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Posts tagged “Don Smith

Digital Landscape Effects with Nik Software

I have always loved Nik products. This week I decided to follow a digital workflow by a wonderful landscape artist who posted on Nik’s website a video called “Incorporating Nik Software into your Daily Workflow with Don Smith.” His blog is called Nature’s Best by Don Smith Photography if you would like more information on this great photographer.


The image of Oahu in Hawaii is an example of how Mr. Smith uses Nik software in his workflow. His basic premise is that you have to have a plan how you want to fix a landscape. The following steps indicate how the images in this blog were created using Photoshop and Nik plug-ins.

  1. Crop and do a basic exposure adjustment in Lightroom or ACR – the image will appear a little flat in Photoshop.
  2. Look critically at image and decide what needs to be fixed. Check out the sky for noise, the foreground, middle ground and background for areas that need to be color corrected. Look at the shadows and highlights in image.
  3. Open up the Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0 plug-in and select the Tonal Contrast Effect. Just the default setting can make an image look much better. Move the Midtones slider – if it looks too harsh, move slider to the left a little. To keep other areas like the sky from being affected by this change, put a minus U-point in a couple places in the sky to protect the area and set the opacity to 0. (Click Alt on U-point to duplicate the one set down and drag to move.) When finished, click the OK button to go back into Photoshop.
  4. If part of the image needs some additional contrast, open the Nik Viveza plug-in (a powerful plug-in to selectively control color and light in your photographs) and set a U-point in that area. (This can be done in Photoshop using a Curves or Levels Adjustment Layer, but it is harder since layer masks need to be utilized.) Whatever is under that point will be affected by the adjustment sliders in the circle created. Just the Brightness slider may be all that is needed to darken the area a bit. This can be done a global basis if the whole image needs some change. Click OK and go back to Photoshop.
  5. Next go back and apply Nik Color Efex Pro Brilliance and Warmth. I created a Good Basic Setting preset that I use on almost all my images and is very similar to what Mr. Smith uses. I set Brilliance at 62% and Warmth at 57%.
  6. Now sharpen image. I usually just duplicate the image and apply a High Pass filter set to Soft Blend or Hard Blend mode. If it is overly sharpened, use a layer mask and paint out where it is too sharp or if the whole image is too sharp, just lower the layer opacity. Nik Sharpener Pro is a good plug-in that I do not own.
  7. If there is noise in the image, Nik Dfine 2.0 Noise can be used. Since I do not own this plug-in, I go back into ACR using Dr. Brown’s ACR script and clean up the noise in the Detail-Noise Reduction panel – adjust the Luminance and Detail sliders. (See my Fun Photoshop Blog “Edit Layers with ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) Script on how to do this.”) This does a great job of getting rid of the noise.

This image is of Iolani Palace State Monument in the middle of Honolulu, Hawaii on Oahu. It is another example of following the steps above pretty closely, except I did used Nik Viveza twice – once to tone down the green foreground color but leaving the palm trees the bright green; then back in to give the sky a little more blue tone. This was done before sharpening and noise reduction.

Cloud Brushes, some pretty fluffy clouds were also painted in. A composite layer was made above (ALT+SHIFT+CTRL+E) and then the workflow was followed. I did use Viveza to increase the contrast on the bat and the roof areas only.


For another example of this workflow, see my Tidbits blog, “Straightening with Puppet Warp,” where these steps were followed after the puppet warp effect was applied.

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Nik has come out with a new version of Color Efex Pro (NIK Color Efex Pro 4 – Digital Lady Syd’s Review!). I am looking forward to trying out their new effects since they have done such a wonderful job with all their plug-ins. I can honestly say they are the fastest plug-ins to apply and my computer never has a problem processing them when added to an image. That in itself is a great feature since most plug-ins are so RAM hungry. If you have not tried out the Nik products, definitely download their trial versions, especial Color Efex Pro. There are so many things you can do with just this one plug-in that it is amazing. Try them out – you will not be disappointed!…..Digital Lady Syd

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