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Posts tagged “Nik Viveza

DIGITAL LADY SYD REVIEWS PERFECTLY CLEAR

Scenic image from Guana Cay in the Outer Banks in the Bahamas
I finally purchased Perfectly Clear – had the free plugin but never the whole program. It takes a very different direction from the regular Photoshop plugins like Nik, Luminar, OnOne and Topaz Studio. I think that is one reason I have not been sure what to think about the program. I ran the it (along with some of the other plugins for comparing) on some of my pix to see what results it gave. The Bahamas Guana Cay image above is an example of using Perfectly Clear. Their website says there are 175+ Tools, Features and Presets. Several tutorials on how to use the product are at the website. And if you get stuck, click on a Question Mark in the interface and the website opens for more information since no software manual is available.

The major difference between this plugin and the others is that it is mostly preset and slider driven and no masking is available to remove parts of the effect. If you want to do a quicker type of post-processing, this is the program. What is also very different to me is that it seems to correct the Exposure using the Intelligent Auto preset when the image is first opened into the program and before any settings have been changed. Normally I would say this is a bad thing, but it usually makes the image look better right away. The preset can be changed quickly by just selecting other presets or adjusting the individual sliders in the Tone section. One tip is that by hovering over each of the presets at the top, different descriptions on what type of image to use it on are presented – very handy.

What I Do Like about Perfectly Clear

    1. This program has several very different sliders – I am sure they are similar to sliders in the other programs, but the interface makes it very easy to see where to make your adjustments. Below is a screenshot of the settings used on the image above. (Click on Screenshot to see settings larger in Flickr.)

      Screenshot of Perfectly Clear settings for Bahamas image

      For example one of my favorite sliders is located in the Preprocessing section and is called Image Ambulance. I believe this was in their earlier versions, but it is new to me. What it does is act and look like an Exposure Compensation button on your camera. How cool is this? My image ‘s EV can be adjusted very quickly if it needs just a slight change. I really like the visual effect of this slider. Also check out the Color section’s Color ReStore which adds richness to the blacks and a Fidelity slider which gives accurate colors in the image.
    2. It has an overall Strength slider at the top and when reduced (or increased), all the sliders applied move in their proportional amounts. It does seem to use Smart Objects so the sliders can be readjusted easily.
    3. The Portrait section is very unique and very good. I have tried this on a couple images – see my model below with a cinematic effect added. Luminar 4 and On1 both have many similar sliders – each of their sliders vary somewhat – but Perfectly Clear’s portrait sections are a little different. The Makeup section is really nice. There is even a Catchlight slider for the eyes with 5 different types to apply. Skin Correction section has different presets like Blemish Removal and Shine Removal. The slider settings for Perfectly Clear are shown under the model’s image to give you a chance to see what they look like (click on Screenshot for larger view in Flickr). I am not a retoucher so there are some areas that need a little more work. Photoshop was used to even out the coloring with Nik Viveza – really helped me with the arm skin tone. Overall the results were very good with the adjustments Perfectly Clear provided.


Cinematic Effect on an image of a model


Screenshot of Perfectly Clear's portrait filters

What I Don’t Like about Perfectly Clear

  1. No Masking capability in the program. The effect is applied to either the whole image or not at all, except where the portrait sections are being used. And there is no layer capability which would help in this regard. One trick I did learn is that you can select just a portion of your image in PS and then take it into Perfectly Clear to work on just that portion of the image.
  2. Would like to add all my personal Color Lookup (LUT) files to the program. They sell a lot of them if looking for a particular style but are fairly expensive.
  3. I have not figured out how to reset all the sliders if I do not the like the original results – not sure it is an option since the program is preset run basically. Still it would be nice just to start from scratch. You can save out your own preset which is great if you do find settings you like.
  4. Has limited options – great for people who just want to pop in and adjust a few things but I like to adjust things in different ways and that is hard to do. And there are not  many creative type filters like Topaz is known for – pretty much standard filters here.


Image taken at Iolani Palace State Monument

This image of the grounds at Iolani Palace State Monument in Oahu, Hawaii, also used Perfectly Clear as a starting point. The plugin definitely added in some exposure and color. Back in Photoshop I added an Orton action to get the soft final look. (Want to know how to do it? Look at my How to Create an Orton Effect blog from a while ago – all the simple steps are there.)

Bottom Line

I like the fact that when on sale, it is a fairly inexpensive software. It is both a stand-alone and a Photoshop plugin – and is probably a good choice for those who do not want to bother with settings in the standard type plugin. It does have batch processing capability. It does have the Looks (LUTs) capability. It does have great Exposure presets and sliders. Am I glad I bought it? Yes – when on sale, it is a bargain. If you do a lot of portrait images or selfies, this program would be great for fixing up faces quickly.

I have not watched all the tutorials so I plan on doing this soon. I would like to do a blog on some techniques that can be done with this plugin. At least I hope you got a feel for what this software does do – Perfectly Clear has a 21-day trial version and some very good deals going on right now. Check it out and see what you think. I was pleasantly surprised how much I liked this software!…..Digital Lady Syd


TOPAZ BLACK & WHITE EFFECTS AND ALIEN SKIN SNAP ART TOGETHER!

Image of a three wheeled riding bike at Universal Studios OrlandoThis week I wanted to show some of the results be combining a couple of very popular third party Photoshop plug-ins to get a very painterly or artistic effect with just a little experimenting. This above image was taken at Universal Studios-Orlando – they have some wonderful looking bikes around the park. I particularly like the effect of Topaz (for website see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Black & White Effects and Alien Skin’s Snap Art together, although this first image did not use both. The above image started with one of the free Seim’s Color Fantasies 2 (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) using Classic Holga preset in Lightroom. In Photoshop Topaz Detail 3 was used to really sharpen up the lines of the bike by adding a black layer mask and just painting the bike back in in white. (Used a very subtle sharpening preset I use all the time on my images with these settings are just: Detail Overall Medium Details 0.38 and Large Details 0.16 and Tone Contrast 0.30 and Shadows -0.01.) On a duplicated layer Nik Viveza 2 was used to even out the tone and color with several control points. Next on another duplicated layer Topaz Black and White Effects was applied. (Here are my settings: Basic Exposure Contrast -0.33, Brightness -0.01, Boost Blacks and Boost Whites 0.25; Adaptive Exposure 0.86, Regions 18, Protect Highlights 0.02, Protect Shadows 0.10, Detail 2.50, and Detail Boost 1.11, and check PDI box; Color Sensitivity Red 0.15, Yellow -0.14, Green 0.47, Cyan 0, Blue 0.31, and Magenta 0; Color Filter Hue 325.1 and Strength 0.27; Creative Effects Simplify Size 0.12 and Feature Boost 1; Silver and Paper Tone Tonal Strength 0.40, Balance 0.30, Silver Hue 0, SilverTone Strength 0.50, Paper Hue 4.00, and Paper Tone Strength 0.25; Vignette – need to adjust center, Strength 1.00, Size 0.71, Transition 0.44, and Curvature 0.55; and Transparency Overall 1.00.) This is a great plug-in that most people use for black and white image, but I like the Transparency turned on at 100% which adds back roughly 50% of the color in the image. By using the individual Detail, Darkening and Color brushes on the image,  a very painterly effect can be obtained. Try experimenting with the brushes in the Topaz products – can get some great effect with them! Back on another duplicated layer of the Nik Viveza 2 layer, Topaz Simplify’s Pencil Hard II preset was applied, moved to the top of the stack, and set to Overlay blend mode at 26% opacity. This gives it a more illustrative feel which I was aiming to get. On a New Layer on top, the vignette and some of the colors were evened out out by sampling in the image using my Chalk Brush (Adobe Chalk Brush 60 with a Shape Dynamics set to 19% in Brush Panel). The last step involved adding a Curves Adjustment Layer to add back contrast to the image. Sometimes all the different manipulations tend to make the image lose its contrast.
Image of a Lost Continent Eatery at Universal Studios OrlandoThis image of a small water fountain at an eatery in The Lost Continent at Universal Studios in Orlando just caught my eye – loved the tiles. Very similar settings in Topaz Black & White Effects were used. On a New Layer above the plug-in layer, the chalk brush was used to even out the vignette, instead of using the plug-ins brushes. On a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Alien Skin’s Snap Art 4 was applied using the Detailed Watercolor preset. On a New Layer, the Clone Stamp Brush was set to my Chalk Brush as used above, and at 60% brush opacity, it was cloned to add a few brush strokes into the areas so it looks like a really painted effect. On a New Layer on top, some small paint spatters were added back lightly into the image to give it just a little bit of a realistic feel and set to 70% layer opacity. A Curves Adjustment Layer was place on top.
Image of the rooftops at Harry Potter Land at Universal Studios OrlandoOne final image is of the Rooftops at Harry Potter Land at Universal Studios Orlando. Had so much fun taking images there! This image used Topaz Detail 3 with my detail preset from above, then I added a cloud since the sky was a rather flat blue using my Cloud 1 from my free set of Cloud Brushes. Next Snap Art 4 was opened and this time the Impasto Vignette was applied. On a stamped layer Topaz Black & White Effects was applied using a preset I called Harry Potter Sky (Here are the settings if you want them: Conversion Basic Exposure: Contrast -0.04, Brightness 0.09. Boost Blacks 0.29, and Boost Whites -0.24; Adaptive Exposure 26, Regions 26, Protect Highlights and Protect Shadows 0, Detail 1.07, and Detail Boost 0.70; Color Filter Hue 63.87 and Strength 1.00; Quad Tone Color 1 Region 15.08 – R1 G1 B12; Color 2 Region 143.9 – color R63 G78 B85; Color 3 Region R216 G211 B129; and Color 4 Region R255 G254 B237; Vignette – Vignette Strength -0.11, Vignette Size 0.68, Vignette Transition 0.93, and Vignette Curvature 0.75; and Transparency Overall 0.85.) Really gives the more spooky look that I wanted for this image. Next a Curves Adjustment Layer for additional contrast. The last step used the Photoshop’s Camera Raw filter using the same Radial Filter effect to add the largest tower. Lots of fun to do!

I hope you can tell that with just a little experimenting you can get a very painterly feel on an image. And try a different brush, instead of just a round soft brush, to use when cloning – this can really add a painterly feel to the image and the clone effect is not nearly so evident. It is so much fun to try out different presets and sliders and different plug-in combinations to get something very different. Hope you try mixing up your plug-ins and see if you can get some very artistic looks too!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
A Nice Illustrative Look
Get Great Results with Alien Skin Snap Art 3 and Topaz ReStyle Together!!
Can You Get a Painting Look With a Photoshop Action? Jack Davis Can!


WHAT I AM LEARNING ABOUT DIGITAL PAINTING

Painted image of neighboring dachas in BelarusThis week’s blog is sponsored by the word “Confused” – I can’t seem to make up my mind how I want to paint digitally! I do one version, then try it differently, and realize I like both version, but they are very different. And I am finding out that I can’t seem to settle on one program or plug-in – sometimes I have to use everything but the “kitchen sink” to get the results I like! Therefore, this week I am just going to share a few things I have painted recently, do a little image comparison, and explain what I learned from each image. Maybe you might get a few ideas that will help your creative process, and let me know of any other suggestions.

Painter and Photoshop

I like the above photo of neighboring dachas on a dirt road near Minsk in Belarus. This image was basically painted in Corel Painter. The brushes used were created from a short Corel video called Reason #2 – Cloning Feature by Melissa Gallo.  The basic colors and shapes were cloned in roughly following her basic steps. The image was then brought into Photoshop where Melissa Gallo’s Painted Texture Embossed Fabric Warm Paper was set to Color blend mode. Just the dachas and greenery along the trail were painted back. This gave a beautiful yellow orange feel to the sky and looked pretty nice already! On a New Layer on top a Cool Grunge Mixer brush (碎块) in Blur’s Good Brush 5.1 Pro set (a wonderful huge free download of all kinds of Photoshop brushes including several really nice Mixer brushes!) was used in a beige-white color to add some texture mainly to the sky. Also used this brush, 透明水色 – 2(正片叠底), to add more grunge on another layer. On a New Layer on top of this, Fay Sirkis’s (a Corel Painter Master) Fays #2 tap n blend brush (one of my favorite mixer brushes – if you are a Kelby One member, her fabulous painting brushes are all downloadable for free from her webinars posted on the site) was used  to clean up some of the painted edges from Painter. What really popped this image was a Selective Color Adjustment Layer that was added next and just the Reds Colors were changed to give a more pinkish tint to the overall image. A little frame I had created in Painter previously was added to finish off the image.

What I learned from this image: It seems that at my stage of learning, I am still heavily relying on Photoshop. My results when Painter is used has a much more abstract feel to them. I think it is okay to use both programs to get that final result if you are comfortable going back and forth between the programs. Also, you have got to create some brushes that you can use easily. Otherwise it can be overwhelming. Melissa’s Painter brushes were a great place for me to start, then adjust them to get the right stroke effect. I will add that Fay Sirkis is another artist with fabulous brushes and I use them a lot.

Photoshop, Alien Skin Snap Art 4, and Topaz ReStyle

Image of the dirt road a some dachas in BelarusI tried to create a different painterly effect with the same image as the first one. I did a lot of experimenting with the image to get this more “photorealistic” look to the image. I like the results, but it took a long time to get it the way I liked. First in Lightroom Seim Power Workflow 4 (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog Sampler Super HDR X preset (free download that contains some really nice presets) was used to brighten up the image first. In Photoshop some clean up was done to remove the electrical lines and a box, and flowers were copied and added to the bottom front. The Warp Tool was used to get a nice effect. On a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) everything I could think of was added. Two Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer, two layer textures, Alien Skin Snap Art 4, Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) ReStyle, Nik Viveza 2, two Curves Adjustment Layers, a Selective Color Adjustment Layer, and a Blender Mixer Brush layer. Whew! At least I got to experiment a lot to decide which tools and plug-ins work best with my painterly style. Lots of fun!

What I learned from this image: You do not have to do a lot of painting to get a really nice painterly look in an image. The plug-ins worked nicely instead of a lot of hand painting – just one layer used the Mixer Brush to clean up a few things. But beware, if you really want an overall artistic feel to an image, it will probably require some initial work in Painter.

Photoshop

Painted image of the entrance to Dr. Seuss LandThis was fun to paint! The colors and lines were so bold and beautiful in this sign indicating the entrance to Universal Studios Orlando. And it was relatively easy to do! Basically in Lightroom added Seim Power Workflow (free sampler link with this preset) Magic Ugly Shade Fixer preset and Dave Delnea’s LR Develop Presets Backlight Vertical Right preset (love both these presets). Then in Photoshop Melissa Gallo’s Painted Textures May Garden was added on top of image with a layer mask. Using my Chalk Brush (Adobe Chalk Brush 60 with a Shape Dynamics set to 19%) set to black at 30% opacity brush, the major parts of the image were painted back – actually quite a bit was painted back. The rest involved using the Chalk Brush as a regular brush, Mixer Brush, Eraser Brush and Clone Stamp Brush to get it looking like I wanted it to look. Just be sure to save the altered regular brush to your Brush Presets so you can select it for the other types of brushes. When finished, the Camera Raw filter was opened up and a Radial Filter was used to direct the view and lighten up the focal point, the red door.

What I learned from this image: One favorite brush can do a lot in an image, especially in Photoshop. Find one you like and practice using it. I am liking my Chalk Brush more and more as I become better at painting.

Painter, Photoshop and Topaz ReStyle

Painted image of Dr. Seuss Land sign at Universal Studios OrlandoWhat I really love about Painter is that the colors seem to be so much more vivid which gives your images a bit more of a painterly appeal. I am still trying to get comfortable with a more abstract feel to my Painter images. This image follows the top blog image’s workflow very closely and used the same Painter brushes. The results in Painter are never what I really like so the painted file goes into Photoshop. The detail is added back in just a little and the Mixer Brush is used to clean up my Painter messes. This time Topaz ReStyle was used to get a little better color palette using the Peach Prairie preset. That was about all that was done. This time I did not paint all the way to the edge in Painter so I have a naturally occurring frame.

What I learned from this image: Painter does have better color and brushes – hands down! It has a large learning curve, but once again, find a couple brushes that work for you and stick to those until you get the hang of what you are doing. That is what I am trying to concentrate on. It is so tempting to try and learn everything about every type of media and brush, but you really need to find one that suits you to start using. I find I am leaning towards the oils and pastels, and will learn watercolor when I am more accustomed to Painter.

Photoshop and Alien Skin Snap Art 4

Image of silk flowers post-processed with Alien Skin Snap Art 4Since this image of some silk flowers had a lot of soft background color in it (actually emphasized nicely in Lightroom first by using Seim’s Power 4 Workflow Sunday Cross preset and Dave Delnea’s LR Develop Backlight Vertical Right preset), the Snap Art 4 plug-in was used to add paint in the area quickly. The Oil Paint Abstract preset was modified by setting Photorealism slider set back to 21 so it does not look too much like a photo and the Colors Saturation set to 46 to add more color to the image. On New Layers above the plug-in layer, an Oil Pastel Mixer brush was used to paint over the flowers and to add some some more random colorful strokes to the image. More details were painted back into the image using the original image as a guide. A Curves Adjustment Layer was used to add some contrast back into the image and John Derry’s Varnish Satin Light layer style was added to the top layer to give a more painterly finish.

What I learned from this image: You do not have to have everything perfect – it sometimes looks better to have the color but not the lines to give a strong feeling to an image. It was a little scary putting bright blues and purples on the flowers, but it gives a more artsy feel to the image than what the plug-in did – and it lets you put your own twist on the picture. Now the viewer can use their imagination to see what was really going on with the image. Needless to say, I am still working on this concept.

Painter and Topaz ReStyle

Image of silk flowers post-processed in Corel Painter This final image started the same as the one above, but this time the image was painted completely in Corel Painter. First the source image was changed and set Adjust Color to Hue Shift -2, Sat 84, and Value 62. Melissa Gallo’s same brushes from Reason #2 Cloning Feature video were used – her Medium Bristle Rough brush, Coarse Sergeant Brush Jitter and Luscious Oil, used mainly as clone brushes. There is nothing wrong with using cloning brushes in you digital art, especially if you are actually doing the brushstrokes – you really are just sampling color and positioning objects from the photo. The Painter image was brought back into Photoshop where a little clean up was done on a separate layer with the Chalk brush. A Levels Adjustment Layer was used to adjust contrast. Then Topaz ReStyle’s Snow Cover preset was applied which added a little structure to just the flowers in the Basic layer mask for the plug-in. The image had a much softer lighter feel to it now. I am always amazed how different the images can turn out!

What I learned from this image: It is okay to clone – just do your own strokes. And add some of your own color into the image. It does not have to look just like the original photo – in fact it is probably more interesting if it does not. Many famous artists added different elements than what they were actually seeing while painting.

That said, I do believe that both programs will probably be in my workflow for digital painting since in Photoshop I do know what to do if I really mess things up! I still have problems getting brushes to paint on separate layers in Painter, which to me seems so necessary with my Photoshop background. There are ways around it, but you do have to spend a lot of time researching this. I plan on discussing this topic later in another blog. I hope you enjoyed some of the experiences I am having with my painting venture this year. Hope you are having as much fun learning about it as I am!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Some Pros and Cons of Corel Painter (And Why I Still Love Photoshop)
New Years Resolution – Painter and Photoshop Together!


When to Use Black & White or Sepia Tone on An Image


This topic has always interested me. There has been so much written on this so I am not going to go over all of it. I have found that for me a little trial-and-error works as good as anything when it comes to this type of processing. Luckily in Lightroom there are presets that will give you a quick look to see how an image will stack up as a monochrome type image, and there are many black and white presets for Photoshop’s ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) that can be downloaded. The St. Augustine, Florida lamp lights RAW file had a really bright blue background and very black wrought iron with little detail. By converting to more of a sepia tone, the detail came out very clear. The really interesting thing is that to get the detail to pop out of the ironwork, an Invert Adjustment Layer set to Soft Light Blend Mode at 92% opacity was used.
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When an image just seems overwhelmed by color and I am having trouble controlling the feel, applying a black and white conversion or introducing a slight color effect can calm down the whole image. That is what happened in the above image that was taken near the summit of the large volcano, Mauna Kea on the Big Island in Hawaii, of the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (apparently to be dismantled in 2016) where the Keck Telescope is also located. The little observatory was lost from view in both the strong browns of the surrounding dirt and foreground gravel and the soft blues of the Mauna Loa volcano in the background and the sky. It was processed totally in Lightroom using the Basics section sliders and a preset I had created from reading David duChemin’s book Vision & Voice – Refining Your Vision in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. I call it the duChemin Massai Chocolate split-tone & vignette preset. Only those two sections of Lightroom 3 were used to create the preset so it still works with Lightroom 4. In Split Toning the Highlights Hue was set to 34 and Saturation t0 30, Shadows Hue was 0 and Saturation 6, and the Balance slider was set to -25. In the Lens Correction section’s Manual tab, the Lens Vignetting Amount slider was set to -63 and the Midpoint to 18. I have used this preset several times as it has a very nice subtle tonal appeal. That was basically all that was done to make this a much more interesting image.
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Another one of my favorite images from Hawaii but once again, the detail would have been lost if it had been processed as taken. The original RAW file had very little detail in the rising hillside and water and the color was totally dull – almost a flat-looking black and white. By converting it to a nice cool water tone, the image takes on new life. The image has several filters stacked in Nik Color Efex Pro 4: BW Conversation using Dynamic Contrast method, Photo Stylizer which give it the beautiful blue glow using Method 1 at 28% Strength, Low Key, Lighten/Darken Center, and Detail Extractor using 7 control points to selectively bring out the details in the image. Nik Viveza 2, Imagenomics Noiseware filter, and OnOne PhotoFrame were also used to complete the image.
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Here is another example of a very busy and overly bright image that really loses its appeal in color. Since it is the oldest drugstore (built in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1739) in the United States, it already has a that vintage feel to it. Therefore a sepia tone really adds to the effect the image should be portraying. This image was an HDR image taken in bright sunlight during the hottest part of the day. It was processed into a black and white using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2, the the background original was layered on top and a black layer mask was added to bring back a hint of color in the windows. Topaz Lens Effects was used to add a slight vignette effect, and finally OnOne PhotoFrame acid burn controlled 05 was added. For both Topaz and OnOne website links, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog.
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It appears that if you have a really nice image but the colors just do not create the correct effect, or if the image gets lost in all the powerful colors or brightness of the day, give the black and white or sepia tones a shot. You do not have to have one of the mentioned filters – Photoshop has a wonderful Black and White Adjustment layer that also adds any monochrome color. Great way to get a quick impression of whether this effect will work on your image. Definitely do not write off an image just because of color issues – it may turn out to be a great shot!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
The Art Corner: Little Girl Knitting – A Mystery Sculpture!
NIK’s Champion Plug-in – Silver Efex Pro 2
Where Am I?
Topaz B&W Effects Plug-In – A Real Winner!


Using NIK’s Color Efex Pro 4 and Viveza Together

If you don’t watch the wonderful webinars and training videos that all the major plug-in makers are offering, you are really missing out on some great tips for using their software. Recently Nik released a really great video titled “Mastering Macro Images with Nik Software and Photoshop Elements, presented by Mike Moats” and is located at Nik Software On Demand Center. Mike Moats (he has a really interesting blog) shows how he changes up the workflow from what one might normally do with the Nik products. He first applies Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 (CEP4) and then Nik’s Viveza. He is never quite sure what the CEP4 filters will do to an image. Since the Viveza plug-in adjusts the color and light of an image, it does make sense to apply it after adding CEP4 filter changes. Note: All my CEP4 settings for images are listed at the end of the blog.

I bought the Viveza plug-in when it first came out and everyone was singing its praises. I must confess that after getting Lightroom, I hardly used this plug-in. Now I think I was crazy not too! This video refreshed my memory on why this is the great little plug-in that everyone was raving about. The reason this image pops is that Viveza is able to pin-point small or large areas on the image and adjust it individually – adding in a bit of detail, or toning down a certain color. He teaches you how to set the Control Points that Nik is famous for to get exactly the results you want. In this case, both the saturation and structure control point sliders were individually adjusted on the butterfly and flowers without affecting the background. This is very similar to Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw’s adjustment brushes, but with much better control and more variables available. It absolutely made a huge difference to all of the images in this blog. See the comparison below showing the layer with Vizeva filter turned off and then on. Seven control points were set to get this effect and no Global Adjustments were made. Both plug-ins can be applied to the same Smart Object layer and all image control points are saved for each plug-in on this layer so you can go back and adjust a slider if you do not like the results. The final processing involved cloning out some of the brown spots on the leaves and sharpening the body and wing lines of the butterfly.

The pink daisies are in a container on my front porch. CEP4 and Viveza (using 11 control points) were both used along with OnOne PhotoFrame weathered wood frame (see sidebar on my Tidbits Blog for website).

This last image is a different shot of my carnation and daisies Christmas flowers. The original image required me to duplicate the original layer and apply a Gaussian Blur at 9.1 pixels to block out the distracting background. A layer mask was added and the flower painted back into the mask with a black brush. Then the CEP4 and Viveza (with 17 control points) plug-ins were applied. OnOne PhotoFrame grunge 05 was added along with the Sharpen Tool and a Curves Adjustment Layer.

As you can see, by using the control points to your advantage, very interesting images can be attained. The Viveza plug-in definitely helps sharpen up a slightly soft image. And by setting control points with Structure at -100, the background can be smoothed almost like a gaussian blur effect. If you own either or both of these plug-ins, definitely take a look at this video. Even though he is using flowers and close up photography, he illustrates how to use the control points very well. I learned a lot and am very happy Nik released such a good example of how to use their products…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Nik Color Efex Pro 4 – Digital Lady Syd’s Review
Pseudo HDR Using Nik Color Efex Pro 4

CEP4 Settings for each of the images:

The Monarch Butterfly image above was first adjusted in CEP4 with these filters stacked: Detail Extractor (Detail Extractor 26%, Contrast 37%, Saturation 53% and Effect Radius Large); Darken/Lighten Center using #1, Center Luminosity 28%, Border Luminosity -100, Center Size 53% and centered on butterfly head); and Bi-Color User Defined (Opacity 7%, Blend 17%, Vertical Shift 41%, Rotation 46 degrees, Upper Color R66 G68 B98 and Lower Color R184 G103 B4). I would never have thought about using a Bi-Color User Defined filter without viewing this video, but it really enhanced the oranges in the wings and brought out the pink in the flower.

The Daisies used Detail Extractor (Detail Extractor 86%, Contrast 78%, Saturation 39% and Effect Radius Large); Bleach Bypass (Brightness -2, Saturation -20%, Contrast 50% and Local Contrast 50%); and Cross Processing (Method L02 and Strength 45%). This example uses similar setting to his first example.

The Christmas Flowers CEP4 settings were: Bleach Bypass (Brightness -6, Saturation -2%, Control 27%, and Local Contrast 65%), Darken/Lighten Center (#1, Center Luminosity -10%, Border Luminosity -27%, Center Size 44% and Place Center just below red carnation), and Detail Extractor (Detail Extractor 36%, Contrast 6%, Saturation 21%, and Effect Radius Large with control points in background to remove effect).


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.
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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.
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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.
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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


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