Archive for the ‘Topaz’ Tag

In My Little Town   3 comments


In My Little Town

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So, I thought to myself: If I use a fake tilt-shift effect during processing, will this scene look like a tiny toy town?

Nailed it.

Just having a bit of fun… This was a display at a farm museum nearby. In a long, metal building packed to the rafters, we found an incredibly eclectic collection of toy figures, lunch boxes, old farm gear, restored tractors, and icons from past times. No doubt there will be a few more images from this location, and as with any good spot… gotta go back!

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Shhh – Sleeping Here…   17 comments


Shhh - Sleeping Here
© 2012 Rob Hanson Photography, All Rights Reserved

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There’s nothing better than a warm place, a bit of nectar, and a good snooze.

Without a doubt, this has been one of the mildest winters for this area. Even though I’ve lived in colder places like Montréal and New Hampshire, now that I’ve moved to the south, I don’t miss the snow at all.

On one particularly warm day in December, we noticed a large bee working on a new Meyers Lemon tree that we have waiting to go in the ground. He seemed a bit sluggish, until we realized that he had fallen asleep! Later, as the sun warmed even more, he flew on his way.

Single exposure, f/3.5, ISO400, 1/160s

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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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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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