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UPDATED CLARITY NOW IN TOPAZ STUDIO

Image of a Tri-colored Heron at the St. Augustine Alligator FarmThis week Topaz released an update to their very popular Clarity plug-in and it is a really nice upgrade. It is now much improved over an already excellent filter that is one of the best Photoshop plug-ins around. The Heron above was not processed very  much in Lightroom, all in Clarity Topaz Studio and a little in Nik Viveza to adjust the light on the birds head and wing tip. Before going any further, please be aware that Topaz is not going to update the actual Topaz Labs version if you own it. Instead it will be updated in Studio (to download go to my Tidbits Blog sidebar and for more info check out my see my Introducing the Free Topaz Studio blog) before adding the Clarity update. If you have Studio already running, just go to the website to find the Clarity update by clicking this link. Topaz does a great job of walking you through this new process on the Topaz Studio website. So what is so different?

It is all in the Clarity Interface. In Photoshop, the new Clarity update will now be linked as Clarity in Topaz Studio (Filters -> Topaz Studio -> Clarity) instead of in the regular Topaz Labs individual plug-ins. By selecting Clarity, an interface very similar to Topaz Studio will appear that contains two adjustments, Precision Control and HSL Color Tuning. See image below for an example of the bird as it looked in Clarity for Studio (click to see large view Flickr). Screenshot of Precision Contrast section in Clarity for Topaz Studio

Precision Contrast Adjustment

As you can see the Clarity Dynamics section from the Topaz Labs Clarity plug-in is now called the Precision Control Adjustment. The Contrast section contains the original Micro, Low, Medium and High Contrast sliders but the website says they are now much improved – I believe they are after using the update on the bird image. Some of the feathers on the bird are crazy sharp! The Lighting section sliders are better at detecting the Shadows, Midtones and Highlights – these appear to be derived from the original Toning Section Black Level, Midtones, and White Levels sliders. Also there are Equalization buttons (low, medium, or high) which are supposed to emulate the Region technology in Topaz Adjust. I have not fully explored this. The Preset drop-down has several choices for setting up these sliders (Balance, Brighter, Brightness, Color Detail, Color Boost, Details, HDR, Little Things, Reduce Shadows, Saturation Boost, and Sharp). This image shows settings for the Color Detail preset. There are also presets on the left side which I did not use for this image. All your original Clarity presets are migrated over. Unfortunately at this time there are no subcategories so one long list of presets occurs – I cannot seem to figure out a logical order to them and my personal presets are all over the place. The good news is that there is a field for searching for your presets if you can remember what you named them. Hopefully Topaz will address this situation in a future update.

HSL Color Tuning Adjustment

The second part of the original Clarity was called Hue/Sat/Lum and now is called HSL Color Tuning. Not a lot different other than each color has individual sliders where the color is shown in the image, and a Gray Color is available. Also some presets are in a drop-down (Extreme Hue I and II, Increase Cool, Increase Warm, Red Cool, Red Warm, Subtle Hue I and II). Three new sliders have been added: Details (to help recover detail lost from increasing the brightness of the different color or whole image), Suppress Artifacts (to remove rough and unnatural edges and helps reduce artifacts to reduce detail), and Color Sensitivity (set higher to add saturation in the whites and grays in surrounding image). Not sure I understand how these setting work exactly yet, but the website does a good job of telling what they do.

By using the Studio interface, each adjustment can be masked, different blend modes applied, and opacity adjusted. So there really is  a major benefit to using the upgraded version in Clarity for Studio. In the screenshot below, you can see the Precision Control mask created for this image. I did not want the background to appear crisp, so by clicking on the plus sign on the upper right of the adjustment, a layer mask is opened. I inverted it and used the Brush tool to just paint back the bird. The brush tool has really been improved – it does not crash my system if too many strokes are made too quickly.
Screenshot of Layer Mask in Precision Contrast Adjustment in Clarity for StudioTwo HSL Color Tuning Adjustments were used: One to change the green color in the upper right corner (a layer mask was used to localize the color change), and one to emphasize the Red, Green and Blue colors, and adjust the Details, Suppress Artifacts and Color Sensitivity sliders. See screen shot below.
HSL Color Tuning Adjustments in updated Clarity in Topaz StudioIf you bought the Pro Adjustments pack from Topaz Studio, the Clarity updated sliders will also be in the Precision Contrast and HSL Color Tuning adjustments in Topaz Studio. If using the stand alone version of Topaz Studio, I do not see at this time a specific link to the Clarity for Studio update in the menu for those who previously owned Topaz Labs Clarity. I believe the two Adjustments will just be added to the regular Topaz Studio interface. Note that you can still reach the original Topaz Labs Clarity plug-in (and all your other plug-ins) in both the stand-alone version and the Photoshop Filter version by going to the Plug-ins in the top options menu of either Clarity for Studio or the Topaz Studio interfaces. Image of Holyrood Castle carvingsThe image above is from Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Clarity in Studio did a great job on the detail of the stone carvings. A Dodge and Burn 50% gray layer was added to finish up, but Clarity did most of the detail work in this image. It also does a great job on landscapes so give that a try too. Below is a house located in the Scottish Highland and is probably a little over the top with processing, but I like the almost illustrative artsy effect. Instead of using the HSL Color Tuning Adjustment, the Dehaze Adjustment from the Pro pack was used to make the tree colors sharper – a preset was made in the Community called SJ Clarity PC with Dehaze that you can download to try out the settings. Then I also added one of my favorite Topaz plug-ins, Detail 3, and set the Med Detail to 0.38, Large Detail to 0.15 and Tone Contrast to 0.30 set to 59% layer opacity. That was about it. The combination of Clarity and Detail is one I actually use quite a bit when I want this type of look.
Image of a Scottish Highland mansionIt appears that Topaz will now be using the Topaz Studio as the location for all upgrades to their plug-ins that are currently linked in Photoshop as Filter -> Topaz Labs -> Topaz (plug-in name).  I know Topaz is one of the best software groups around and they will answer any questions you have if there is a problem with the upgrade. It took me a while to figure out how to add the upgrade. And I did have to update my video card after loading it as all the sliders disappeared. Topaz suggested on their website to try this if there are problems and gave you a step-by-step guide to follow. I hope you will all enjoy this update. I am finding it to have wonderful results. Hope you get a chance to give it a whirl this week!…..Digital Lady Syd

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MORE SUMMER FUN

Image of a Gondola at the Alcazar Hotel in St. AugustineThis week just continuing with my playing in Photoshop – great time to enjoy it when it is so hot outside. Not sure how I came up with the Gondola at the Alcazar Hotel (Lightner Museum) in St. Augustine, Florida, but it happened. What actually happened is that I really liked the wrought-iron lights in the image – taken in noon sunlight on the hottest day – so that is how this all started.

Content-Aware Crop Tool – The image needed to be expanded to the right to make it look balanced in my eyes so the Crop Tool was selected. By stretching the outline outside the boundaries of the image and checking Content Aware, PS attempts to fill out the blank area. This turned out to look a lot like the building set to a smaller size and reversed, so that is what is shown here. Some clean up had to be done, but it is definitely something to explore if a creative element is needed for filling in your image size. And remember that if you do not like the results, just rerun the Crop Tool and a different result should happen.

The result made me think about adding Flaming Pear’s Flood filter, which is one of my favorite plug-ins of all time. And regarding the fact that these old filters will not work in your current PS – my version of this filter has been around forever and works just fine, although the link is to a newer version now available. So do not get rid of your Nik filters just yet – they may last a long time. Back to the Flood filter – I have yet to run into a filter that gives this perfect water look yet – in this case it was set to for smooth water with quite a bit of reflection. A beautiful texture by French Kiss (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) called Atelier Anemone was placed on top and set to Multiply blend mode at 47% layer opacity. A gondola seemed to be needed to create the story for the image so I just found an old gondola image and sketched out the boat and a person. Then painted in the drawing created from the image using a brush called Scraggly Brush (Charcoal Large Smear) by Kristen Palana from a fun short class at Udemy called Quick and Easy Digital Painting. The gondola and man were not supposed to look too realistic but more painterly. The little stars were from Media Militia Particle 018 brush. On a New Layer filled with 50% gray and set to overlay, black and white brushes were painted on the layer to dodge and burn the image. Next Kim Klassen’s Pumpkin Grunge texture (you can actually still download a low res version if you click the “HERE” in the text) was applied, set to Hard Light blend mode at 18% layer opacity. This is a really nice texture to add – for some reason the bright red-orange gives an interesting result. On a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Nik Viveza 2 was used to adjust the lighting just right in the image. A border was added and color adjusted using a Curves Adjustment Layer. Lots of other adjustments layers were added to adjust several of the layers throughout the image. Just clip (ALT+clip between the layers) them to the different layers if you want only one layer adjusted.

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Image of a butterfly on a flowerThis image is of a Monarch Butterfly that was extracted from my front yard image and placed in this fantasy garden.  GrutBrushes has a wonderful background paper called Dee Print that was placed as the background for this image. Then two beautiful brushes by ninelvlsup at DeviantArt called windflower and dandelion whisps were used for the background elements. The Warp Filter (CTLR+T, then Warp in Options Bar) and layer masks were used to get the effects needed on these elements. Aaron Blaise’s Canvas Texture Brush 46 32 was used to get the flower center texture. One of Sebastian Michael’s edges was used for the frame. 2 Lil Owl’s Workshop Texture 1 which has the star pattern in it was placed on top and only inside the frame, then set to Linear Burn blend mode at 66% layer opacity. On a stamped layer Nik Viveza 2 was used to even out the distribution of color and tones. Topaz (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) ReStyle set to the Zinneas preset was applied and set to 35% layer opacity. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was used to get this final color palette. Lots of adjustments layers again throughout the image to get the final effect. Lots of fun here!

Not sure there is a lot new here other than the Crop Tool which turned out to give an interest effect. I actually tried it on another image and got another interesting result so give it a try. And do not forget Topaz ReStyle if you own it, it can really give an image a whole different feel – another of my favorite plug-ins! Hope everyone is having a great end of summer – I know I am, although a little cooler weather would be nice……Digital Lady Syd


NOW AVAILABLE – FREE BETA VERSION OF MACPHUN’S LUMINAR FOR WINDOWS

Painted image of a sailboat on a rough seaThis week I discovered that Macphun’s Luminar software has a free Beta release for us PC Windows 10 users to try out. (Click here to get the Beta download – they will quickly send you an E-mail to unlock the program once you submit a request.) You Mac people have been enjoying this stand-alone and plug-in for PS and LR for a while now, but this is great news for us PC folks. I just put it on my computer a couple days ago and am really enjoying it. Lots of new things to explore! It is only available for Windows as a stand-alone version right now, but a lot of the Mac functionality has been added to get some interesting results. I am finding this program very useful for getting a “pop” out of an image, and the canned presets are a great place to start.

My ocean image above was my first attempt at using this plug-in – and yes, the original painting was done in PS and Corel Painter and it was also finished up in PS. But the really beautiful overall effect (that pop I was looking for) was created in Luminar. It is fun to just try out the over 50 custom presets on an image, and there are also 30 individual filter effects with all kinds of sliders. This gives you quite a few options for getting some very different effects and pretty quickly. A lot of the filters were designed to emulate several of the now old Nik Color Efex Pro4 filters. Google is no longer updating their Nik plug-ins which means as operating systems and software get upgraded, they may no longer work – currently I am not having any problems with them. Many of the past Nik software engineers now work at Macphun. In fact if you are a member of KelbyOne, Scott Kelby’s training videos called How to Use Macphun’s Luminar Plugin for Lightroom and Photoshop help you set up some of the favorite Nik filters in Luminar. 
Screenshot of Luminar Interface
As you can see in the screenshot (click to see larger in Flickr), the filters applied for this image are in the right panel and the presets are in the film strip below –  the preset highlighted is one I created containing the right side filter settings. And notice the Dramatic filter (the cut-off last two settings were Brightness 3 and Saturation -25) which is very similar to the Bleach Bypass filter in Color Efex Pro4 for example.

The biggest drawback is that it is only a stand-alone program for Windows. Here is the work-around to use the Luminar image as a layer in Photoshop. For a full workflow on how the top image was created, see section below.

  1. Create a stamped layer on top in PS (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E).
  2. Duplicate this layer by doing this: Layers -> Duplicate and in the drop-down, select New and create a New Document.
  3. Save this file as either a PSD or a JPG – both will open as an image in Luminar.
  4. Open Luminar and do your changes – then Export as a JPG by clicking on the little box with the arrow going up (2nd icon over on top).
  5. Now add this JPG file into the original Photoshop file. I like to use the Bridge (File -> Open -> Place -> In Photoshop or right click and choose Place) to do this and it adds it right into the original file. From Photoshop go to File -> Place Embedded or can just open the Luminar JPG file in PS and drag over as a layer or go to Layers -> Duplicate and in the drop-down select the original file. Once combined, a Layer Mask, Blend Modes and Opacity can be added or changed on the layer.

I know this is a bit of a bother, but until the Windows version is released, which is scheduled for the end of November, this is what needs to be done. There are also several items missing in this version that can be frustrating – but remember this is just a Beta version. One of the big issues for me is that the individual filters cannot be turned on and off  to see the resulting effect – must go into the history icon (8th icon on top) and click back and forth to see the change it created – or each filter can be put on different Luminar layers so the whole layer can be turned on and off.  For each Luminar layer several filters can be added to it without creating a new  layer. Also, blend modes are missing for use with their filters and layers, which makes the Texture Overlay filter very hard to use right now. The image can only be exported as a JPG which is okay if you are just going to take it into PS to do more adjusting. The Mac version allows importing and exporting from Lightroom as a PSD file and as a layer in PS. There are several tools that will be added with the release including the Eraser, Denoise, Transform, Clone and Stamp, and Radial Gradient. Also Mask Feather, Mask Density, and Luminosity Masks will be added. Masks can be applied to both the individual filters and each layer if the Brush Tool is selected – I found this was a little tricky to do.

Ocean Image Example Workflow

The above image was created using one of my Corel Painter backgrounds (that did not look near this dramatic), Graphic Fairy’s Vintage Blue Boats Picture, and a brush called Tsaoshin Full Brushes Set – lightning brush 200. One of my vertical light leaks was added on the right side of the image and set to 52% opacity. (I created 5 different sizes and colors that I use all the time – can use a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer clipped to the leak layer to change the color and Free Transform (CTLR+T) to line up in image. See my How to Create Light Leaks to Use Over Again blog.) At this point a composite layer was created on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and taken into Luminar where the Sharp and Crisp Luminar preset was initially selected – it contained the Dramatic, Details Enhancer, Advanced Contrast and Sharpening filters all on Layer 0 and can be individually adjusted to your image. On a second layer the Accent AI Enhancer filter was added which contains a Boost slider – this is one of the newest and possibly best filters added in both Mac and Windows versions of the software. The Boost slider is their “Artificial Intelligence” slider and works wonders on almost any image! If it is too much in certain areas, the Gradient Tool or a Brush can be used on a mask to remove the effect. Now saved the image as a JPG. Back in the original PS, this JPG was placed back into the original using Adobe Bridge. In PS just a little clean up and masking was done where the sails looked a little too crisp. Last step, Matt K’s vignette was created and set to Multiply at 15% layer opacity. (See my How to Create a Subtle Vignette blog for how to do this.)Image of an Edinburgh StreetFor the Edinburgh Street image above, no preset was selected, but just started adding effects until I found some I liked – the Dramatic and Adjustable Gradient filters were selected. Bottom line is that the program is a little quirky still – I got it to crash once and when using the brush in the layer  masks, got some really weird artifacts so expect this. But overall it is a lot of fun to try out and see what Macphun has created. Hope you get a change to load the software and see what you think.  Have a good week!…..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


HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

Image of a Cape Griffon Vulture Mom and Baby at the St. Augustine Alligator FarmWhile visiting the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Rookery, I decided to take a spin around some of their other exhibits and see what was going on. In fact that is where the An Army Tortoise Tidbits Blog image started. Well not only are the Florida birds having babies, but so are some other bird inhabitants, the Vultures – in fact there were two chicks born in recent months.  Above is a wonderful Cape Griffon Vulture baby boy chick born on March 4th.  For some reason he is being raised by a foster mom (Sefara as seen in the image) and foster dad (Kwa) – I can honestly say they keep all the other birds away from him. He is only one of four hatched chicks in North America and all were born here. Below is a family portrait of the Hooded Vulture chick with her family. This baby was very quiet and I could hardly see her in my camera, but apparently she had spotted me. This baby girl was born on February 24rd and is sitting with her parents Ashaki and Bosco (the adult bird that acts a lot like her mother). It looks like the dad is wearing a tux quietly in the background!  Both vulture species are on the Endangered Species list. Lots of noise going on in this exhibit!
Enough about the birds – they are just so fascinating! Not a lot was done to the Cape Griffon Vulture image other than my overall workflow with a pretty good dose of Topaz (for website link, see sidebar in my Tidbits Blog) Detail 3 to pop those feathers just a little. (Here are the settings used – apply to images that are a little soft in places, especially on birds and their feathers: Small Details 0.60, Small Details Boost 0.12, Med Details 0.22, Med Details Boost 0.22, Large Details -0.02, Large Details Boost -0.08. I called this preset SJ Add Detail. Add a black layer mask (click in white mask and press CTRL+I) to the layer after exiting out of the plug-in and just paint back where needed in the image. Use a large low opacity brush like 20% and build up the effect to make it look natural; use a smaller brush on dark lines that need to be more emphasized. It is easy to overdo this so try adjusting the layer opacity to reduce the effect.) Used a couple Exposure Adjustment Layers on the eyes and beaks (see my How to Do a Quick Eye Sharpening in Photoshop blog), and Nik Viveza 2 to adjust the focus more onto the chick and less on the Mom. Used Matt Kloskowski’s subtle vignette (see my How to Create a Subtle Vignette blog). A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was used to emphasize just a couple colors in the image, keeping it mainly in a light sepia tone. Birds can be tricky when shooting – it seems like they are perfectly still, but they actually are moving a little bit of a wing or foot or something. When you get ready to process their images, it is easy to see. Birds are pretty amazing and agile.

For the Hooded Vulture Family portrait below, pretty much the same work process but without the desaturating effect. This image was actually not as good since they were way off to the side and I had to do a massive crop. Not much of the Topaz Detail 3 plugin effect was added into this image – just in a few places like with the dark area of the back bird and a few of the Mom’s  bird feathers.
Image of a Hooded Vulture Family with the chick at the St. Augustine Alligator FarmWell hope everyone is celebrating a great Mother’s Day or at least giving your Mom’s a call! We only get one day a year to enjoy the kids we are so proud of, just like the Cape Griffon Vulture and Hooded Vulture Moms!…..Digital Lady Syd


SOME WATERCOLOR FUN!

View from Stirling Castle in ScotlandJust another quick post to pass on a pretty nifty short tutorial that Chris Spooner at Spoon Graphics posted this week. It is called How to Create a Water Painting Effect in Photoshop and it was pretty easy to follow. I have tried it out on a couple different images using different paper, painting brushes, and a few different filters after applying the ones he suggested. Since a Smart Object is created to get the base effect, images can be swapped out without changing the rest of the set up or border once created.

This image is one I took from Stirling Castle in Scotland. After applying the filters and adding a layer mask, a border was created using the McBad Brush 30 that Chris links to in his post for creating the watercolor effect border. In the Brush Panel, try changing the Shape Dynamics Angle Jitter of the brush to something pretty high like 70% to get some nice edge work on the border. For this image, a stamped (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) layer (with the Paper border layer turned off) was created on top of the layers but underneath the border paper. Topaz (for website link, see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Impression 2’s Abstract Settings-Blake Rudis preset was applied and set to, of all things, Division blend mode at 0.50 opacity. It gave the image more of an overall watercolor effect. I think many of the Impression presets would work well with this technique. A New Layer was added and using Grut I Dusty Covet Brush, lines around the tops of the buildings were sketched in to add a bit of realism and definition to the roofs – then lowered the layer opacity to 80%. On another stamped layer (with the paper layer off) Topaz ReStyle was applied – this time I had a preset created a while ago, but there were probably 20 presets that looked good on it. It seemed to even out the colors that in the final image. To give the image a real watercolor look, Grut’s W Mud Puddle Watercolor Brush was used to extend out the edges of the image into the border with strokes and paint in some solid roof colors and tree areas. As a side note, Nicolai at GrutBrushes has some really good things going at his brush site: a free brush every week (I definitely take advantage of this as different media brushes are presented), a free Photoshop Brushes Sampler with lots of nice brushes and a free Watercolor Brush called Cherry Pectin that is also in the sampler. The Cherry Pectin brush would have worked great for painting border edges also. I think this made a huge difference from the slightly canned look the original tutorial supplied. The image was way too vivid for my taste as a watercolor, so a New Layer was filled with white above and set to 16% layer opacity to calm it down a bit. The last step was to add Nik Viveza 2 to draw the eye to the orange buildings in the lower left corner and the painted bridge.

Well, still taking it easy but wanted to share – hope you get a chance to try out this technique. Chris Spooner has several nice tutorials on his site you might also like. Later…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How to Get Painting Effects from Actions-Part 1
A Little Watercolor Fun


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