Archive for the ‘coupon’ Tag

The Drift   8 comments


The Drift

The Drift

~
Some people trick out their cars or motorcycles. Others sink thousands into landscaping. Me? I like to dress out the kayak, mostly with safety bling and sandals. (The boat is a 2000 Perception Eclipse, Kevlar, composite bulkheads, a little over 17 feet. Susan has a similar version, but a bit smaller. And firecracker red.)

The other day – mid-November, mind you – the weather was forecast to be almost 80F, so we felt it was our responsibility to go out for a nice, long paddle trip. This spot is near Hammocks Beach State Park and Bear Island, one of our favorite destinations. Bear Island is separated from the mainland by a few miles, with a network of creeks flowing through rich marshlands, filled with Great Herons, Egrets, Pelicans, and a host of other shorebirds.

We worked our way upwind during the morning, with a nice wind-driven coast back to the landing in the afternoon — just the way it should be. Late in the afternoon, not wanting it to end too quickly, we beached up to take in the last warm rays of the setting sun.

~

This is a single-exposure image. I used it to test out several new product versions in the world of Photoshop Plug-Ins. (I have to wonder if these product uprgades were released just in time for Christmas?)

Flipping back and forth between Nik Color Efex Pro 4, Topaz Adjust 5, and OnOne Perfect Effects from Perfect Suite 6, I was struck by the architectural similarity between them.

There used to be a time when running a filter would return a single filter result in a layer (the old PhotoTools from OnOne excepted.) Now, in Adjust and Color Efex Pro, we have the ability to stack effects together, adjusting each to taste, without having to continually pop in and out of Photoshop (or Lightroom, or Aperture.) This is clearly a good approach, as all three companies have adopted this model.

Each plug-in set has different features, pre-sets, strengths and weaknesses, of course. Which one is best for your purposes is a matter of taste and convenience. But I must say, all of these companies are pouring on the steam to develop kickazz modules, and we as photographers benefit from that competition.

If there is any drawback to this, it comes from trying to decide which filters you need at a given time. Oh, the horror of too many options. 🙂

500px | Google+ | Follow on Twitter | Galleries

Topaz InFocus Debuts Soon, Available Now   3 comments


A wild pony at close range at the Assateague National Seashore, Maryland

A wild pony and I have a bit of a staring contest on Assateague Island, Maryland.

Very little processing work was done to this image. Of particular note, though, is the use of a brand new Photoshop plug-in from Topaz Labs, called Topaz InFocus. InFocus was used to bring more clarity to the pony’s hair, which was blowing in the wind. After that, I applied an 11-blade bokeh and a vignette effect along the edges using Alien Skin’s Bokeh filter, although it wasn’t really all that necessary… it just added a bit more depth to the image. No other adjustments were made!

You can get a $40 discount off of Topaz InFocus until December 3rd, 2010.  Click one of the Topaz InFocus links on this page and enter the code “supersharp” when checking out.

Topaz InFocus

Topaz InFocus is a completely new sharpening solution designed to restore image clarity, recover lost detail and refine with micro-contrast detail enhancement. The range of achievable sharpening possibilities have been dramatically improved and simplified with this new tool, allowing users to easily increase the sharpness and definition of any image.
With Topaz InFocus you can:
• Simply and effectively improve image clarity.
• Approximately reverse blur, recovering “lost” image detail.
• Refine subtle structure detail through micro-contrast enhancement.
• Effortlessly sharpen and refine image detail for a crisp, clear and vivid image.

A NYC cityscape before applying the Topaz InFocus filter (click the image to see a larger version in a new window):

An aerial image of a city before applying Topaz InFocus filter

The same NYC cityscape after applying the Topaz InFocus filter (click the image to see a larger version in a new window):

A cityscape after Topaz InFocus filter applied.

My Initial Impressions

If you have been a reader of my blog for a while, you know that I wouldn’t recommend a product that I haven’t used, or found to be useful to my workflow. But I can unreservedly suggest that you take a good (sharp) look at Topaz InFocus, as it may help to save images that were otherwise destined for the trash. As you can see from the sample images above, InFocus was very successful at pulling an out-of-focus image into an image with outstanding clarity. It also did a righteous number on the pony’s hair in the first image. The InFocus interface is clean and intuitive, like most Topaz plug-ins, and doesn’t require much of a learning curve.

That said, InFocus doesn’t work for every situation, and that should be kept in mind as you go back through your library of questionable images. As we know, when shooting RAW there is a great deal of latitude available in terms of exposure compensation, white balance, contrast, and the like, but if your original image is badly out of focus, there’s really not much that can be done. During my tests of Topaz InFocus, I fed it some images that were simply beyond salvation. Wishful thinking on my part… those images were really beyond help, and it was too much to expect them to become NatGeo material.

I noticed that the more small detail there is in the image, the more likely that Topaz InFocus would help. You can see this in the cityscape examples, especially, and in the pony’s hair, which is why I included that particular image in this post.

If you’ve ever used Topaz plug-ins, you’ll find that InFocus has an extremely simple interface, with the standard previews and preset areas, including space to store up to 99 of your own presets.  For more detailed information on InFocus, please visit the Topaz website via any of the links on this page. You’ll find much more detail on this new product, along with links to tutorials and sample images.

Topaz InFocus is available today, although the official release isn’t schedule until Monday, November 22nd.  The best part is that if you pop on Topaz InFocus before December 3rd, you can get a $40 discount (regularly $69.99) by entering the code “supersharp” when you check out.  If you’re still not sure, the standard trial is available so that you can see it for yourself before buying.

For an explanation of how Topaz InFocus compares to Topaz Detail, click here.

Have fun going through you library looking for ‘meh’ images!

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Review: Printing on aluminum with SizzlPix!   3 comments


Smoke 'N Sunset - image of planes with smoke trails.

Recently, a client of mine expressed an interest in buying one of my images to help brighten up a dark area of a room. There was one image in particular that they were thinking of, but there were a few concerns: The cost of mounting, matting, framing, and glassing a large 36″ image; the weight of the final product; and the fact that matte prints can appear rather flat and dull, despite post-processing treatments to jazz them up. Most importantly, the client wanted the image to look like it did on their computer screen — backlit, bright, luminescent, etc. — which, as we know, is almost impossible with prints, although metallic paper adds some of that extra dimension.

While listening to a recent podcast from Derrick Story, I had heard about an outfit in California, called SizzlPix! Derrick invited the CEO of SizzlPix!, Don Sherman, in for an interview.  It sounded pretty good, so I checked them out further to see if their product could meet my client’s needs. Knowing that there are other sources for aluminum/metal prints, I contacted Don to see if he could explain how his product differed from other offerings, and if he could justify what seemed to me an uplift in base pricing over his competitors.

In a thorough and gracious email, Don sold me on the differences, not the least of which is the personal attention and hands-on care that each order receives.  As I went through the process with Don, I could see it was true.  Each order is carefully attended to, and they don’t start until all questions are answered.  One item that caught my attention is that SizzlPix! prefers high-quality input, so I was able to send them a flattened 16-bit TIF file in Adobe RGB colorspace instead of the typical JPG/sRGB upload. (I know, I know… JPGs usually look great even in larger sizes, but I wanted to retain as much pixel and color happiness as possible. Why short ourselves?) They also offer a 30-day ‘remake or refund’ guarantee, so how could I go wrong?

I sent up the TIF, had several pleasant email conversations with Don, and they had the product turned around in about two days.  UPS, of course, did their typically stellar job in elevating my heart rate when I saw what they can do to a box.  Good thing we didn’t mark it “Fragile”, or it would have gotten the ‘special treatment.’

All was well inside the box, as things were well packed.

I took out the final product and was very, very pleased with the result.  We got the standard mounting system.  The final product was light, well-reproduced, not cropped, and had all the brightness that my client could have wanted.  While metallic papers can add a lot of punch and brightness, especially to an HDR image, the effect tends to be localized to certain, lighter regions of the picture, and those regions can be garish in the wrong light.  On the SizzlPix! print, the entire image had a luminescent, almost 3-D quality to it.

I delivered the SizzlPix! print to my client yesterday, and they LOVED it.  It was exactly what they were looking for.  I got a second followup email from them this morning, reiterating how much they were pleased.

In the end, the most important things when dealing with clients are: Listening carefully to what they’re looking for and what problem they’re trying to solve; targeting an effective solution; providing attentive and superior service; and closing the deal with a satisfied customer.

In case you’re interested in seeing which image was ordered, you can open a new window to see Smoke ‘N Sunset in larger format on my Transportation galleries.

Rob

Disclaimer: I will never review or tout something that I haven’t used, or don’t firmly believe in as being helpful to the cause of delivering better photographs. As a result of this exchange with Don Sherman at SizzlPix!, we have arranged that I can offer a 10% discount on any SizzlPix! order. Please see my Discounts page on this blog (soon to be posted on my website, as well), or simply enter “RobHanson” in the comment area on the order form.

%d bloggers like this: