different things, sometimes just letting my imagination run wild. Originally there was a map behind the monk and then I changed it for a clock. The monk replaced a wood nymph…..you get the idea, I hope.

Now I don’t have a ready stock of model photographs on tap so I am indebted to “Marcus J Ranum” for making his models freely available for use. I’d also like to thank “dead-brushes” for the use of the clock brushes for Photoshop. Both can be found on Deviant Art.

 

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?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fresh

A lot of my work has doors in it, or the suggestion of doors. We all open the same door many times over and over and each time we open it new light comes in, different air, a fresh experience, an old experience slips out and gets loose in the room.   – Stephanie Torbert

I was going to interpret this weeks theme by photographing that quintessential English treat of strawberries and cream. Make a still life of it, you know, fresh strawberries in a bowl with cream poured over them. But someone, who shall remain nameless, ate the strawberries. So instead I have chosen the alternative viewpoint and I’m going to tell you about something new.

As many readers will know I often use plugins and filters for Photoshop on my photographs. The main ones being NIK (now Google) Color Efex and the very excellent products from Topaz Labs. For some time now I have been a beta tester for Topaz Labs which means I get to try new software before it’s released for general sale. Currently I’m testing a product called ReStyle.

Topaz Labs describe ReStyle as;

designed to open up new artistic and creative possibilities for your images and to help achieve “styles” that you might otherwise not have thought of. It does this by giving you a huge variety of styles and looks, easily searchable by overall style, individual colours, keywords and more using multiple workflows.

Quite! What does that mean in practice? Let’s have a look. At the top of this post is the original image. Taken almost as the sun was set, its got some beautiful purple colours and looks quite peaceful. As a photograph I quite like it, but what if I wanted to jazz it up. Before ReStyle I would have to play around with Hue and Saturation filters in Photoshop till eventually I got the look I wanted. ReStyle takes the guesswork away by presenting me with a set of pre-filters showing me the look I will achieve with just the click of a mouse button. At the moment because we are in beta test there aren’t that many pre-set looks but by software release Topaz reckon there will be about a 1000.

Here’s an example of what I can achieve. I like the photograph above but with one click I have changed the look completely. You’ll notice that the orange colours haven’t change much. It’s the greys, purples and blues which are mainly affected.

Topaz ReStyle uses the colours of the pre-set I choose and inserts them into the original image, essentially eliminating a majority of the original image colour and replacing it with the new look.

Another example, This time I tending to a more purple hue all over. All done with a click of a muse button.

ReStyle won’t be for every photograph, I’m sure there are many that just wouldn’t convert and look good. I’m still testing but I like the idea that I can give a fresh (you just knew I would get that word in somewhere) look to a photograph.