Archive for the ‘Topaz InFocus’ Tag

Sunrise at Otter Point   2 comments


A beautiful sunrise at Otter Point, Acadia National Park, Maine.

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If one has never been to this place, one should visit, at least once.

Of all the places we travel in New England in the fall, Acadia National Park is one of our favorite stops. The conundrum is that we appreciate solitude and wilderness, but ANP in autumn is anything but empty. Over the years, though, we’ve found a rhythm to visiting, and know of a few small spots where you can spend the day with very few signs of human activity. Despite the popularity of ANP (one of the most heavily visited of the National Parks), the natural beauty is, I think, unparalleled, particularly on the east coast.

Feel the warmth of the sun by viewing larger. Just click on the image to open a new window.

This image proved fairly difficult to process, and I went through several iterations. Whenever I got the sun flare to show up as I wanted (i.e., not blown out), most of the HDR processing programs created serious halos, especially around the tree branches on the left. Trying to merge in original exposures or sky-enhanced layers proved to be too difficult because of the varying intensities of light in the sky. It turned out to be a tug-of-war between a good sun flare and excessive haloing, with neither really winning. In the end, although I merged the brackets (+/-2EV) with HDR Expose, Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro turned out the best preliminary result, although some fixing up had to be done: Denoising filters used to knock down HDR Efex Pro’s noise levels wound up overly softening a few elements. Once again, Topaz InFocus, my new favorite plug-in, came to the rescue to bring back the detail in the rocks. I also have to give a nod to the Content-Aware Fill feature of my new Photoshop CS5 for taking out some lens refraction spots… nothing could’ve been easier!

The Bowl at Acadia National Park, Maine   2 comments


The Bowl, a small pond near the Gorham Trail in Acadia National Park, Maine

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It was just another beautiful autumn day at Acadia National Park on the Maine coast.

This is The Bowl, a small tarn near the Beehives on the eastern side of Mt. Desert Island. It was such a nice day, we just had to pull up for a while. Couldn’t just sit there — right? — so I started clicking off some hand-held brackets. Because of the inevitable camera motion when shooting hand-held and the usual softness brought about by HDR processing, this image needed some help. It was shot at 11mm f/2.8 with a CPL filter, which didn’t help matters.

While I don’t often recite highly detailed recipes, I thought this was a good example of “rescuing” an image that would otherwise sit as nothing more than a pleasant memory in the library. Thanks to one of my new favorite toys, Topaz InFocus, it became a viable HDR image.

I started off with a three-bracket (+/-2EV) merge in HDR Expose, with basic brightness and highlight adjustments in Unified Color’s Photoshop plug-in, 32 Float. Returning the result as a layer, a lens correction was used to relieve some barrel distortion. I invoked the new Topaz InFocus filter, dialing in just the right radius settings for this subject (1.76 radius, 2.7 suppress) in order to provide sharp detail in the wood grain of the logs. There were artifacts left in the tree line and water surface, but these could be addressed later. Having recently received an upgrade to Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0 Complete, I had access to the Pro Contrast filter, which can really help to pop an image and remove color cast. Topaz DeNoise was then used to remove the artifacts created by the InFocus pass (I’m trying to wean myself off of Imagenomic Noiseware Pro since they’re not currently 64-bit.) I had originally used one of my favorite tricks, Nik’s Darken/Lighten Center, to bring the eye toward the logs, but it created a hyper-polarized effect by darkening the sky, which just seemed unnaturally blue.

One thing that has become clear to me (pun not intended) is that Topaz InFocus tends to work best when you have discrete, straight edges in an image. The cityscape that Topaz provides on their website is a good example of this. For this landscape image of The Bowl, you wouldn’t want to preview the area of trees, as that area is soft and irregularly shaped. Bringing the InFocus preview window to the logs and foreground detail, however, provided the harder edges needed for the filter’s algorithms to work properly. Knowing this seems to be one key to having the filter work best for you.

You can see this image larger by clicking on it. A new window will open on the Waterscapes gallery.

Topaz InFocus: When Pelicans Drink Red Bull   1 comment


A pelican splashes furiously in the waters off Cape Lookout, Harkers Island, North Carolina

Is it coincidence then that Red Bull’s slogan is, “It gives you wings?”

As the sun sets over the waters near Cape Lookout, NC, hundreds of pelicans converge on a small island we’ve come to know as ‘Bird Island’, although I don’t know if it has an official name. The pelicans take this time to socialize, bathe their wings (which is what this guy is doing), and burp fish.

Get splashed by viewing this larger. Click the image to open it in a new window.

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A few elements were used to draw out this picture, taken from a single exposure. Nik’s Color Efex Pro was used to provide the warmth of the splashing water, along with a slight vignette on the background. The real star of this, though, was the new Topaz InFocus plug-in for Photoshop, which helped to sharpen up the background pelicans. After addressing those guys in a separate layer, another tweak with Topaz InFocus provided the water splashes with a real punch that reminds me of welding sparks.

You can find out more about Topaz InFocus on a recent blog entry, here.

An oft-asked question seems to be, “How does Topaz InFocus differ from Topaz Detail?” Ashley Robinson from Topaz Labs answers that question:

“InFocus is a new sharpening plug-in that offers users a comprehensive solution for reducing image blur, restoring image clarity and sharpening image detail. InFocus uses advanced deconvolution technology that actually reverses image blur, unlike most other sharpening solutions that only increase the perception of sharpness. In addition, the micro-contrast detail enhancement in InFocus can subtlety enhance fine details. InFocus can be used as a pre-processing sharpener, if you are trying to rescue a somewhat blurry or motion blurred image, or a post-processing sharpener, if your goal is to refine and add definition to your image.
Topaz InFocus also includes a convenient blur estimation tool to help contend with complex and unknown blur types.

“Topaz Detail, on the other hand, is a detail enhancement plug-in, designed to bring out image detail using micro and macro adjustments. It allows for intricate and selective detail enhancement allowing users to bring out varying levels of image detail – without creating halos or edge artifacts. Topaz Detail is going to render more natural looking enhancements with more precision and more options for making those detailed adjustments. In addition to selectively enhancing small, medium and large image detail, users can also selectively remove detail as well.”

I was recently asked by a reader whether or not Topaz InFocus would have a place in my workflow. Absolutely, or I wouldn’t be recommending it here. Plus, at the introductory price of $29 or so, it’s a great deal (enter the code “supersharp” on checkout.)  The best part about the plug-in is that if all or part of your image is just a touch out of focus, InFocus can bring it back nicely, and if it’s not going to work on an image, you’ll know it right away. I have found that InFocus is a bit ‘touchy’, as it is very easy to push the detail recovery over the edge, creating large artifacts, only some of which can be addressed by the InFocus “Suppress Artifacts” slider. I think that part of this comes from an old habit of “slammin’ sliders” all the way to one side or the other to see where a filter takes us (think: Photomatix Pro), but the sliders on Topaz products tend to be much more sensitive to small changes. Once you have experienced this difference, you learn to control things more carefully. Then, you store those changes as a preset.

As Ashley writes above, Topaz Detail is a feature-rich and intricate program for making detailed adjustments; Topaz InFocus provides a method for cleaning up blur either before or after further processing.


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.”

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