Archive for the ‘discount’ Tag

The Drift   8 comments


The Drift

The Drift

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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.

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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. 🙂

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32 Float from Unified Color Released   Leave a comment


Banner for Unified Color 32 Float and HDR Expose

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Unified Color has released their latest product, 32 Float, an HDR processing plug-in for Photoshop CS3/CS4/CS5.

Previously, the ability to edit 32-bit images in Photoshop has been extremely limited. Using 32 Float, with an interface similar to Unified Color’s HDR Expose program, you can adjust brightness and contrast, highlights and shadows, color balance and saturation, white balance, and other aspects of your image, all in full 32-bit mode using Unified Color’s Beyond RGB color space.

You can use just about any 32-bit image as input, whether it was generated by HDR Expose (.BEF), Photoshop’s Merge to HDR (32-bit TIFF), or any program that can generate OpenEXR or Radiance files.  32 Float will even work with 8- and 16-bit images! There are a number of output formats available as well.

One of the nicest advantages of 32 Float is that you can easily make multiple adjustment passes on an image, with each set of changes saved as a separate layer in Photoshop. This means that you can tune an image for, say, the dark interior of a room, save those changes as a Photoshop layer, and then use 32 Float to adjust perfectly for a brightly lit window in the same room, returning a separate layer. Using simple masking techniques, you can use both layers to compose the final image, with everything in perfect balance.

For a more thorough description of 32 Float, please see the Press Release from Unified Color, located here.

You can get a 30-day trial of 32 Float, and there is special introductory pricing of $79 (regularly $99) until the end of September, 2010. Bundle pricing is available if you’d like to purchase both HDR Expose and 32 Float together.

You can use my discount code when ordering products from Unified Color by clicking here. You’ll get 20% off HDR Expose by doing so. There are no discounts available on 32 Float during the introductory price special, but you’ll get 10% off 32 Float after October 1st.


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.

Combining HDR Programs   1 comment


North Carolina Heating and Air Conditioning

“North Carolina Heating and Air Conditioning”

As I like to say: “The great part about not knowing all the rules is that it allows one to break them without compunction.”  Who’s to say that we can’t take the output from one HDR program and use it as input to another? Or, vice-versa? What happens if we combine this, with that? While sometimes the result looks like we’ve just combined matter with anti-matter, interesting surprises can result from such experimentation.

And, since we’re HDR photogs, don’t we inherently enjoy experimenting like the early alchemists?

I’ve been working quite a bit with Unified Color’s new HDR Expose program, and I’ve been using Photomatix Pro for quite a while now .  Each has its strengths, as we might expect, and I could pick over their respective weaknesses as well.  Rather than dwelling on what’s missing, I tried my best to use the strengths of each program in this image.  (Note: Discount codes for both programs are available from the Discounts menu above.)

When I ran the brackets through HDR Expose and applied edits there, the result was an ‘as-I-saw-it’ image with great shadow and highlight detail.  But, at the end of the process, it looked like an old building sitting in a field — which is exactly what it was.  While the result was an accurate representation, in this case it seemed to lack something artistic or interesting. There wasn’t enough there to really hold one’s attention.

Enter the stalwart Photomatix Pro 3(.2.9)  The output from that pass had elements that I loved about the building, but there was significant ghosting in the tree branches and the monochromatic sky had that dingy quality despite my having upped the micro-smoothing and highlights-smoothing substantially.  Those things could have been handled in Photoshop pretty easily by layering in a single RAW, but why not try something different?

Using standard Photoshop layering techniques, we’re able to quickly and easily combine the best elements of each program’s output. The shack was rendered by Photomatix Pro, while the remainder of the scene is from HDR Expose. Along the trees in certain spots, there is a mixture of the two, with HDR Expose handling most of the pixels.  Following up with some Curves adjustments and a little selective saturation boost in select spots, we have what I think is an interesting image: A funky old shack with some outrageous surface color — just as I had remembered it in the  harsh morning light (I drink strong coffee…) —  with sunlight pouring in through the roof.

It’s not a radical idea, of course, using various layers to achieve an effect.  I have some other experiments going on that I believe could be ever more interesting.

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