Anything Photoshop or Photography

Photography

HOW TO GET RID OF THOSE DARN FENCES IN ZOO SHOTS

Image of a Verreaux Eagle Owl at the Jacksonville Zoo
There’s the easy way and there’s the hard way to do this. And since I love taking images at zoos, I usually fall somewhere in between when post-processing those images with the ugly fence patterns in the foreground. So this blog hopefully will help with some of these issues.

I was so excited to get this beautiful Verreaux’s Eagle Owl image while at the Jacksonville Zoo with my Photo Club – BTW the Zoo is in the process of updating and it is looking fabulous! This guy was located in a very shady area hidden behind heavy black fencing (see images below) and definitely was very hard to see. This guy was so close, like 3 feet and he looked to be at least 2 1/2 feet tall, and yet I could not see his beautiful eyes or beak. It was a major surprise to see he had such colorful eyes and beak once downloaded on my computer! I love birds but the fencing here was so frustrating! (For more on the post-processing, see Image 1 at end of blog – check out how the Charcoal Filter was used for the background of this image.) The closer you can get to the fencing, the easier it was to remove the lines.

Tip 1: Use that Wide Aperture Setting to Remove the Foreground and Background Distractions

But I had done my homework this time and set up my camera to try and eliminate the fence lines. This short 2 minute video called Zoo Tip: Make the Cage Disappear by Tim Migot totally made the difference. The con to this technique is that you have to do this while at the Zoo.
For the above image, the camera was set to its widest aperture with auto focus on and zoomed in. By burst shooting, several shots were obtained that were pretty nice. The above was shot using a 18 to 200 mm zoom lens at 170mm, f/5.6, ISO 200, and -1 1/2 EV. Below is an example of how it looked when it did not work. The image on left does not really show the fencing but it is not sharp at all and one on the right is what the fencing looked like. The image used was in a second set of burst shots that gave much better results. It seems you just have to keep trying until the fence disappears.

Screen Capture of owl shots

Tip 2: To Fix Faint Fence Lines That May Show Up – Use a Darken Curves Adjustment Layer

Image of a Bonobo Monkey at the Jacksonville Zoo
This very striking Bonobo Monkey was sitting in a fairly high up crevice in the Kapok Tree, a new feature at the Jacksonville Zoo. This is a wonderful way for the whole family to view these fun-to-watch monkeys up close. The camera was set up with a telephoto 70-300 mm zoom lens and 300 mm was used to get the close up image. The aperture was set to F/8.0, I could have gone a little wider but this setting seemed to be working. The ISO was set to 400, which allows the shutter speed to increase for this difficult image. In this case the fence was fairly close to me, but the monkey was not. Unfortunately my Exposure Compensation was off a bit at -2 1/2 but it worked out fine – it just made the shot a little darker. In the screen capture below a fence shot is shown and then the used RAW file that did require some light clean up. (Click on images to see larger in Flickr.) See my Image 2 Post Processing Info on the other steps used and how the lighting effect was created.

Screen Capture of the Fencing and RAW file for Bonobo Monkey
If you look closely at the RAW file above (especially through the forehead and ear area), there are definite faint white lines still in the image. The fix? A Darken Curves Adjustment Layer set up so that the curve will overall darken down the image – mine is set up as an action with just one point set to Input 164 and Output 102. Then the layer mask was inverted to black by CTRL+I on the mask. Now with a soft 20-30% opacity round brush, painted over those light lines – set the size to roughly match the width of the lines. If it is too dark, go back into the Curves Adjustment itself and move the point up or down to match. I have used this trick over and over when light is not quite even on an image. And running the image through a sharpener like Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Studio’s AI Clear and for that matter Precision Detail which can help remove an overall soft effect that can result with the fence interference. In the Monkey image the light fence effect was left on the right background as I felt it added a nice soft texture effect to the image. This could have been removed using a Lighten Curves Adjustment Layer. To create a Lighten Curves Adjustment Layer, just set the point to Input 98 and Output 170 and fill the mask with black – paint back area to lighten – then adjust the point to match the surroundings.

Tip 3: Spot Healing/Patch Tools or Paint Out the Fence by Hand

The shooting technique does not work all the time. With the two images above the animal was pretty stationery and the fence fairly close, but when an animal is moving, it is hard to get a good focus on the subject. Doing everything that can be done to speed up the shutter speed, like setting the ISO higher, or turning off the Auto focus setting can help, but sometimes nothing works. If you really want the image, you need to take several shots of the moving animal so pieces can be patched into one if needed. Now you have to resort to removing the fence by hand and hoping you can clone over parts in different images you may have taken. This was done on the Amur Leopard image below. My main tools to start the process are using the Spot Healing Tool set to Content Aware and Sample All Layers, and the Patch Tool – mine is usually set to Patch Content-Aware, Structure 7, Color 5 and Sample All Layers checked. Adjust the Patch Tool settings if those do not work with your picture. After doing this, most of my time is spent using a small brush to sample and dab paint over areas that look rough – this is quite tedious and several different brushes is sometimes necessary. I do most of my spot removing, cloning and painting on individual layers and create a stamped layer (CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+E) on top to finish up.

This may be obvious, but a major key point here is that, if you decided to use a texture to remove a very cluttered background especially, just remove the fence on the subject only. Then create a selection of your subject and place him on top of a different texture. Usually I place a white layer under the subject, then a texture and finally the subject so that blend modes and layer opacity changes can be used. That is what was done on this image.

Image of a Leopard at the Jacksonville Zoo
A lot of spot removing and painting to get rid of the fence and a separate image was flipped and copied over to get the jaw area to look correct. (In screen capture below the original RAW files with the main one used on the left and the copied jaw on the right.) It took several hours to get the image to this point, and I am not sure it is done. He was very agitated in his pen and was pacing and roaring all over the place – very hard to get a sharp image and his mouth really was open and big. Probably 20 pictures were taken (18-200 mm lens at 200 mm, F/5.6, ISO 640, and EV -1 1/2). This was really a difficult shot to get to look realistic while capturing the mood of the big cat. The background texture is one I painted in Corel Painter that had some complementary colors to the leopard. Just about everything was used on this image – Topaz Studio’s Precision Detail and Dehaze, Nik Viveza 2 to bring out the eyes, a Black and White Adjustment Layer set to Luminosity blend mode, Lighten and Darken Curves Adjustment Layers, spotlight effect layers, Color Lookup Adjustment Layer, the Sharpen Tool and Selective Color Adjustment Layer, just to name some of them. His eyes were amazing in several of the images.

Screen Capture of leopard images
Another way to handle the fencing is to remove or paint over the subject and leave the fencing in place – it can possibly look like a fence behind the subject. The image below used this technique. The Monkey image has a similar but less obvious effect on the right side of the image.

Image of a Malaysian Tiger at the West Palm Beach Zoo in Florida
For more info on how the Tiger image was post-processed, check out a short Tidbits Blog I did a while back called The Break Out. It took a lot of time and effort to get this image – to paint out the fencing, one of my a painting brushes, which is based upon a hair brush and set to 35% brush opacity and 65% Flow, was used to sample and paint over the black lines – but it can be done. Topaz Impression was used to gave the Tiger a painterly look instead of hand-painting the whole image back in.

If you like to take images at the Zoo, I hope this blog gave you a couple tricks to try. These same tricks will work if shooting one of your kids baseball games through fencing. I had a great time exploring the Jacksonville Zoo again – the animals seemed ready for our Photo Club – and you will be seeing more of my images in the next few months. Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Post Processing Info

Image 1: In Lightroom Serge Ramelli’s Safari Animal Vignette Cold Strong preset was used as starter (see my Showing Some of Serge Ramelli’s Effects blog to download them) and then tweaked the Basic, Detail, and HSL panels. In PS Topaz Studio’s AI Clear came to the rescue – used Remove Noise Auto and Sharpen High, Recover Details 0.10, and Exposure 0.21 – then set it to an opacity of 0.71 before applying. Next the Precision Detail Adjustment was added to just the Shadow areas. Last step used the HSL Adjustment to firm up the color in the eyebrows and beak – used a black mask and painted back those areas. I could not believe how good his eyes looked, just needed a little sharpening to pop them with an Exposure Adjustment Layer (see my The Eyes Have – How to Make Them Pop in an Image blog). This is pretty much my standard Topaz workflow for animals. In Photoshop Dodging and Burning was achieved with Lighten and Darken Curves Adjustment Layers. A little white spotlight effect on just his face using a layer set to Soft Light and white brush with low opacity, and that was it. To get that pretty background color, the Charcoal Filter was used on a stamped layer in Photoshop (had to convert the image to 8 bit before using) and set the Thickness to 4, Detail to 5, and Light/Dark Balance to 47 with foreground color a brownish color (2a2319) and background color greenish (1c2715) – this filter uses the Foreground and Background colors in the swatch. The layer was set to Exclusion blend mode at 78% opacity. Used regular soft round brush in mask painting over the Owl head and used the Sharpen Tool on eyes in mask.

Image 2: In Lightroom no preset was used – just adjusted the Basic Panel and the HSL Panel. This time the image was brought into PS as a Smart Object so the LR settings could be tweaked easily if needed in Adobe Camera Raw. Since this image had more problems than the owl above, I felt this might be needed. In PS The first thing done was to add a Darken Curves Adjustment Layer to paint out the light white fence lines where the fencing was not completely removed. A little clean up was done before a stamped layer was created for Topaz Studio. In Studio the AI Clear Adjustment set to its default settings and then Precision Detail Adjustment was used with Shadow Small Detail 0.22, Shadow Medium Detail 0.43, and Large Shadow Boost – painted in a mask of just the monkey so detail only goes on him – kept Edge Aware on and inverted the mask so the background is black and not affected by the detail. Back in Photoshop a Gradient Map was applied using a gray to brown to light blue preset from Blake Rudis (see his nice gradient presets in download from Advanced Color Toning Made Easy video – excellent video). A vignette was created. Then I decided that I needed a little more light on the image so a large Spotlight Effect was created on the Monkey – just washed it over the Monkey from the opening. A few other steps were done, but this describes the major steps.


THE BEST NEW SOFTWARE AROUND – TOPAZ A.I. GIGAPIXEL!

Image of an egret's eye I know I am a major Topaz groupie – been beta testing with them since almost the beginning and cannot seem to get enough of what their team does for us Photoshop users. They have created some of the most remarkable software – totally different from what I call the “big boys” in the field do and it never lets me down. Now they have come out with Topaz (see website link at my Tidbits Blog sidebar) A.I Gigapixel, a stand-alone program, and it is what I consider a major software phenomenon – a 30-day trial version can be downloaded through my link. What it mainly does is enlarge any image using “artificial intelligence” to fill areas of your image to upsize them. At first I thought, why do I need this? Well the above image is a great example. This egret has been upsized 600% in Topaz A.I Gigapixel to make the bird eye image go from a size of 777 pixels X 670 pixels (2.59 inches X 2.233 inches) at 300 ppi to 4662 pixels X 4020 pixels (15.54 inches X 13.4 inches) at 300 ppi. The eye looks sharp and you can even see the feathers on the head. Below is what the original image looked like before any editing, cropping or upsizing. The size of the image was 14.293″ X 9.493″ at 300 ppi – almost the same size as the new image above.

Make Small Details in Image Main Focal Point in Cropped Version

Original Egret Eye Image
It has been suggested that this can be done with a panorama that has some details that would look nice printed out as individual images. Once the image was upsized, it was post-processed like normal in Photoshop. In this case a Curves Adjustment Layer for contrast was added along with a Color Balance Adjustment Layer and an Exposure Adjustment Layer for the eye color. That was it – not much to it.
*****

Copy Out a Frame in a Video to Make a Sharp Image for Printing

Image of some kids having fun in Oahu, Hawaii Above is the final image from Oahu, Hawaii, after doing edits in PS (added Camera Raw Filter, and a Curves Adjustment Layer) to the upsized image – definitely something that would look great printed out. Image size is now 20 X 11 inches at 300 ppi or 59.5 megabytes. Below top image was taken from a rather low res video – I ran it through my video player (I like the free VLC media player – it lets me play my videos without converting the file type) and stopped at this frame. Used the Windows Snipping Tool to save it down as a jpg. When opened in PS, the original image size was 17 X 10 inches @ 96 ppi or 4.5 megabytes. Below are close ups of the kids showing the original and underneath, the image upsized 400% with A.I. Gagapixel for detail comparison.

Original close up image of kids in Oahu
Close image of upsized image of kids in OahuIf you look closely, the faces are a little bit clearer, the palm tree in the background is a lot sharper, and the fronds at the top of the image are a lot clearer. If you look at the finished image, the fronds look really incredible. A.I. Gigapixel fills in areas with pixels it thinks need to be added – Topaz says the program does 1 -2 million operations per pixel when it is analyzing the image.

To Increase Size of a Favorite Image from Internet or from Your Social Media

I love to find images from old famous painters or photographers for slideshows on my computer (Windows 10 capability). So many web images have very poor quality so running it through A.I. Gigapixel creates some really nice results. Here is an example of how this can work. The original image of the Waterloo Place image from London, 1899 has a size of 89 KB (600 X 438 pixels) and 72 resolution. (See image below.)

Image of Waterloo Place, London, 1899

After running the image through A.I Gigapixel (see below) and increasing it by 600% to 1919 KB, it is so much smoother and much less grainy. It was enlarged by 600% for a size of 12 X 8.76 inches (3600 X 2628 pixels), which is large enough to get a nice print. No changes were done to this image but the Reduce Noise and Blur was set to Moderate in A.I. Gigapixel – it really improved the atmospherics of the image. If you have a relatively clean image, this is not needed.

Image of Waterloo Place, London, 1899, after being upsized using Topaz A.I. Gigapixel

I am sure this program will continue to grow and get better, and they promise that if you buy it, all the upgrades will be free. This same process can also be used if you have textures you created or bought that are older or just not that large, this program can be used to bring them up to the new large size photo standards. Also, downloading a thumbnail from your social media can be run through A.I. Gigapixel to get a good result, even if the image is only a few kilobytes large. I have not tried it on my phone images, but I am sure it will really help. Topaz has a really nice video called Topaz Live Training: Introducing A.I. Gigapixel that takes you through several images. They also show how to use this A.I. Gigapixel with 3D so it definitely has some cutting-edge uses.

I will try and do a video once I have learned all the tricks. I only downloaded the image a couple days ago and I can already see lots of possibilities. Give it a try if you are like me and have lots of old photos on your computer that could use a little help or would like to really zoom in and get a nice high resolution image of a part of a favorite shot. Have a good weekend!…..Digital Lady Syd


A COUPLE TIPS ON THE MASKING SLIDER IN LR (ACR) AND FILM GRAIN EFFECT IN PS

Image of Snowy Egret during mating seasonJust popping in with a couple images of one of my favorite subjects, birds! Been busy taking a few on-line painting and photography classes and trying to get a little time to try out some new things. Both these images (which are not painted) were improved by following some of the techniques of one of the best wildlife photographers, Moose Peterson. He is just one of the many people who have created some really great classes on KelbyOne. Moose also has a great blog (if you check out his latest blog, he is talking about something I am super-excited about – an update to the Nik plug-ins! – Yeah!!!) and website with lots of good information to improve your photography. Anyway, his classes are just really good and easy to follow and not all that complicated.

Lightroom and ACR Sharpening’s Masking Slider Tip

The snowy egret above was taken at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm rookery. They are one of my very favorite birds to photograph because of their beautiful feathers they spread during the mating season. One thing I did learn from Moose (in The Secrets to Creating Super Sharp Images class) is how to properly use the Masking slider in the Detail Sharpening section in Lightroom (and ACR). Look at your subject and only sharpen for your subject, and as little of everything else. By holding down the ALT key and moving the Masking slider, many different thicknesses of white lines will appear in the black mask. The white thick lines will indicate the “plane of focus” and should be around the subject and any other areas in the same plane. (This is also a great way to find out if you actually did get what you wanted as the main focus of your image.) The smaller lines are not as important. Now the Amount can be increased to sharpen the image correctly.

Most of the post-processing was done in Lightroom using the Adjustment Brush and Radial Filter to sharpen the bird up and darken the background down. In Photoshop a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was added using the Foggy Night preset (my personal favorite) set to 9% opacity. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was added next and in Master, the Saturation was increased to +38. The layer mask was filled with black and only parts of the birds body was lightly painted back. Two Curves Adjustment Layers were added and set to Luminosity blend mode for Dodging and Burning (see my How to use Curves Adjustment Layers to Dodge and Burn an Image blog). Then just a couple layers set to Overlay blend mode  were added to even out a few of the lights and darks in the foreground and background areas. Ended up with just the standard frame around the image (see my How to Create a Quick Layer Style Border or Frame blog.)
****
Image of three Snowy Egret chicksFor this image of baby Snowy Egrets one of the new LR (and ACR) Black and White profiles called B&W Blue Filter was applied, and 4 graduated filters set to Exposure -1.00 were placed around the birds to darken down the edges. Just a few Basic sliders were adjusted a little, mainly Highlights Shadows, Whites and Vibrance. A Dodge and Burn 50% gray layer was used to sharpen up the little guys a bit. Used a Level Adjustment Layer to bring back the background into focus just a little.

Film Grain Effect

I wanted to give the B&W image a little softer feel so a Grain Layer was added. This is a tip from an older KelbyOne class by Katrin Eismann (another brilliant Photoshop guru) called Color to Black and White Artistry but the basic concepts are still current. Using this method gives a really natural subtle result to the image and adds the effect in the areas you want it, mainly the Blue and Green channels, and leaves the Red Channel alone where usually the subject resides. The film grain is added in a very natural way so that the Blue Channel gets the greatest amount of noise, Green channel less, and Red Channel the lowest amount. The steps are as follows:

  • Go to the Channel Panel. Note that all Channels have the Add Noise Filter set to Gaussian and Monochromatic.

Highlight Red Channel and go to Filter -> Noise -> Add Noise and set Amount to 4%

Highlight Green Channel and go to Filter -> Noise -> Add Noise and set Amount to 6%

Highlight Blue Channel and go to Filter -> Noise -> Add Noise and set Amount to 8%

  • Next Highlight each channel and go to Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur and set Radius Amount to 0.3%
  • In the Layer Panel, change the blend mode to Luminosity so any color noise is reduced. Can also adjust the layer opacity if the effect is too much.

I actually put these steps into a simple action that works great. Well that’s it for this week. Be popping in again soon!…..Digital Lady Syd


USING A 50 MM LENS AS A MACRO LENS – REALLY?

Image of an ivory Chinese Puzzle BallHi Everyone – just doing a quick post this week on an interesting camera trick I had never tried. I read about this in an article called 5 Awesome Benefits of Using a 50 mm Lens by Jason D. Little at Light Stalking – they have great articles on all types of Photography topics. What is done is to take the 50 mm lens off the camera and hold it up backwards so the image is shot through the front side of the lens.

This technique does not replace a good macro lens by any means, but it is kind of fun to try. And if you do not own a Macro Lens, give it a go. I did not have an adapter or reversing ring to attach the lens to the camera (these apparently are very inexpensive to buy) –  and I did not use a tripod with a remote trigger. I imagine some really good results can be created by doing this. Because of this, it gave my images a very soft abstract feel – it actually reminded me of my Lens Baby effects. And for me it was a good starting point for doing some more artistic effects.

It took me a while to actually get some camera settings that worked and lots of lights were turned on in my home. An ISO setting of 800 seemed to work best for me. None of the automatic settings worked since no lens was actually attached to it. Therefore the focus had to be adjusted manually by moving in closer or further away with the camera itself. As you can see, it becomes a very close up macro effect. The post-processing took lots of time to get a good effect – started with my Another Simple Black and White Technique blog from last week and then added a couple textures along with several adjustment layers.

The next two images are both from a Blowing a Kiss Sculpture and is part of the Vitruvian Sculptor Collection based on Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man drawing. I enjoyed creating both of these images. The smile image, as with all three image, required a lot of Spot Healing to remove the dark dust marks from the lens. Also, they all were rather noisy so some adjustments were done in Lightroom’s Detail Noise Reduction Panel.
Image of the smile from the Blowing Kiss SculptorTo get the interesting colors, the oldie-but-goodie Nik Color Efex Pro 4 with several filters (Reflector Efex, Film Efex Nostalgic, Darken/Lighten Center, Detail Extractor, Photo Stylizer, Vignette Lens, and Classical Soft Focus) was used. Then a Levels Adjustment Layer and a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer using the filmstock_50 preset at 52% layer opacity were applied. Pretty simple post-processing.
******
Image of beautiful bubbles on a hand from Blowing a Kiss SculptureThe above image took a little more effort but I really liked the way the bubbles looked in the final iteration. Two groups of bubbles with several layers each were added – smaller sized ones for the background and larger ones for the actual fingertips. All the bubbles in this image were created using a Lisa Carney Bubble brush she shows you how to create in her Filters and Smart Object class on Creative Live (all her classes are fabulous). Brush 11 in the free Photoshop Bubble Brushes would have worked just as well and was used as the foreground bubble. To create a group of bubbles, need to adjust the size, spacing and scattering in the Brush Settings Panel and just paint them in on a New Layer. A light border was added, a pink and blue texture overlay, and a Light Beam Brush by Jonas de Ro was added in the upper left. Then just my final workflow using a Black and White Adjustment Layer set to Luminosity blend mode and Nik Viveza 2 layer were added.

I am not sure I would use this technique unless I needed a macro shot and this is all I had available. It can be done but it does take a lot of experimentation. Hope you all have a great week….Digital Lady Syd


NO BLOG THIS WEEK DUE TO HURRICANE IRMA

Image of a bird walking in waterNo post for a while as unfortunately I live in Florida with Hurricane Irma on the way. This bird was taken after Hurricane Matthew last October. Figure the birds will be the only ones not concerned about what is coming. Will be back as soon as possible on the other side!…..Digital Lady Syd


A LITTLE TOPAZ TEXTURE EFFECTS TIP

Close-up image of an Oleander FlowerIt has been a busy week as CreativeLive has had their 5th Photoshop Week and it was really good! There were lots of interesting classes covering all kinds of Photoshop uses. Plan on getting some new tips and tricks together to present soon on my blog. This week I am showing my pretty little Oleander flower growing in my yard. This flower was shot using with my Lensbaby Composer at F/4 using a Macro +4 Lens, which is why it was so soft and wispy looking. There is a newer version of this lens, but mine seems to still work well, especially on macro shots. I would recommend your trying one out if you get a chance.

In Lightroom just the Basic exposure and contrast sliders were adjusted. Then the image was taken into Photoshop and Topaz (for website see my Tidbits Blog‘s sidebar) Impression was opened using one of my presets (SJ Watercolor like effect on bldgs. – click link for settings at bottom of blog.) Some Mixers and Regular brushes were used to smooth out the background and paint the actual petals. Added one of my textures on top set to Soft Light blend mode at 62% layer opacity. One of Kim Klassen’s older beige textures was then added and set to Multiply blend mode. A Blue Luminosity Curve was created and an S curve was used to increase contrast.

Now to the Topaz Texture Effects 2 tip. In the above image, the plugin was used to only add two stacked light leaks. Presets are just a guidelines for effects that can be added, but this is not where the power lies in this plugin. By clicking up in the top right-hand corner in the box that says New and than Add Adjustment, all kinds of choices are opened up. To add the two Light Leaks in this image, the Light Leak section was added twice, once for each leak added. It was then saved as a preset since I liked the effect of how the two leaks blended. There are 13 different section types that can be added as often and in any order as needed. Only one light leak can be applied and that may be all that is needed in your image. Could use just a diffusion effect, or several texture sections, or only the Double Exposure section for your image. Texture Effects has so many sections with so many sliders and a great masking capability with blend modes, making it easy to tweak the individual sections once opened in the plugin. It is a bit like using Lookup Tables in Photoshop, but much more flexible.

To finish up this image, a Selective Color Adjustment Layer was used to add some blue tones to the shadows by adding blue to the Black color. The flower does really light up! I would recommend you try out Texture Effect’s different sections without using a texture to see what fabulous capability this plugin has built into it. Be back next week with some new tips!…..Digital Lady Syd


JUST A DAY AT THE ROOKERY!

A Snowy Egret and Roseate Spoonbill flying in formation at the RookeryYesterday I had an opportunity to visit one of my very favorite places to photograph our beautiful Florida birds, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Rookery. By visiting at various times of Spring, different types of birds and behavior are present. But beware, it is a pretty busy place for not just birds – if you get there early, you are trying to negotiate lots of photographer tripods, and as the day wears on, a myriad of kids arrive. All good fun though! This week the Wood Storks, Snowy Egrets, Blue Herons and Roseate Spoonbills were all very busy making nests. Therefore I had a chance to shoot lots of flying birds with all kinds of branches and leaves hanging out of their beaks. Will be posting these on off over at my Tidbits Blog especially. Hopefully I can return in a couple of weeks when there will be a lot of baby chicks.

The Snowy Egret and Roseate Spoonbill somehow both showed up in my image. I think I was trying to shoot the spoonbill, but the egret was also flying and I did not even see him until I looked at the photos in Lightroom. There were so many birds flying around that it was sometimes hard to capture them as they flew really close over your head at times. For me I keep my camera on Aperture mode at F/8 and shoot in continuous mode to capture as many shots as I can and hope one of the images will be sharp. Learned a lot about shooting birds from an old KelbyOn (NAPP at that time) video by Moose Peterson on taking images of Florida Birds. He is one of the best bird photographers around and has a great blog with lots of tips.

All the blog images were post-processed in Photoshop just using the same basic workflow I always use: First make sure no noise is in the image and fix that with Topaz (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) DeNoise 6, then Lucis Pro 6.0.9 (no longer available at the point) or Topaz Clarity (sometimes Topaz Detail depending on the image) to slighting sharpen the whole image (use a layer mask if needed), use a Red Channel Luminance Curve Adjustment Layer, a Black & White Adjustment Layer set to Luminosity blend mode, and finally the free Google Nik Viveza 2 – this filter is a must. Viveza can really help even out the light and sharpen areas that need just a little boost. It can also add that subtle vignette needed in some images. If you have not tried it, do so – use control points to pinpoint the areas that need adjusting. Still my favorite all-time Photoshop filter! There are tutorials on all these different techniques so just search in my blog to find more info on any of them.

Image of baby Roseate Spoonbill chicks at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm RookeryThese little chicks were recently hatched to a Roseate Spoonbill and may be the first group to have arrived. They were so cute. At first it seemed there were only two in the nest, but the little guy on the left was in all the images. It is really easy to miss things until reviewing the shots at home. The light was a little harsh but they still looked pretty cute to me.

Hiding Snowy Egret at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm RookeryThis Snowy Egret was trying to get away from the crowds but the light was so pretty on his plume that he was quite noticeable. The grace and poise of the Snowy Egret is quite striking, especially when compared to the beautiful, but really clumsy Roseate Spoonbill. The spoonbills all see to have a lot of personality. And Wood Storks just sort of stay up high and stare you down. If you spend a little time watching the interactions of the birds, it is really entertaining!

I frequently use images shot at the Rookery and here are some past photo links for additional Rookery views:
The Rookery
Birds of the Rookery
Great Egret Babies
Snowy Egret
Cattle Egret Looking for Love
Singing Spoonbill Duet Takes Rookery by Storm!
Very Busy Snowy Egrets
Tricolored Heron
Coming  in for a Landing!
Smiling Egret
A Happy Couple

I guess this post is a little different for one of my blogs, but it was so much fun to see these beautiful birds and wanted to share what an extraordinary place this is. If you are in Florida from April to the end of May, definitely stop by the Rookery in St. Augustine – the birds won’t mind and its always a day to remember! Oh yes, taking a week or two off blogging to finish up a couple classes I am taking. Will catch you on the other side. ….. Digital Lady Syd


HOW TO DO A DOUBLE-EXPOSURE FOR FUN EFFECTS

Double-exposure of a Queen Emma Lily and Cardboard PalmThis week I decided to try a little in-camera photo effect and then post-process in Photoshop. In my mind, this is the best of both worlds when trying to put an artistic feel into an image. The above was first shot with my Nikon D-300 camera (I dearly love this camera and can’t seem to part with it!) and shot the image in multiple-exposure mode using just 2 shots. I am not really sure how this type of exposure is supposed to look, but this method seems to fit floral or plant images quite well. This image was taken in my front yard of a Queen Emma Lily in front of a Cardboard Palm. I see this as a very creative blend of the two exposures but it did take some finishing work in Photoshop to get the final interesting feel.

So first the basic workflow for taking a multiple- or double-exposure shot will be covered. It is not that difficult but do consult your camera manual to get the exact menu settings to do this. I will be using the Nikon D-300 menus, which due to its older age, should be similar to what is available on most newer cameras.

1 First set your camera to Manual Focus. To do this on my camera, looking at the front of the camera the Focus Mode Selector dial is located to the lower right of the lens. The dial should be set to M for manual (as opposed to C for continuous auto focus or S for single auto focus).  Note: For my camera, if either the Camera body or the Lens is set to Manual focus, then it must be focused  manually. Many of the lenses will have a Manual focus setting also (usually the lens is set to M/A – switch to M to make it focus manually). I am using the Camera Body setting for this.

2. On the back of the camera, press the Menu button and select the Shooting Menu. Then Scroll down to the Multiple Exposure choice.

  • Select the number of exposures to shoot – the above was just a double exposure so it was set to 2. Up to 10 are allowed.
  • Select whether to turn on Auto Gain. The difference is that when it is on, the exposure time is divided by the number of exposures chosen for the image, and when off, each exposure is exposed for the full amount of time (meaning shutter speed). I had it turned off, but try both to see which looks best.

3. In my camera I need to turn on the Multiple Exposure setting each time an image is to be taken.

It sounds a lot harder than it is. Just have to get familiar with where the settings are. Now you can try different camera settings to get different results. For the above, both of the in-camera exposures were shot using the basic Nikon 18-200 mm zoom lens set to 105 mm at F/5.6. Below is what the original out of camera image looks like. First the palm exposure was taken, then moved the camera and took the lily.

Original image of Queen Emma Lily and Cardboard Palm

Post-processing: In Lightroom a Trey Radcliff free preset called Sunday Alone Time was applied and then the Vibrance was lowered (-65) so it was not so colorful. In Photoshop the layer was duplicated and Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Glow was opened and my SJ Inter Web Variation was applied. (Settings are: Primary Glow Type Dark, Glow Strength 1.00, Effect Sharpness 0.12, Electrify 1.00, Simplify Details 0.06, Edge Color 0, Detail Strength 1.00, Detail Size 0.42, Brightness 0.16, Contrast 0.18, Saturation 0.08, Line Rotation 0, and Glow Spread 0; Secondary Glow Glow Type Light, Glow Strength 0, Effect Sharpness 0.54, Electrify 0.11, Simplify Details 0, Brightness 0, and Contrast 0; Color Overall Saturation to 0.62, Red Sat to 0.44, Yellow Sat to 1.00 Yellow Lightness -0.36, Green Sat 1.00 and Lightness -0.51, Aqua Lightness -0.36, Purple Sat 1.00, and Magenta Sat 1.00 and Lightness 0.50. Set to Screen blend mode at 66% Strength; and no Finishing Touches.) The Layer was set to Overlay Blend Mode at 96% layer opacity. A black layer mask (CTRL+click on layer mask icon at bottom of Layers Panel) was added and just the areas I wanted lines to show through were painted back. The Layer Style was opened (double-click on the layer) and on the Underlying Layer slide, the white tab was split (ALT+click) and set to 178/255 before exiting the menu. A stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was created above and the now free Nik Color Efex Pro 4 was opened. Three filters were used: Midnight with no Blur added, and overall opacity of 73%; Reflector Efex set to Gold with the light coming from bottom up; and Vignette Filter using a darkish brown color and centering on the focal point. Next the also free Nik Viveza 2 (downloads with the above plug-in) was opened and just one control point was placed in the center area to add a little more structure and whitening to the focal point. Last step involved using a New Layer to clean up lines – Grut’s – MI Swish Mini Mixer brush was used to break up the edges of some lines that were too sharp – I love this brush! Check out his other brushes too – so many wonderful ones! This image turned out to be a lot of fun and created a very different type image!

***************************

Double Exposure image of some flowersAnother double-exposure image – used the same Nikon 18-200 mm zoom lens sets 150 mm and F/5.6. This was shot with white blinds behind the flowers in a vase and sunlight strong outside. This time for the first exposure just the focus was set to a very soft blur, then the second focused in on the flower to get this soft effect. The double-exposure created an almost translucent feel in the flower petals by shooting into the lighter background. In Lightroom just a few adjustments were made before going into Photoshop. On a duplicate layer, Topaz Lens Effects Diffusion filter was added. Then Nik Color Efex Pro 4 was opened and the Glamour Glow filter and Film Efex Vintage filter (Film Type 13) were stacked. A pink pastel texture of mine was added on top and set to Darker Color blend mode with a layer opacity of 55% – a layer mask was added and the texture was gently painted off the flowers.

**************************

Double exposure image of dandelionsThese dandelions were shot using the same lens at 170 mm and F/5.6. Once again, the background was really defocused for the first exposure and then brought the foreground dandelions into focus for the second. My first thought was to convert this to a black and white so it was brought into Photoshop and the free Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 (downloads with the other Nik plug-ins) was opened. The Fine Art (high key, framed) preset was selected and the frame removed. Then a Finishing Adjustment using Toning 22 was used to give a warm tone to the overall image. There are lots of really great sliders in this plug-in so give them a try! It was set to 75% layer opacity and actually gives a really nice look at this point. But to get an artistic feel in the image, first 2 Lil’ Owl’s (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Stained Plaster Collection 17 texture was added to the image and on a layer mask, the foreground dandelions were painted back without the texture. On a stamped layer, Topaz ReStyle was opened and the Brandeis Blue preset was applied. Next another 2 Lil’ Owls texture called After the Rain 14 was added and set to Multiply blend mode at 85% opacity. Another one of her textures was added called Grunge 27 and it was set to Color Dodge blend mode. This added some texture in the bottom foreground – a black layer mask was used to remove all of the texture except this area. That is what was done to get the final image.

I hope this was not over everyone’s head – it really is just a way to change up an image and possibly get a different result. Many people go to much more extremes on shooting the double-exposure adding very different items, more like the first image. And many people are into creating silhouettes for the first exposure and then shooting small flowers for the second exposure for some incredible results. Since I am rather new at this, I stayed pretty basic with this. It does sound like it would be fun so I may have to try that for second go-round on this topic. Therefore if you just want to try something new, give this a try. It is a lot of fun and the final effects can be quite dramatic!…..Digital Lady Syd


HOW TO ADD MORE VINTAGE FEEL TO AN OLD PHOTO

Image of Elephants on Parade from Shorpy's websiteThis week I have been playing around with actual vintage images and adding some different effects to give even more of a vintage look to them. The image above was a free download from Shorpy Historical Photo Archive, one of my very favorite websites to visit daily. Images are updated frequently during the day and by clicking on an image, a larger Full Size view is shown to scroll around in and really see the details. Fabulous site if you are a history nut like I am. To see the original black and white of the above image that was taken in 1905, click the image link – “Coney Island — Luna Park promenade.” To get the best image quality downloaded from Shorpy, open it in the Full Size view and then right click on image – in drop-d9wn menu select “Save Image As” and make sure the jpg file type is selected in “Save Type As” field at bottom. The lower resolution photos are all free. This is a wonderful place to get old photos of many famous places.

For the elephant parade photo, Topaz (see sidebar in my Tidbits Blog for website link) Clarity was used to really give a nice natural sharpening to the image – this is actually a perfect use for Clarity plug-in if you own it. Next Nik Analog Efex Pro plug-in was added on a duplicated layer and Basic Adjustments, Light Leaks which was used to direct the color towards the parading elephants, Lens Vignette, Film Type, Frames, and Levels & Curves were selected to create a more vintage feel to the image. Three of 2 Lil’ Owls Studio textures (see sidebar for my Tidbits Blog for website link) were added: Forgotten 9 set to Linear Light at 43% layer opacity, The Artisan Collection Big Set 1-1 set to Color Burn at 34% layer opacity, and 1-2 set to Divide at 45% layer opacity. The last step involved adding a Curves Adjustment Layer to just add back a little contrast the textures removed. I really liked the original image and could imagine standing in the scene as it was happening!

Image called House on the Water from Shorpy Historical Photo Archive site with vintage effect addedThis Shorpy image is called Tampa Pier – a house on the water that was from the 1890’s. The smoke is coming from a locomotive and a water tower is on the right. It was suggested that this may have been the home of the harbormaster,  I was totally intrigued by the thought of living in a big house on a pier! If you would like to see what appears to be a different view of this port, check out the Port Tampa Inn and Docks (Wharf): 1900 image, which would make another great photo for adding vintage effects. OnOne (for website see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Perfect Effects 8 was used – this is a huge plug-in and I love the way the filter effects can be stacked to get wonderful results. This one used an already created OnOne preset created by photographer Nicole S. Young, in her Daydream collection called Hazy Memories – it actually stacks 7 different filters to give a nice old-fashioned look. Next the Sunshine Glow filter was stacked, and on top the Detail Adjustment Brush was painted on just the house. Back in Photoshop on a stamped or composite layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Topaz Detail 3 plug-in was applied for some additional sharpening, especially where the smoke was in the sky. On another stamped layer Nik Analog Efex Pro was used again – this time only the Detail Extraction, Light Leaks, Lens Vignette, and Levels & Curves Luminosity Channel were used and saved as a preset to use again. A Camera Raw filter in Photoshop was opened using only the Radial Filter used – exposure was increased one stop on the house and train. The cool border mask is a free one by Shadowhouse Creations called Layer Overlay Mask Set Box 4 and was set to Screen blend mode at 100% layer opacity. This image was great to work on since it was in good shape to begin with and has such an interesting history.

Image from Shorpy Historical Photo Archive showing a sailboat with wheels on the beachThis is another great Shorpy image called Sailing on the Sand taken in 1903 at Ormond Beach (where I live), Florida. The image uses two French Kiss Artiste textures – Jardin set to Overlay blend mode at 82% layer opacity and Old Master set to Hard Light blend mode at 41% layer opacity – it also has a layer mask with the center painted out. Topaz Detail was used to sharpen up the whole image and a frame was created using a Dave Cross technique presented in his Photoshop CS5 Finishing Touches for Photographers video on Kelby One Training – this is still a good video to watch if you are a member even if it is for CS5 as Dave does great border effects. Really love the colors from the textures and border.

I hope this blog gave you an inspiration to try something new and try some different vintage effects. The Nik Analog Pro plug-in seems to be the best plug-in for adding the old-fashioned feel to an image, but all the plug-ins I have create some wonderful results. With all the great textures available it is hard to choose one to use. I love the old photos and it is a nice change of pace to work on something I did not shoot. And Shorpy’s website is always a lot of fun to check in on……Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Pseudo HDR Using an Old Image
Some Beach Fun!
Where Am I?


DIGITAL LADY SYD’S 10 PHOTOSHOP RULES

Image of the Total Eclipse of the Moon from my backyardOn my Tidbits Blog from time to time I have listed rules that I like to follow when taking images and post-processing them. I thought I would present my rules again since I really do try to use them as guidelines. So here we go!

10.  Use What You Know!

I like to remind myself that I don’t have to keep changing my workflow to incorporate that new technique I just tried  into it. Sometimes it is better and faster to use what you know, especially if just doing a little processing of an image. It’s fun to try new things, but sometimes the old “tried and true techniques” are still the best. The image above of the recent total eclipse of the moon was processed very simply (see my Total Eclipse of the Moon! Tidbits Blog for post-processing info) and quickly to be able to get it posted early in the day.

9.  Get the Shot!

So get the shot, even if you do not have your best equipment with you – it might turn out great anyway. Now that the new Smart Phones take such good photos, there is no excuse to not get “the shot” – may not be as sharp or the colors as great as your expensive camera, but it is the camera you have with you – so take the shot! With all the things you can do in Lightroom and Photoshop, you may be able to fix up the shot to look great. Also another great little tip I have heard from so many photographers and I try to remember is – once you take the shot, turn around and see what is behind you – it might be even better!

8.  Get Textures From Objects Inside Your Home!

This can be really fun to do, especially if you want to create an image that is totally yours. For example, in Photoshop I added a texture created from a shot of the corner of a large oil painting of a beautiful white cat in my living room to use on this image. (It can be downloaded here.) It is medium gray with lots of paint stroke texture that I use a lot on my images. I took some of the lace in my dining room curtains and even of my living room couch material. The kitchen countertop also made a nice dark texture. Try going around your home to see if you have some interesting textures that could spice up an image.

7.  Check Out Your Local History
Image of Holler Fountain at Stetson University in Deland, FloridaJust because you don’t get to go on that exotic vacation this year, it can be very satisfying to visit some of the local historical places near you. I cut out newspaper articles to some of the unknown treasures in the area and keep them in a file for a day when I need something new to shoot. In fact the Holler Fountain at Stetson University (link is webcam of fountain) above is an example of some local history in Deland, Florida, that I took a couple weeks ago. So don’t get discouraged – just pick up the local newspaper or surf on the internet for historical places in your area.

6.  Try Something New!

Image of some pretty Easter Flowers painted in Corel PainterI have been learning Corel Painter (see above showing my progress) which is something new for me. It is a challenge to learn, but it is trying something new and that helps keep me interested. I will probably never be as proficient with it as Photoshop, but it is still fun to try some new skills. I also want to try shooting more celestial shots, possibly through a telescope – I think that would be a lot of fun!

5.  Just Step Outside and Look Around!

Image of a singing bird in an oak tree If you find yourself bored because you have not taken any interesting images recently, just step outside and take a look around. Take pictures of your neighbors, go for a walk and shoot some local wildlife, or try some macro shots.

4.  See What Others are Doing

I have found that if I do not keep looking for new ways of doing Photoshop and graphics, I get into a real rut. Check out my Digital Lady Syd’s Favs page for some excellent reference books and websites/blogs I follow. There is a lot of inspiration out there – you just have to find it! So take some time every now and then and see what is happening. You might see something that will really inspire you and help with your digital darkroom skills.

3. Look Back at What You Have Done

I discovered there are many techniques I have used quite effectively in the past and had totally forgotten about – it added a whole new perspective to what I have been working on recently. And some of the effects I did not think were that great a few years ago, I now think turned out quite nice.  Guess it is just good to see where you have been so you can see where you are going. Next time you are stuck, take a few minutes and go back to see what was going on when you were first working on images. You might get a new inspiration that will help get you back on track (like I did)!

2.  Take the Time to Have Fun!

If you are not having fun, I can’t see that it’s worth taking the time to do – I would go do something else I really have fun doing!

1.   Take the Time to Experiment!

Kaleidoscope image of a building Since Photoshop is such a large program, it is not at all hard to try different effects to just see what you might get. This keeps you from being bored and gives a little bit of a creative edge when doing the same post-processing over and over. Sometimes you get some really interesting results like using a filter on an image that did not look like much originally. That’s what happened with the image above that used where Pixel Bender‘s Kaleidoscope filter was used on an old building in Photoshop CS5. When stuck and not sure where to go next in Photoshop, just EXPERIMENT.

If you want to see the all the rules as previously blogged, check out my Tidbits Blog in the sidebar Categories, click on Digital Lady Syd’s Rules – they will all pop up. I hope this gave you a little inspiration and some new ideas to keep you trying out new things and checking out a few old ones just to keep it all “fun.”…..Digital Lady Syd


HOW TO USE NIK’S SNAPSEED PHOTO APP ON YOUR SMART PHONE

Image of Flowers in Pots growing in sunlight on a table I am basically a Photoshop kind of gal, but I thought I would do a quick post on a wonderful free application from Nik Software called Snapseed – after all they do make some of the best Photoshop plug-ins around. Snapseed is by far my favorite photo app for my phone. Since I do not use an an IPhone but an Android phone, my choices are much more limited with what can be done on a phone – but Snapseed has so many options, I am not sure you need much more. The app does not appear to run any differently with either operating system. What I do like is that I have been able to get some fabulous results just by fiddling around with it on my phone, especially when I have few minutes to spare – therefore I thought I would just show you what results I got and a few things I learned about using it. Below are listed all the individual tools and slider setting amounts of the app. I found the app confusing at first without this info, so maybe this will help those of you who are familiar with the app, but still would like to know the settings. The image of the flowers in the window used the Vintage settings and was my first attempt using the app – it really is easy to get a beautiful effect.

Since there is no history associated with the manipulated images, I have no idea what settings were used in several of my images shown here. The point is that it is really easy to get an effect you like by just sliding your finger across your screen and tapping icons. Google has a great link for all the questions concerning compatibility and image sizes with the various types of phones it can be used on so check out this help link. The actual app can be downloaded from your App store on your phone by just searching for Snapseed. The image below was taken at the Eighth Voyage of Sinbad Stunt Show at Universal Studios-Orlando. Lots of Detail Structure was added to this image.
Image of the set from the Eighth Voyage of Sinbad's Stunt Show at Universal StudiosSome basics to know: Press the Question Mark (?) in each area to open an overlay on how to swipe on the image to get the different effects. Press the Mountain icon in upper right to see what the original image looked like. Whenever crossed arrows are available, keep tapping the icon for different versions of the effect being applied. Also, if you make some changes you do not like, press the X on the bottom left of each tool to remove effect instead of the checkmark to apply. If you totally dislike what you have done, there is an arrow in the upper left under the Snapseed symbol – press it and you can Revert your image to its original state. Now each tool is listed with some basic setting and information listed for each.

Automatic – Only Contrast ( 0 to +100) and Color Correction (0 to +100). Pretty basic sliders here and there are better ones below.

Selective Adjust – Brightness (-100 to +100), Contrast (-100 to +100), and Saturation (-100 to +100) choices – first must click on the circled Plus icon at bottom left center to add a control point and pinch and drag to size it for a specific area to adjust, then move sliders left or right. Note that there is a red overlay which indicates the parts of the image affected by the set control point. Another point can be added by just clicking on the Plus icon again and dragging and pinching in image. If you click directly on the circle, you will get a copy and paste option, if you click just outside it, you can change and move the sliders. This too is the best to use for localized adjustments to the image. Most tools are global adjustments.

Tune Image – Brightness (-100 to +100), Ambience (-100 to +100), Contrast (-100 to +100), Saturation (-100 to +100), Shadows (0 to +100), and Warmth (-100 to +100) – Wonderful options for perking up your photos, especially Ambience which can give a soft look to your images when set to a negative amount. It also balances out the exposure with some subtle contrast and color applied. The Shadows slider opens up the blacks like Shadows in Camera Raw does.

Straighten – Just a basic grid here that can be dragged in and out and the image can also be rotated 90 degrees around by clicking on the arrow icons at bottom. Use this tool first if your horizon is off.

Crop – In this section there is also a grid that can be dragged in or out or choices for different aspect ratios by clicking on the icon to the left at the bottom center. Set this to Original instead of Free if the image aspect ratio is to be retained. Use the icon on right of center to change from portrait to landscape or vice versa.

Details – Sharpening (0 to +100) and Structure (0 to +100) settings that both run from 0 to 100. Click on the Eyeglass icon left of bottom center to zoom in on an area to see results of the settings. It can be dragged anywhere in the image. I really love this feature. The Structure slider adds micro contrast and looks for edges – really a nice effect and different from Sharpening. Don’t add too much or it looks overdone, but it does wonders on pets and male portraits.

Black and White – Brightness (-100 to +100), Contrast (-100 to +100) and Grain (0 to +100). If you click on the icon to the left of center, depending on your which slider you are using, you get other presets like Neutral, Contrast, Bright, Dark, Film, and Darken Sky. If you click the icon to the right of center, you can choose from Neutral, Red Orange, Yellow and Green filters to apply.

Vintage – Brightness (-100 to +100), Saturation (0 to +100), Texture Strength (0-100), Center Size (0 to +100), and Style Strength (0 to +100). Click the Star at the bottom center left, and get 9 Styles that look like cross-processing choices. Click square icon on bottom center right, and there are 4 textures to apply to your image. Set Texture Strength to 0 and no texture is applied.

Drama – Filter Strength (0 to +100) and Saturation (-100 to +100). Press the Star icon on bottom left center and chose from presets Drama 1 , Drama 2, Bright 1, Bright 2, Dark1, and Dark2. Don’t overdo this effect, just apply what is needed.

HDR Scape – Filter Strength (0 to +100), Brightness (-100 to +100), Saturation (-100 to +100), and Smoothing (0 to +100). If you press the blue star Icon to the left of bottom center, there are preset: Nature, People, Fine and Strong.

Grunge – Style (+1 to +1500), Brightness (-100 to +100), Contrast (0 to +100), Texture Strength (0 to +100), and Saturation (0 to +100). A selection circle can be set on the image to direct the effect to a specific area. The icon on the right center bottom contains 5 texture presets which when tapped, show more variations, and the icon on the left gives a different look each time your press it. By tapping in your image, you can adjust exactly where you want the effect to be applied.

Center Focus – Blur Strength (0 to +100), Outer Brightness (-100 to +100), and Inner Brightness (-100 to +100). Tap in image to adjust where effect will be applied. Click Star icon to left of center bottom and these presets appear: Portrait 1, Portrait 2, Vignette, Blur, Old Lens, and Foggy. Press the small dot a default Weak effect is applied, or press the large dot and it is a Strong effect.

Tilt-Shift – Transition (0 – +100), Blur Strength (0 to +100), Brightness (-100 to +100), Saturation (-100 to +100), and Contrast (0 to +100). Press the Question Mark (?) in upper left if you forget the way to swipe the screen to get the effect. Click the blue Star on bottom left center, and you can choose Linear or Elliptical.

Retrolux – Brightness (-100 to +100), Saturation (100 to +100), Contrast (-100 to +100), Style Strength (0 to +100), Scratches (0 to +100), and Light Leaks (0 to +100). Press the Blue Star icon at bottom left center to reveal 13 styles and a Properties wheel which contains several more presets like Fine 1 and 2, No Leak, and Crisp 1 through 3. Press the arrow icon on the right and you can go through the different preset effects.

Frames – 23 frame presets are shown by pressing the picture frame icon on the bottom left center. Tap each frame to get several different variations for the frame selected. Press the Settings (wheel) on center right bottom, you can turn colorization or adding a creme color on and off.
Image of Spring Flowers and processed using Nik's Snapseed Phone AppOne of the recommendations is to apply the same effect twice if you like the results – just press the check to apply, then do the section again. It is especially useful for creating a vignette effect using the Center Focus tool. As an example of settings, the image above used the Crop Tool, Tune Image filters (Brightness -36, Ambience +83, Contrast -16, Sat -31, Shadows +15, and Warmth +41), and Center Focus (Blur +13, Outer Brightness -26, Inner Brightness +57, and set to Weak with control point on flowers with white centers).
B&W Image of Baldwin Lake in Orlando, FloridaSince Nik has what is considered the best black and white plug-in for Photoshop, it is not surprising that Snapseed also gets some really nice black and white results. This image used the Straighten and Crop tools, Tune Image’s Ambience first and B&W afterwards to bring out the cloud effect. Center Focus was used last on the fisherman to help make him stand out.

Most of what I have learned using Snapseed is from this inexpensive E-book by Justin Balog called Snapseed – The Definite Guide. It is a great resource for learning how to use the the different tools together to get good image results. Another nice resource which is more basic and includes a nice workflow for using this app is called The Complete Guide to Snapseed Photo Editing App which contains several free videos by Emil Pakarklis. Snapseed will run on tablets and with a Chrome browser, which I had trouble getting to load so I am not commenting on this. I am surprised at how many of the feature that are part of the Nik family of Photoshop plug-ins have been included. If you like to take photos with your phone, I would recommend downloading Nik’s Snapseed from your phone store and start playing! Once again, it is a lot of fun – maybe not as much as playing in Photoshop, but still lots of fun!…..Digital Lady Syd


Using a Tych Panel to Show Off Your Images

Last week I gave away a template to organize your images for use on a Valentine or for just putting related ideas together. (See Using a Template to Create Your Own Unique Valentine.) This week I found this incredible  little free program that can be loaded into Photoshop CS5 or CS6 as a panel that does a very similar thing. This is totally ingenious and very simple. All you need is to have your images or objects already post-processed and a bit of an idea on how you want to put them together. For the Tych above, the images are all from the 24th Annual Native American Festival in Ormond Beach, Florida – I had a great time photographing. Above are a few of the images I have completed the post-processing on and put together to form what I consider a pretty nice grouping of the event. I plan on blogging on how I created some of the effects in the individual images at a later time.

So let’s talk about Tych Panel 2 by Reimund Trost. The best way to learn about it is to view the short video for instructions on how to use it. Basically you can add rows, columns, additional rows after you have created it, background color, borders and/or rounded corners around each image and/or the whole image, and even use it from Adobe Bridge if you want. Totally cool and very fast. It is action based and the order of the images can be set for each row or column you create or add. Really gives a nice quick result for posting to blogs. All I can say is that it was a lot of fun to do. The grouping of flowers below was my first effort and took just a couple minutes – I really liked the results!
There are only a couple of little issues I noticed when using the program.

  • First, you need to make sure your images are all in the same folder for each row or column you are adding as there is no way to add additional images from another folder to form each individual row or column. Unfortunately the panel does not interface with Lightroom where you could use a collection for image selection.
  • The second issue is that the program will adjust the image to fit in an opening – if the aspect ratios of the images you are selecting to create a row or column are different, part of the image will be compressed so they fit uniformly. If you are adding a landscape sized image with a portrait sized image, it apparently makes the portrait sized image the same height as the landscape – it appears much smaller in your image. If you add three different sized images into a row, it takes the largest sized image and adjust the other images to that size by compressing them. So far, none of the image sizes I have added are too changed so they still look pretty nice. The easiest way around this is to make sure your images are the same size before adding them to the Tych.

If you want to exchange an image, I usually turn off all the layers except for the one I want to replace. If you used rounded corners on your images, right click on the black layer mask thumbnail and select Disable Layer Mask (a big red X appears in it). Now File ->Place your new image above the one to be replaced, and Free Transform it so the old and new images are the same size. Double click on the black layer mask to enable it and drag it up to the new image. Then delete the old layer.
…..
This is another example showing the rounded edges on just the flower images. I added a French Kiss Solstice Zest textured background on this image and a couple curves to create the background effect I wanted.
…..
The panel below was created using four images, one column on the left and three on the right; then turning off Column 1 Group which contains the three layers on the right side. The background treatment was a bit complicated. If you have the border turned on in the Tych Panel options, I usually drag that top Border layer down to just above the background layer so my background appears complete on the image.  2 Lil’ Owls Mosaic Set crescent grunge (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) was added at 55% opacity above the background layer. Next 2 Lil’ Owls French Brocante Set 10-1 texture with the beautiful Eiffel Tower image was added and set to Linear Burn at 85% opacity. Above that a New Layer was added and French Kiss Spattered4-06 brush at 511 pixels was applied in black over the whole layer – loved the drippy watercolor feel although it just adds a cloudy looking effect once combined with the other textures. 2 Lil’ Owls Enchanted2-4 png overlay was put on the next layer at 45% opacity. Note that the small flower image can be adjusted within the larger background image by just using the Move Tool and dragging – the layer mask will adjust as you move the image. An Inner Shadow and Stroke layer style was added to the flower image to make it stand out more. Another New Layer was placed above the pink flower image and one stroke using Flowers Swirls and Hearts Sampled Brush 8 was added next. Last a slight contrast adjustment was made on a Curves Adjustment Layer. This image really does not have a very organized look to it, but the image guide did really help me to figure out how to lay out this image.
This panel is really fun to use and shows off your images so quickly. Very handy to have when wanting to put a quick collage together for a friend or for a blog post. Just watch the aspect ratios on your images and it will all work fine. If you own Photoshop CS5 or CS6, give this a try. It is extremely easy to use and the results can be quite stunning…..Digital Lady Syd


Digital Lady Syd’s Top Ten Photos From 2012

It is that time where I try to put some perspective on my images for the past year and choose the ones that appeal to me most. I had a nice year and got to see some pretty interesting places. I try to see which images I would place in my home. Here is what my “inner critic” thinks are some of my best.

10.  Below is an image shot while in the Lightner Museum looking down at my favorite lunch spot in St. Augustine, Florida, the Cafe Alcazar which is located in the old hotel pool area (see Bathing in Casino on Shorpys website for how the pool looked in 1889). For more info, see my Tidbits Blog Cafe Alcazar and Vintage Topaz Adjust.

9. I love this sort of illustrative and humorous effect. This image is of a whale taken during the Shamu show at the SeaWorld Orlando Theme Park. For details on processing, see my Storytelling with Your Images blog.

8. The Big Island in Hawaii was one of my most favorite places I have ever visited. This photo art image depicts how I think of Hawaii. I discuss how I created the effect in my Using Color Efex Pro and Texture for a Warm Hawaiian Landscape Effect blog.

7. This lovely mallard duck pair’s image was taken at the SeaWorld Orlando Theme Park in Florida. This image used a texture by 2 Lil Owls and the new Topaz (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Detail 3 to bring out details and color, especially in the feathers and eyes.

6. This old corvette was for sale at the 39th Annual Turkey Run at the Daytona International Speedway infield. This is my favorite type of car –  so I had a great time photographing all the corvettes. (More will be showing up in my future blogs as I have a lot more corvette images.) To see how I processed this image, see my Little Red Corvette Tidbits Blog.

5.  Miniature Mums were used in a lot of my images this year. I like to photograph the flowers I grow. I have been trying to improve on my macro shooting  this year. To see how this flower was processed, see my Tidbit Blog Just Bloomin” Beautiful!

4. The wild surf is at Laupahoehoe Harbor on the Big Island. In my Dr. Brown’s Painting Assistant Panel for CS6 and CS5! blog I used this same image with an artistic feel to it. Nik Color Efex Pro’s Detail Extractor filter helped give this image the sharpness.

3. I am always surprised how nice the flower pictures are that I get at the local grocery stores with my inexpensive Kodak point-and-shoot camera. These beautiful pink roses were shot at my neighborhood store. Post processing included adding 4 textures – two I bought from French Kiss’s website and two from a wonderful Flickr site by Lenabem-Anna which contains many beautiful vintage and painterly textures. I used her textures 130 and 72.

2. The purple lily pad image is one of my artistic experiments that I really like. They were taken at the Hilton Waikoloa Village by the Japanese Restaurant. To see how this effect was created with a slightly different result, see my Tidbits Blog Purple Lily Pads!

1.  It is hard to top Hawaii for beautiful everything. I settled on this image from along the road to Waipio Valley as my favorite of the year since it totally reminds me of my trip to the Big Island – the bright sunlight, the beautiful surf and the gorgeous clouds hanging out. To see how I processed this image, see my Nik’s Viveza 2 Plug-In – A Hidden Gem! blog.

It’s been a great year and I have learned so many new things about post-processing my images in Photoshop. Hope you have enjoyed some of my blogs too. I hope next year is as fun and productive. Happy New Year Everyone!…..Digital Lady Syd


2012 Inexpensive Gifts for the Photoshop Lover on Your List

Last year I did this blog and felt that it would be a good idea to list a few more reasonably priced gift items that you might not know about. I hope you find it useful for that perfect stocking-stuffer or gift for your favorite Photoshop user. These are all items I personally own and recommend for your use.  Also, scroll down to the Totally Cheap Corner for some free great gift ideas! So here we go!

1. TOPAZ ADJUST 5 FILTER – ($50)

I am keeping my number 1 from last year as my number 1 for this year too. This plug-in is the best and this company is the best – once you buy any of their products, all updates are free – who does that in this day and age? It was a hard choice to choose just one to showcase as I use most of their plug-ins regularly. Topaz Adjust is wonderful as it gives that HDR feel to an image even if it is not an HDR and now there are more choices than ever for creating this look. If you are an artistic person, try their newly updated Topaz Simplify 4 – totally fun to use! And the Black and White Effects is really good!  Topaz Adjust (see sidebar for website at my Tidbits Blog) using the Vintage Grunge IV preset was applied below without the vignetting. Otherwise just my usual workflow in both Lightroom 4 and Photoshop CS6. It was taken recently at the 39th Annual Daytona Turkey Run in the infield of the Daytona International Speedway – it is the largest antique auto show in the U.S.

2. FRENCH KISS COLLECTIONS – ($8 to $60)

Leslie Nicole of French Kiss Collections has some of the most beautiful and unique textures. She offers many free textures to try out and several inexpensive sets you can download. She has some good video tutorials on how to use her textures. Below are some bougainvillaeas that use one of her textures and one of her overlays. (For more information on how it was processed, see my Tidbits Blog Checking Out French Kiss Textures.)

https://i0.wp.com/farm9.staticflickr.com/8474/8114780763_31fe9bd42e.jpg

3. PRESET VIEWER BREEZE PROGRAM – ($20)

Once again I am recommending this little program. I would be lost without the Preset Viewer Program. When you need that special brush to load into Photoshop and cannot remember which set is it in, this program will open them up to view within seconds to help you find what you need. Definitely a real time-saver. It also reads patterns, fonts, jpgs, shapes, styles, and swatches. A great addition for speeding up your Photoshop workflow. I often have it open while working on an image to see which brushes I need to load. Below is a screenshot of how my program looks when open – I have several folders where I store extra brush presets. These are my cloud set brushes that can be downloaded for free at my Deviant Art site.

4. CREATING ART WITH MACRO IN NATURE E-BOOK – ($14.95)

If you like taking Macro images, or even if you don’t know if you do, Mike Moat (one of the best macro photographers around) has an E-Book called Creating Art with Macro in Nature that is terrific! I learned so much from this 184-page pdf book that covers everything you need to know with beautiful images to show you the results. Very enjoyable read. His website Tiny Landscapes also has very helpful information on it. Below is an example of using some of Mike’s tips to create a nice Macro image.

5. THE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY BOOKS – 1 THROUGH 4 – ($13 and up)

Scott Kelby (need I say anymore?) started creating “quick tip” Digital Photography Books a while back and this year he released his fourth. They are all loaded down with lots of photography and Photoshop tips to make shooting any kind of image painless. He covers every kind of shot and has many recipes sprinkled throughout the books to help with processing. I have totally enjoyed all of them as they are a quick read – you can look up whatever you want to shoot at the moment and get the quick tip for taking the image. The HDR image below is a shot from my hotel room in Orlando while attending Photoshop World (these are a blast to attend if you have not done so yet) a few years ago that follows the tip “Shoot From Up Really High” in Book 3. I just checked the price on his books and they are quite reduced from the cost on the cover – very good buys!

6. THE FADER PLUGIN FOR LIGHTROOM – (now $10)

I did a blog on this cool little plug-in program back when it first came out. (See Great Free Plug-in for Lightroom – The Fader!) They have since upgraded it but it is the same basic program and I find I use it all the time. The basic concept is that when you apply a preset in Lightroom, it is applied at 100% – that is your only choice. Using this Fader plug-in, you can set it to any amount up to 150% and you get a live view of how it looks while adjusting the one slider. It is absolutely ingenious! The image of the mum below used Photoshop Guy Matt Kloskowski’s Wedding Fairytale Dark Edge preset applied to it at 115% using the Fader. Then an adjustment brush adding the slight yellow color for the centers was added. The texture is Painted Textures Taupe Canvas, French Kiss PhotoStudio2 Overlay ( from No. 2 above), and my free SJ-Snow1 Overlay.

7.  THE ARTIST QUARTER (TAQ) WATERCOLOUR BRUSHES – (around $30)

As I have always said, I am no painter but I just love dabbling. So when Dr. Russell Brown (my Photoshop hero) and Tim Shelbourne (a wonderful artist) came up with their Artist Assistant panel, I fell victim. The Watercolour Assistant Panel is free for Photoshop CS6 and can be downloaded from Dr. Brown’s Scripts page. I can tell you it takes practice to be successful at this, and I have not mastered it yet, but using Tim’s TAQ Watercolour Cloning Brushes definitely helps to create a nice watercolor feel from an image. If you are interested in painting watercolor, check out his website and his brushes. I hope to do a future blog on this technique since it really is a lot of fun to do.

8.  STEADEPOD CAMERA ACCESSORY – ($29.95)

How many times have you been out shooting and wished you had a tripod with you? Unless I plan on going somewhere that is easy go with my car, I usually just wing it. When I went to Photoshop World a couple years ago, this was one of the items in the vendor area. I bought a Steadepod and I now carry it with me whenever I shoot. It may not be a great as a tripod, but it sure beats having nothing. What a life-saver! and fairly inexpensive. This is one of those gadgets you wonder how you ever got along without it. It sets up very quickly and you can get those wonderful HDR landscape and indoor shots you want – and no one says you cannot use it in some places where tripods are not allowed!

9.  LIGHTROOM 4 UNMASKED E-BOOK – ($20)

Recently I decided that I needed to get a new Lightroom reference book since the latest version has been updated a lot. When Craft & Vision issued a notice that a new E-book on Lightroom was available for a reasonable price, I decided to give it a try. Piet Van den Eynde does an excellent job with this Lightroom 4 Unmasked E-book. It is 313 pages long and covers everything, and from a fresh perspective. Besides a Table of Contents which links through properly, he has a Cases page with links that answer basic questions and offer new techniques. Also check out Craft & Vision’s other E-books – David duChemin (a really great photographer) and Piet have several listed. These E-books are great reads at reasonable prices.

10. LIGHTROOM PRESETS BY DAVID duCHEMIN – ($10)

Speaking of David duChemin, he came out with a set of 36 Lightroom Develop Presets and instructions on how to use them. I bought them as I really liked the Milford Greens presets and several of his Black and White presets are now my favorites. This is a very handy set and reasonably priced (approx $0.25 a preset). The Hawaiian Boy and Turtle Sculpture below uses one of the beautiful Milford Greens presets, then The Fader plug-in (see No. 6 above) was opened and applied at 115% before finishing up in Photoshop.

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8064/8238688964_bbfd5f52c3.jpg

…..

TOTALLY CHEAP CORNER!

11. SHADOWHOUSE CREATIONS – LARGE VARIETY AND BEAUTIFUL TEXTURES – ($0 but he deserves donations!)

Jerry Jones of Shadowhouse Creations is one of the most generous people in the texture community. His textures are fabulous with a large variety from which to select. He often adds good examples and details on how to use the set he is featuring. He also creates brushes, layer styles, overlays, and actions. This is a “must have” bookmark for anyone who dabbles in the artistic aspects of Photoshop. The pink daisies are treated with two of my very favorite textures from Shadowhouse Creations: Marshmellow Skies set to Normal blend mode at 72% opacity and Oil Painting 1 set to Hard Light at 26%.

https://i0.wp.com/farm8.staticflickr.com/7175/6813181699_a95ea3bef8.jpg

12.  SEVERAL RUSSELL BROWN PANELS – ($0)

I mentioned one of these in No. 7 above – Russell Brown’s panels are the best! Download them all from Dr.Brown’s Scripts page.

  • The one I use the most is the Adobe Paper Texture Panel. This is a quick and easy way to try several textures on top of your image quickly – it sizes them and sets them to any blend mode you want to see. See my blog Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel Updated! for more info. I noticed he does not have the CS5 version posted anymore.
  • Another panel I really like is the Edit Layers in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) panel for Photoshop CS6. (Scroll down the page to get the same as an equivalent script for CS5.) This is very useful, especially if you use Lightroom. It saves time if you need to fix something in Camera RAW quick (like remove noise or Chromatic Aberration or adjust orange which is not in Photoshop) and you do not want to go back into Lightroom to adjust it.  Basically all you have to do in CS6 to access this script is to open the panel and click on the button  – it immediately turns your layer into a Smart Object so you can edit again later if needed, and takes you right into ACR. For CS5 you will have to go to the File -> Scripts -> Dr. Brown’s Edit Layer in ACR to run. Check out my blog Edit Layers with ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) Script for more information on this.
  • As already mentioned above, Dr. Brown’s Painting Assistant Panel for CS6 and CS5! is another fun free panel to try out! It takes you through several steps – like a Photoshop action that stops at each step. It also takes some practice but if you are a little artistic, you will love it. See my blog Dr. Brown’s Painting Assistant Panel for CS6 and CS5! on how to do this.
  • And once again, the Watercolour Assistant Panel is free for Photoshop CS6 only – see No. 7 above for more on this.

The flowers below were created using the Photoshop CS5 Painting Assistant.

https://i0.wp.com/farm9.staticflickr.com/8454/8008222158_bd9608f384.jpg

13. PIXEL BENDER (FOR PHOTOSHOP CS5 ONLY) – ($0)

This item has been around a while – is a great little plug-in offered over at Adobe Labs Downloads that contains several different filters, and others can be added in. Click on 7. on download page to get to the Adobe Pixel Bender Exchange to find what they have to offer. I am so sorry that it cannot be used with Photoshop CS6 because some of my favorite effects were in this little plug-in. That is one reason why both CS6 and CS5 are on my computer – I still use this plug-in. When you download the plug-in, you get the really nice Oil Paint Filter, which is similar to the one added to Photoshop CS6 – see my blog Photoshop’s CS6 (and Pixel Bender’s) Oil Paint Filter. One that is a lot of fun is the Escher’s Droste Effect – see my blog Pixel Bender Droste Effect for more information on this filter. The filter I use the most in Pixel Bender is from an outside source and is called Kill White – it takes out all the white from an image in a single click. Very handy! (Mike at Mike’s Extra says the 32-bit filter download currently works with the 32-bit Photoshop CS6 but he has not been able to get the 64-bit plug-in working.) This image is of one of my Orange Hibiscus using instructions from my Droste Effect blog link above.

https://i0.wp.com/farm6.staticflickr.com/5256/5459666308_4ca45d5487.jpg

14.  PHOTOMATIX MERGE TO 32-BIT HDR PLUG-IN FOR LIGHTROOM 4.1 USERS – ($0 if you already own Photomatix Pro)

Since there is not much for the HDR fanatic (although the Steadepod in No. 8 above is perfect for HDR in difficult places), the Merge to 32-Bit HDR Plug-in is a little heralded plug-in that HDR Soft released earlier this year and I find it indispensable. Since it is free to owners of the Photomatix Pro program (one of the HDR industry standards for processing HDR images), I thought I would mention it here. The first image in this blog was created from 3 images stacked with this program.  You first select your HDR images in Lightroom, go to Export -> Merge to 32-Bit HDR – it then aligns and brings the file back into Lightroom as a TIFF for processing. Very quick and very useful – much faster than going into Photoshop to stack and align them.

15. 50 FREE HIGH QUALITY TEXTURE PACKS – ($0)

This is a just-for-fun link I found over a year ago but it has 50 sites which also have links and lots of freebies on each site, not just great textures. Total fun and your Photoshop buddy will love browsing through all the wonderful things available and you will be a hero! Check out 50 Free High Quality Texture Packs by tutslist.com.

I hope this blog has given you some ideas and places to check out if you are looking for that special Photoshop or Photography gift that will not “break the bank!” If you want more ideas, check out my Inexpensive Gifts for Photoshop Lovers for 2011. I know with the economy the way it is, it is hard to find something that is really nice or unique – maybe this blog will give you some great ideas. Happy Shopping!…..Digital Lady Syd


Storytelling with Your Images

This is a topic I struggle with since it seems that most images that tell a good story are those of people – and it is hard for me to take people shots that are interesting. So I have been working on this. Several photographers have written about storytelling within an image. David duChemin, one of my favorite authors and photographers, has written several great books on photography including one called Within the Frame – the Journey of Photographic Vision where he discusses storytelling. Basically he states “….two aspects of storytelling come to mind. The first is the study of themes that tie the image to our deeper, more universal human experience. The second is conflict, revealed in the frame by contrasts.” Another important point David states is “….the more deeply they [the viewer of your image] care, the stronger the story.” I am no David duChemin when it comes to photography, but I have tried to represent some of his ideas in my blog this week.

The gentleman above just popped out at me when I was in Steak n Shake a few weeks ago. I can imagine all kinds of stories – like he sneaked out to get a nice treat, or he didn’t feel that great and this ice cream really cheered him up, or maybe he just felt like ice cream! Any way you look at it, I felt something when I looked at the older man and nostalgic Steak and Shake pictures – it made me want to take the photo. The image is a good example of both aspects of storytelling – I see a basic theme that most people understand as to whether we should be eating this kind of food (as in that never ending diet or health issues) and are we spending too much in order to enjoy one of life’s little pleasures. I can relate to this experience and conflict! The colors and pictures around him also played an important part in this image – black, white and red create a very strong color palette. (See end of blog for details on how each image was processed.)
…..
I thought this image is a good example of a story – the way the trainer seems to be interacting with one of the Killer Whales at SeaWorld-Orlando. Then my husband looked at the image and said it reminded him of “Jaws” – it is reminiscent of the tragic trainer accident with a whale a few years ago (see Tilikum Wikipedia link). Goes to show how each person creates a totally different scenario in their mind. But it does serve its purpose – it tells a story and makes you think! I see conflict in this image – the small trainer vs. the large whale, humor vs. drama, man vs. animal, texture of water vs. smoothness of the subjects – all implied opposites.
…..
Here is another image I thought had a story associated with it – people seem to enjoy the beach no matter what the weather is. Here is Ormond Beach, Florida, and a young lady is having fun just playing on the beach. It was major windy and overcast as Hurricane Sandy had just missed Florida and gone up the coast much earlier in the morning. (See this incredible aerial view slideshow of a blacked-out New York City after Hurricane Sandy came inland.) I tried to convey how large and out-of-control the waves were vs. the smallness of the young lady. There is the conflict of the rage of the water and lightheartedness of the girl. I believe the way the image is colored gives the water a foreboding feel while the young lady is still in summerlike attire. What was she seeing?
…..Now that there are so many good plugins available to help create an effect, it does make it easier to convey a story. This image has a nostalgic feeling even though this man was making Satay Chicken Wraps in London during Scott Kelby’s Photowalk of 2008 (several of my PhotoWalk images are shown at this site). I think the effect makes the story more obvious and interesting. I believe this photo makes you want to know more about the cook – how good is the meal he is preparing, does he like to cook, does he own the store, etc.
…..
John Paul Caponigro, who does gorgeous fine art photography, creates images with stories without people present. He has a lot of interesting photography links on his website including this excellent short article on Storytelling. (Become a member for free to download his many interesting articles.) He states in this article that single images have a beginning at the “point of visual entry.” A series of images begins with the first image, and follow with a middle and an ending, as any story has. “The frame sets the stage. So, set a scene. You can think of anything that enters it as an actor of an unfolding drama. Then, introduce your characters. There’s lots of room for creativity in how you do this. Next, develop a theme.” In the image below, I took advantage of this concept and used a template that would place several images into a single page.
I really enjoyed the expression of both the porpoise and trainer in this series of photos from Marineland. The story began with just the image of the adorable dolphin as the main character. By introducing the hand of the trainer, the story begins to develop. You can see the interest of the dolphin increasing with each hand gestures. Finally the trainer is introduced and you start to see her reaction to the dolphin and dolphin’s willingness to perform the trick for her. The end shows the connection that has developed between our two main characters. There is no conflict in this story but there is a strong conclusion or outcome for our characters. And for some reason the dolphin’s bubbles were intriguing to me!

Rick Sammon, known especially for his wonderful HDR photos, did a blog series on storytelling that contains some different tips to accomplish this. Check out A Week of Storytelling – the link has days out of order, but they are all there. Craig Tanner, of the unfortunately inactive The Mindful Eye website (which is still one of the best places to learn about everything photography – especially how to use space effectively in an image) has several links to his short videos on Storytelling. One from the Daily Critique of 7/16/09 describes how to make an image convey a story more effectively with proper cropping and negative space use. And perhaps one of the greatest storytellers of recent times is the wonderful Joe McNally – everything he shoots tells a story as far as I can tell and every image is interesting. Just check out his blog to see what he is doing – and all his books are interesting. I still love his first book The Moment It Clicks. Another very inspiring photographer of recent times is Steve McCurry, best known for his National Geographic image of the Afghan Girl, has a wonderful blog and website.

I wish I had just get 1% of the talent of any of the individuals mentioned here. There is a lot to learn in this area but it is worth the time to understand what it takes to create a great image. Some work, some don’t, but eventually there will be that one shot that says it all! And don’t be afraid to crop or perform changes in Photoshop to make it more interesting. Take some time when shooting to find the story – they usually are the most powerful shots you will ever take!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Unsharp Mask Filter In LAB Mode
Humorous Shots Are Sometimes the Best

Image Processing Information:
Image 1: This image was processed in Lightroom – Matt Kloskowski’s (a major Lightroom guru and one of the Photoshop Guys) preset Focal Point (Portrait – Bottom Right) just lined up perfectly for this image. Since this was a jpg image (my Kodak point-and-shoot took the shot), the noise was pretty bad so the first thing done in Photoshop was to apply Topaz DeNoise 5 JPEG Strong preset (see sidebar for website link at my Tidbits Blog) was applied. Next Nik Viveza 2 was used to sharpen the ice cream and man’s face while the edges were darkened a little in all the corners. I still did not like the noise, especially in the red areas, so I applied Topaz DeNoise 5 again using my own settings – Overall Strength 0.24, Adjust Color – Red -0.18, Recover Detail 0.54, Reduce Blur 0.18 and Add Grain 0.11. Some clean up to remove distracting glare, sharpening to just the ice cream using a black layer mask on a High Pass Filter, and a Curves Adjustment Layer where only the red channel was increased slightly to add a little more red color back into the image. My B&W Border Frame was added to finish up.

Image 2: This image was first processed in Lightroom. Noiseware was applied to the image once brought into Photoshop. Then Nik Color Efex Pro 4 was applied using two of my favorite plug-ins, Detail Extractor just on the trainer and whale – the overall opacity was set to 0% so only the trainer and whale show any of the changes, and Film Efex Vintage using Film Type 11 – this gives the beautiful illustration type effect. A Curves Adjustment Layer and Vibrance Adjustment Layer were added to get the colors right. Some whale clean up and sharpening was done and a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was applied to lower the saturation of the blue water. A Selective Color Adjustment Layer was added to make the tongue pinker – the adjustment layer was filled with black and the tongue was painted back in. My Thin Double Edge Frame was added sampling colors from the image to create.

Image 3: This image was mainly processed in Lightroom. The poles were slightly tipped out so they were corrected in Lightroom’s Lens Correction Manual tab (although the ones in Adobe Camera Raw or Photoshop would have done the same correction) using the Vertical slider set to -6 to adjust them. Since the bottom corners were drawn in, the image was taken into Photoshop and the corners cloned back in. Then back in Lightroom I decided the image would look good with Matt Kloskowski’s Wedding Fairytale (Bright Edge) applied, but at a lesser amount. That is where I used The Fader, a plug-in that lets you reduce the amount of the preset effect (or more – up to 150%) – see my Fun Photoshop Blog Great Free Plug-in for Lightroom – The Fader! I applied the Fader slider at 119% to get the pretty light colored waves and sandy brown beach. Next the image was brought back into Photoshop and Noiseware (I use both Topaz DeNoise and Noiseware – just grabbed this one) and Nik Viveza 2 were applied to adjust the noise and sharpness of the image. Frenchkiss’s free Glorious Grunge Overlay was applied and a Color Fill Adjustment layer was clipped to it (ALT + Click between the layers) and the color changed from black to a cream color.

Image 4: Loved the vintage feel on this not so perfect image. In Lightroom a preset was applied that I call Gritty Preset by Michael Rather – it was created by listening to a video called True Grit and I use it all the time! In Photoshop Nik Color Efex Pro 4 was opened and two of my favorite filters were applied: Detail Extractor (Detail Extractor 57%, Contrast 6%, and Saturation 6%) with a (-) Control Point placed on his face and set to 25% opacity, and Film Efex-Vintage (used Film Type 15 and adjusted the vignette to 39%). A (-) Control Point was placed on his coat to make it whiter just a little (25% opacity). The image was sharpened in LAB Mode using the Luminosity channel and the Unsharp Mask. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added to increase contrast. My Thin Double Edge Frame Layer Style was added using the default colors.

Image 5: To create this image, it took a little more effort. The template is a free photo grid from PhotoRadar. 17 photos were added – essentially all but the large one were selected in Lightroom, cropped to the same size, then Edited in Photoshop -> Open as Layers. Once stacked in a file in Photoshop, the template was placed at the bottom of the stack and all the images were clipped to this bottom layer (ALT+click between the layers). Each one had to be Free Transformed (CTRL +T) to line up correctly in each of the openings. To create the large opening, the template was selected and the 4 bottom image openings were painted together. The large photo was placed at the bottom of the images so the overlap of the larger photo edges would not show in the other openings. A layer style was added to the bottom layer using a Stroke and Inner Glow so each image was outlined. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added on top to add contrast to all images. A Gradient was applied on the template to add the blue glow. The top text has an Outer Glow Layer Style added to it.


Palace Tower Art at Hilton Waikoloa Village


Today I decided to do something different. I have spent a lot of time processing photos from the Hilton Waikoloa Village, especially from the Palace Tower where the above mirror-reflected fountain was located in an open air atrium in the middle of the hotel complex. It has been a challenge to find out any information on the art. Apparently the hotel was developed by the Hyatt and opened on 9/9/88 as the Hyatt Regency Waikoloa before the Hilton bought it in 1993. The developer put over $7 million dollars into the 1600+ art objects that is literally scattered about the the huge 62 acre complex, and I am not sure Hilton has done anything to change what was already preset. A display states “The art collection consists of works from Asian, Western, and Oceanic cultures – the cultures that, through the years, have come to define Hawaii’s cultural heritage.” Pieces were bought on trips to China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, Burma and Indonesia. That is all that is available on the art unless a description was placed near the object and very few objects have placards.

Since I love art and had the opportunity to go stay at this complex recently, I thought I would show some of the art pieces in the Palace Tower area. Not all of the objects are the best art in the facility, but it is a good representation of their stated goal above and is rather magnificent in its own right. With that in mind, here we go. The image above is from the corner where the elevators are located – I tried to capture a feel for all the items located in such a small area – and there is some strange lady taking a picture of it all! The hard to see black object in the center is of two spaniel dogs. The two framed images are Luigi Rossini etchings from 1823 of Italy (see top image on website for the right one). There was one more in another part of the entryway.
…..

The fountain is quite a spectacular centerpiece and appears to be very old. The tired looking older men (or half fish/half men) are holding up what I believe are tired looking putti, who are holding up a woman that is releasing a dove – and then there are four offshoots from the fountain of slightly mythological-looking men and women, happy putti blowing trumpets (water was supposed to be coming out of the trumpets but most were not working), and fish and geese with interesting expressions that seem to be pets, all in sculpture. An 18-image 1:21 minute slideshow created in Adobe Lightroom is above. The sculptures  were not cleaned up and some were in better shape than others, in fact this fountain is not in the best shape and much of it is not in good working condition. Still, it is not something you walk right by without noticing when entering the hotel. And it is really striking at night (last slideshow image)!
…..

This simple wall art added a nice touch to the whole cultural flavor in the atrium area.
…..


There were four of these huge, roughly 10-foot tall wood Chinese cabinets all with large porcelain jars in the center; carved wood at the top and bottom; and painted flowers on the sides, bottoms, and front. Several different warrior-like dolls were placed in the glassed paned shelves. I have never seen anything quite like these. The cabinets were really difficult to photograph due to the shiny glass panes, the mirror reflections from the entryway that were shooting light everywhere, and no tripod. I hope you can at least get a feel for how incredible they looked.
…..

Another one of the beautiful colorful objects that was sitting around near the entrance to the Palace Tower. Very hard to ignore, especially if you like art.

I plan contacting the Hilton Waikoloa Village and see if there is more information on their art. It would be a shame if all the knowledge on the beautiful pieces becomes lost. I will be posting some more of the resort’s art as time goes on – this was just a starting point. In the meantime I hope you enjoyed this short blog…..Digital Lady Syd

How these images were processed (since this is a Photoshop blog after all!).

Palace Tower Image: Used Nik Color Efex Pro 4 using Detail Extractor, Pro Contrast, and Contrast Color Range filters to bring out all the great details (see My Go-To Recipe for Bringing Out Details with Ellen Anon). Nik’s Viveza 2 was also used to desaturate some of the distracting light in the background.

Slideshow images:  Most images were processed as three bracketed HDR photos in Nik HDR Efex Pro using the Realistic (Strong) preset and then adding control points unique to each image. Next Nik Color Efex Pro 4 was applied using this set of filters in a recipe: Darken/Lighten Center, Detail Extractor setting slider to no more than 19, and a slight Vignette Blur. They were then added into the Slideshow module in Adobe Lightroom 4.

Wall Art: Topaz Adjust Crisp preset was used and OnOne’s PhotoFrame acid burn controlled 4.

Chinese Cabinet: Each image was processed with Nik’s Viveza. I used my my Tidbits Blog “Five Image Template Creates Beautiful Collection!” to create the photo grouping. The actual cabinet image was slightly out of focus so Topaz InFocus plug-in was applied before Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 and Viveza 2. Still not loving the result, but the image was salvaged somewhat. There was a lot of glare on several of the images which could not be completely removed with Viveza, but it did a fairly decent job. 

Elephant: Topaz Adjust crisp preset and that is all.


Smoothing Out Those Waterfalls


This is a Photoshop “oldie but goodie” for making your waterfall images smooth and silky as if you shot it in the shade with a slow shutter speed. I was lucky enough to visit the Big Island in Hawaii recently. Waterfalls are abundant. Unfortunately tripods cannot be used in most cases and sunlight can be very bright when shooting at tourist spots, so the only way to get that smooth silky look is to fix the waterfall in Photoshop. That is what you are seeing in the first two images. The first image original (shown on left below) is the tone-mapped result of three photos processed in NIK HDR Efex Pro before processing in Photoshop. The smoothing steps are as follows:

1. Duplicate layer.

2. Go to Filter -> Blur -> Motion Blur. Turn the angle to the direction of the waterfall, in this case 90 degrees. Set the distance slider to a large amount – for the above it was set to 155, but that may be too much for some images.

3. Add a black layer mask by holding the ALT key and clicking on the Layer Mask icon in the Layers Panel.

4. With a soft brush set to a low opacity like 30% slowly paint in where you want the blur effect on the waterfall.

5. Add a Levels Adjustment Layer to darken the midtones by moving the black and white stops. This image had the black stop set to 5 and white stop to 121.

This lovely waterfall on the road by the golf course (there were several of these man-made waterfalls along this busy road so I had to shoot from the window to get this picture) is similar to the one above but with several small falls going in two different directions. In this case, two Motion Blur filters had to be created to match the water direction. First follow steps 2 through 4 (the first Motion Blur filter layer used settings of a -90 degree angle and 45 distance), create a composite layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) on top, and do steps 2 through 4 again (this time a filter setting of -51 degree angle was used). Then finish up with step 5. Nik,s Color Efex Pro recipe Detail + Vignette from Matt Kloskowski was added after applying the steps.

Here are the originals of images as they were processed in Lightroom.

…..

GETTING THAT WATERFALL SHOT IN CAMERA

In case you area not familiar with how to shoot waterfalls, the basic idea is to set up the camera on a tripod in manual mode using a long shutter speed set to 1 or 2 seconds, a small aperture like F/16 or F/22, and low ISO setting. For one of the best discussions on how to compose and shoot a really good waterfall picture, see Craig Tanner from The Mindful Eye podcast “Scenic Waterfall Photography” – this site is full of great photography information.

That’s it – a pretty convincing result is created and it takes just a couple minutes. This is definitely one to store in your arsenal of Photoshop quick tips!…..Digital Lady Syd


My Top Ten Photos from 2011

Continuing with my one year tradition of presenting year end photos for 2011, below is what “my inner critic” thinks are the best. Keep in mind that sometimes the images were not photographically the greatest, but were ones I really enjoyed putting together and got a lot of personal satisfaction from just creating the results. To learn more, just click on the image and the blog featuring it will appear in a new window.

10. This is the beautiful current Jackson State Capitol Building in Mississippi.

9. I created a template from Samuel Morse’s “Gallery of the Louvre” painting where I put my photos in for the ones he painted. I actually got to see this painting at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, this past year – what a treat! Just fooling around but had lots of fun putting it together.

8. My favorite flower to photograph is the hibiscus and here is one of the beauties in my backyard.

7. I did a blog on the Flood Filter and this image came out looking so natural I was totally amazed. The beautiful roseate spoonbill bird was photographed at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Rookery in Florida – a great place to photograph birds in the springtime.

6. I experimented with the minimalist art effect which I had never tried before and not sure if my image turned out to be this type of art. I loved the final results anyway since sailing is another passion of mine.

5. I felt this image needed a vintage feel to it since I took it in the Florida Heritage Museum at the Old Jailhouse in St. Augustine, Florida.

4. Loved how this gorgeous old Victorian house turned out from St. Augustine, Florida – was lucky to catch the rays just right in this image.

3. The “Painting and Sculpture” exhibit just captured my attention when visiting the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, this year. Very interesting story goes with the sculpture too.

2. I learned how to use the new Mixer Brushes in Photoshop and painted this image from a rose for a “Rally for the Cure” event.

1.  This year I decided to post a Happy New Year image as my Number One favorite image. Maybe not my favorite, but creating this snow globe text effect and droste effect clockface was a lot of fun.

I hope you enjoyed my images. I have tried to be true to my goal of having fun in Photoshop and hope to continue doing this during the coming year. Happy New Year to everyone! Now go have fun playing in Photoshop!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
My Top Ten Photos from 2010


Happy Holidays from Digital Lady Syd!

Since the season is upon us, I have decided to present a few of my favorite holiday creations. For resource and technique details, see information listed at end.

..1..

..2..

..3..

..4..

..5..

..6..

Image Details:
1. Used the tutorial “Christmas Night Magic scene with flying Santa”  for initial direction – very easy to follow and lots of fun to create; Snow images Frozen Landscape and a different Frozen Landscape from Stock.xchng; my own sky Belarusian sky image; Santa sleigh in Christmas Brushes by Fina; Snow Drops brush by Frostbo (my favorite brush for realistic falling snow); BB’s Fogs & Mists brush #3; and the Fonts are  Old Script and an old Cosmi Font I bought years ago called 41. The images were transformed and blended using a layer mask to get the look above. OnOne PhotoFrame Acid Brn Controlled 05 was applied – (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link).
2. Some of my favorite pictures have been made of these beautiful pink and white tulips I bought this year at the grocery store. This image uses three free textures all by Shadowhouse Creations – Aged and Distressed Vintage 1, Oil Painting 3, and Attic Treasures Creative Texture 7. All his textures are beautiful and he has great tutorials on how to combine the many textures. The first texture was added into a layer mask by opening up the texture in it own document, CTRL +A and CTRL+C to select and copy the texture; ALT+Click on the layer mask to make the layer white; and CTRL+V to place the image into the layer mask. The other two textures were added above and a layer was added with the Snow Drops brush by Frostbo.
3. I guess I was really into Santa sleighs this year??? Very simple image that started with the Bright Christmas Texture by Graphix1 where the color was changed into a darkish blue to appear like a night image using a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer; BB’s Fogs & Mists brush #12; my SJ-Cloud brushes; my SJ-Mountain brushes; Snow Drops brush by Frostbo; Santa sleigh in Christmas Brushes by Fina; Moon brush by Hawksmont; Font is Fantaisie Artistique (my favorite); the pattern used on Santa and it’s sleigh was added in the Pattern Overlay using Pattern 23 from Obsidian Dawn’s Grunge and Dirty Patterns; and Bevel and Emboss and Drop Shadow layer styles were added to the text layers. OnOne’s PhotoFrame Dave Cross 01 was added as a border (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link).
4. This image first appeared in my “Free Calendar Template for Use with Elements” blog. The image is the top of the Standard Life building in Jackson, Mississippi. The gradient used is from Gorgeous Gradients – PrimaveraII, and the snow is a very useful snow brush called Snow Drop by Frostbo. The lettering on the building is called Kingsthings Christmas font, the Flying Santa Sleigh is by Fina, the fog was created using Sampled Brush #3 and #12 from Brushes Fogs and Mists, the green Christmas Tree and Icicles are in Obsidian Dawn’s Holiday set, and the icy edges are an OnOne PhotoFrame Taufer Texture 08 frame ((see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link). I have to admit this image was a bit of a challenge but I really liked the final effect.

5. A tutorial called “Glossy Snow Globe Text Effect” was the inspiration for this image. I used the layer styles and brushes from the tutorial along with my SJ-Cloud brushes on a light to darker blue gradient for the background. OnOne PhotoFrame grunge 15 was applied. It is not hard to do, but it takes some time to create the brushes and styles.
6. This image was posted in my “Christmas Card from Digital Lady Syd!” blog which contains all the resources and information for this rather complicated card.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and takes time to enjoy the time with friends and family!…..Digital Lady Syd!


Recycling Those Old Camera Lenses

While cleaning up my office this week, I came across my beloved Pentax K1000 film camera. It really depressed me to realize that I had several wonderful lenses for this camera and that the chances of ever using them again were pretty slim. On a hunch, I did a search on the internet to see if there were any adapters to attach these lens to my Nikon D300 since I knew that most of the old Nikon lenses still work with their digital cameras. (If you have old Nikon lenses and are shooting Nikon digitally, that is really good news as you may not need an adaptor – same goes for Canon.) Well, I was surprised to find that for $40, I could attach these old lenses to my camera – I decided it was worth the expense and here is what I have happily discovered.
…..

Tokina SD 28-70 mm F/3.5-4.5 Zoom and Macro Lens (SZ-X270)


My beautiful pink poinsettia was taken with a Tokina SD 28-70 mm zoom lens, though the metadata does not indicate the aperture size, it was shot manually at F3.5, Shutter speed 1/4000 sec, ISO 200, at 28 mm. For post-processing the pink color and detail was enhanced just a bit on the front part of the leaves using NIK’s Viveza plug-in Photoshop CS5. The Sharpen Tool was used to sharpen just around the leaf edges to make them stand out from the wall, and Layer Styles, white Inner Glow and gray Stroke, were added. That is it. Very little manipulation was needed to get this beautiful plant image. Normally I would have cleaned up some of the background distractions. The point is that this lens and my digital camera produced an excellent sharp image that is as good as any I have taken with my digital lenses.

I found out this lens is considered a really good lens. (See Flickr Group Discussing Tokina SD 28-70 F/3.5-4.5 Macro for more image examples.) I have no idea what I paid for it, but I can understand why I was able to get this sharp a shot after reading about it.
…..

Takumar-A Zoom 1:4 70-200 mm with Tamron-F Tele-Converter 2X


This lens gives a very beautiful result also. This Painted Lady Hibiscus was shot manually at 70 mm at F/5.4, ISO 200, Shutter Speed 1/60 second and -1/2 EV. Since it has a doubler on it, it really was shooting at 140 mm. In Photoshop CS5 a Shadowhouse Creations Texture Clouds and Birds layer was set to Hard Light at 77% opacity and a layer mask was added to painted out texture from the flower. No sharpening or Curves Adjustment Layer were added – this was it.

Now on to the Takumar lens, which applies to any original camera body. It does not get as good ratings as the first lens. This lens is not recommended because it is not SMC (Super Multi Coated). The Photo.Net forum stated: “The non coated Takumars are average lenses. Some SMC Takumars are classics, recommended even today. So, when you see a Tak, look also if it is multi coated.” The Tamron-F 2X Tele-Converter was attached to the lens above. I just realized that to get maximum sharpness, do not use the maximum aperture of the lens. In the image above, a minimum aperture of F/5.4 was used – the camera should have been stopped down two stops to F/11 on the Takumar lens. I will try this on my next efforts.
…..

Takumar 135 mm Lens


This image turned out pretty nice since I was shooting at a window with bright sunshine coming through it. Maybe that is why I like the image. Very little manipulation here – just increased Exposure by 1/2 stop, added a little Clarity (+59) and reduced the  noise by adjusting the Luminance slider to 31 (probably because this lens has not been cleaned in how long?) in Lightroom. In Photoshop only a Curves Adjustment Layer was added to increase contrast just a bit – no sharpening was used all! This lens was set to a f/5.4, not the wide open setting and it seems to get the sharpest edges. Other settings were shutter speed 1/250 sec., ISO 320, and EV 1/2.

This Takumar lens gets a five star rating across the board from various sites, even the older lens from the 1960’s. My husband got this lens back in 1972 and has some great pictures through the years to show for it. Therefore, it seems to be in my best interest to try and use this lens. I am looking forward to taking this lens and shooting a nice nearby landscape such as the ocean. Hopefully I will be able to put this old lens through its paces soon.

Lens Mount Adapter

On the Nikon site, this comment was made about the limitations of using a manual teleconverter: “Some newer lenses can be used with older Nikon manual focus teleconverters with limited compatibility. With a manual teleconverter there would be no autofocus operation, the camera’s internal exposure meter would not be active and only “Manual” exposure mode could be used. Further, there may be vignetting (darkened corners of the photo) in some photos or other image defects.”

For more information on the adapter I purchased, see Fotodiox Lens Mount Adapter.

Conclusion

It was definitely worth the money to buy the adapter and have the option of using these lenses again. There are some limitations since the pictures must all be used on a manual setting. Also note that most newer DSLR cameras will use the Center-Weighted average setting for light metering with these older lenses. If you have some nice lenses from previous film cameras sitting around, check them out on the internet and see if it is worth your money getting an adapter to fit your digital camera. Also, because you are shooting through an adapter and the lens, it may require a larger aperture or slower shutter speed or higher ISO to get the same results as the original film camera prints.

I am also finding it helpful to research at what focal lengths each of the older lenses create the sharpest images. A couple websites I researched gave suggestions for special settings to use in camera to improve the results on a particular lens. Also keep in mind the crop factor of your digital camera (my Nikon D300 has a 1.5 crop factor meaning a 10 mm lens will shoot at 15 mm due to the crop factor) which essentially crops around the edge of what you are seeing in the viewfinder so you do not get as much in your photo as what you are seeing. A good explanation of this is in the Digital Photography School “Crop Factor Explained” article, and they give some of the factors for popular cameras here – this is an important issue to understand especially when looking through these older lenses.

Recycling these old lenses is a great way to expand your lens collection without spending much to do it. My impression is that many people are buying these older lenses at incredibly cheap prices so they can shoot very sharp images for a fraction of the cost of buying all the new auto focus, vibration reduction, expensive lenses. I believe a couple of my older lenses are comparable if not better than what I am shooting digitally since I do not own the really expensive lenses so many professionals use.

Go give yourself an early present and try out those old lenses – you might be surprised how good they are!…..Digital Lady Syd


That Flaming Fire Brush!

I admit it – I have certain people that I think are brilliant when it comes to Photoshop creativity – one is the totally awesome Russell Brown and another one is NAPP guy, Corey Barker. They never let you down when it some to discovering new things to do in Photoshop. This week I listened to this short video on Corey’s website, Planet Photoshop, called “Creating Exploding Brushes.”  This first image basically looks very similar to Corey’s but I loved the effect. The cloud brush created in the tutorial was used as the background texture – I used my SJ-Cloud Brushes Set Cloud 4 brush. You may download my SJ-Firebrush used for all these images.

This image uses BB Brushes and Mists Sampled Brush 3 to add a fog feel behind the cloud of flames created in this image. This silhouette is from a set called People Silhouettes by redheadstock at deviantArt. A grunge effect was added with OnOne PhotoFrames (see website link on sidebar of my Tidbits Blog).

First used the Gradient Tool to create a radial gradient using Graphix 1’s Muted 6 gradient. Next two different palm trees brushes by Midnightstouch were added. Char Ultimate Grass Brushes and Obsidian Dawn’s Grasses & Plants Brush No. 9 were used.  My Firebrush was used to make a background texture, without the layer style used to create the fire effect. A little Warp Tool on the brushes and that was it for this image.

I started this image by painting a sky with the Photoshop chalk brush using a color I really like for skies (#c2d0d8). A tree from MelBrushes Winter Trees and Falln-Brushes Tree Brushes Set 2 (Dead Tree 1) from deviantArt were added. The tree leaves and the bushes were created using the SJ-Firebrush by just dabbing a bit on the leaves with small size of brush and using a couple different hues – can always a add Layer Mask to trees to hide some of the branches. Also the foreground was created using the Firebrush and the bush, from The Grasslands set by Midnightstouch at deviantArt. The birds are from Obsidian Dawn’s Bird Flying Group. Put a frame on it and it is done. All very easy to do and lots of fun!

This image was created using two of Caleb Kimbrough’s fabulous free textures, Summer texture 4 and Subtle Grunge Example 3. I used my SJ-Soft Blending Brush to create the flower stems and the SJ-FireBrush at a small size to create the flowers. I used Nik’s Color Efex Pro Graduated User Defined filter using a reddish hue for the sky and a Vignette Frame from OnOne PhotoFrame (see website link on sidebar of my Tidbits Blog).

This turned out be just sort of a fun blog – wanted to show that if you get an interesting brush to play with, you can get some really cool effects and it is a lot fun. Experiment! (Digital Lady Syd’s Rule No. 1) You can get some surprising results!…..Digital Lady Syd


My Valentine Images

I found a blog by Heather Angel at Pixiq called “Natures Valentines” that inspired me to think about what images of mine were valentine-like in feeling.  Not surprisingly, they are flowers.  I love to photograph and paint flowers.  So for this blog I am just going to post what I consider “My Valentine Images.”

I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!…..Digital Lady Syd


Shooting a Lunar Eclipse

I wanted to write about this last month, but being that it was so crazy with Christmas coming so soon after the December 21st eclipse, I did not have time to post about it. This was my first try at shooting an eclipse.  Here is the image that I took:
The Total Eclipse of the Moon
This image was taken near Daytona Beach, Florida from my backyard.  The weather was cool outside and the atmosphere very clear.  If you look at the diagram from Mr. Eclipse, it was taken just slightly past mid-eclipse time (3:17 AM).   To start with, there is no way to photograph an eclipse without a tripod – and a remote cord is also very helpful.  I used an AF-S Nikkor 70-300 mm 1:4.5-5.6 G lens set to aperture priority mode at F/5.6, 300mm focal length, and ISO 1600, with a resulting shutter speed of 2.0 sec.  Digital Photography School ran an article that I used for a starting place.  I believe some cameras can use the recommended settings using ISO 100 and F/11 or smaller but I could not get my Nikon D300 camera to take an image anywhere near these settings.  Therefore, I was left with a little trial and error to figure out what would work.  I tried several different F stops and ISO settings, but my camera would not take the shot with less than what I used, especially as the eclipse got closer to total.  I was able to go out and take a few shots, and then download them into the computer to see what results were working best for me.  That is how I determined that F/5.6 and ISO 1600 worked the best.  My post- processing in Lightroom involved adding  just a little HSL Luminance color enhancement with the oranges and a small amount of  Clarity.  Also, thank goodness for Lightroom’s improved  Noise Reduction panel and Luminance slider where I could clean up a lot of the noise created by using ISO 1600.  In Photoshop I only used a small Curves adjustment layer for contrast and the text.

I liked my results even though I saw posted many other images using bigger and better cameras and lenses. I believe that half the fun is just trying something new that you have never done before. It was also interesting to see what the limits of your camera really are in unusual circumstances.

Below is an image taken at 2:31 AM – the moon is still pretty bright having just started eclipsing and Orion is low in the west sky.  This was taken with my AF-S Nikkor 10-24 mm 1:3.4-4.5G ED wide angle lens set to aperture mode F/4.8 at 18 mm focal length, 4 sec exposure, and ISO 1600. 
I am linking to some fabulous photos of the eclipse from the National Geographic website. Here is a link to the Bad Astronomer’s blog from 12/19/10 which has a good explanation of what actually happens during an eclipse. He links to Sky and Telescope’s excellent minute by minute description of what happened during this eclipse. I am adding another post by the Bad Astronomer blog of 12/30/10 which shows a really nice lunar image with the International Space Station leaving a shadow on the surface of the Moon as it passed by earlier in the same evening.   Today’s blog had a similar image with the Solar Eclipse from earlier today in Oman.  The Bad Astronomer tweeted that many people thought the ISS looks like a Star Wars TIE Fighter.

For some interesting trivia on this particular eclipse I have quoted the NASA website: “This lunar eclipse falls on the date of the northern winter solstice. How rare is that? Total lunar eclipses in northern winter are fairly common. There have been three of them in the past ten years alone. A lunar eclipse smack-dab on the date of the solstice, however, is unusual. Geoff Chester of the US Naval Observatory inspected a list of eclipses going back 2000 years. “Since Year 1, I can only find one previous instance of an eclipse matching the same calendar date as the solstice, and that is 1638 DEC 21,” says Chester. “Fortunately we won’t have to wait 372 years for the next one…that will be on 2094 DEC 21.”  That is a pretty cool statistic!…..Digital Lady Syd


My Top Ten Photos from 2010

So after talking with my son Chris who says that the last blog of the year should be an overview of the year, and since I have only been blogging a little over a month, I decided to do a post about my favorite images from last year.  After reading an article posted recently by Mark McGuinness at 99% called “Why Your Inner Critic is Your Best Friend“, it started me me thinking about what things have I created or processed that I really liked.  This is probably a good idea for everyone to do since it makes you think about the progress you had made in your craft during the year and what things just did not work out right.  I might add this requires using your inner critic to determine this.  So here we go with “My 10 Top Photos of the Year!”

10. I like this image because of the colors and because I used two new programs, Flame Painter and LiveBrush to create it. This was a lot of fun to make.

9.  My nature pick was this great group of Wood Storks taken on the golf course in November. I call this “The Family Portrait.” I used a Gitzo tripod with a Really Right Stuff ballhead.


8. Had to add a Disney World photo taken in the Magic Kingdom in March. This is one of the best places to take pictures. These little guys are the LGM’s (Little Green Men) from Toy Story.

7. The Wedding Collage was taken at our oldest son’s wedding in March. My first attempt at using Professor Kobre’s Light Scoop with my pop up flash, and then I placed the resulting images into the AutoCollage 2008 program from Microsoft. I loved the final results of the collage.


6. This image is of the old Ormond Yacht Club (circa 1910) in Ormond Beach in February. It was one of my first wide angle images I took with my Nikkor 10-24mm lens. The sky was gorgeous that day!

5. This HDR image was taken in the Bahamas at the Grabbers Restaurant on Great Guana Cay taken in June. One of my favorite spots on the Cay. It was processed using PhotoMatix Pro.

4. Had a fabulous trip to Maui in September. View was taken from the 31st floor at the Ka’anapali Beach Club.

3. The Houses on the Water at Green Turtle Cay in June at the Bahamas. I used a texture to give a painterly look.

2. A lovely Hibiscus from Hawaii in Sept. Applied an Eddie Tapp technique called Cookie Lighting in Photoshop.

1. My favorite image from 2010 is one I took from our sailboat while crossing the ocean to Great Sale Cay in the Bahamas. The clouds and the solitude really represent how beautiful and peaceful it was while sailing during the trip.

I have enjoyed going through all my images from last year and critically thinking about each – I am finding the ones I like are not necessarily the ones that were the most popular. Try this and you may be surprised to find the same results!…..Digital Lady Syd