Saturday, May 10, 2014

Signs of Spring

Workflow tips

From the "for what it's worth" department (FWIW): I thought I'd share a couple of workflow tips for my photographer friends. But then I decided it would be better to put it in my tech blog so most of my readers' eyes don't glaze over and it makes them not want to come back to visit every week! If you are a photographer and  use Photoshop or Lightroom or Elements in your post-processing, feel free to hop over to


The good folks at Topaz Labs have done it again. This month they have put Topaz Clean on sale at half price for the month of May.

That's one of those products that's a little hard to understand until you use it (you can try it for free before you buy it for 30 days). Here's what they say about it:
If you've ever post-processed a portrait for flawless skin texture, or made a car look clean and polished, or created the perfect sky... you know how difficult it can be. There's a fine line between "too much" and "not enough" post-processing - and you have to get it.
Topaz Clean makes it easy and fast to create perfect image texture. Instead of creating 5 different layers in Photoshop, just drag a few sliders in Clean and you'll get a great result in seconds.
Topaz Clean lets you smooth edges and surfaces in your photos. It's great for subjects like cars and portraits, and you can also use it to create some interesting effects as well. Clean has three main controls:
 * Smoothness: smoothes the surfaces of your photo. Useful for removing blemishes from skin, removing dust + noise, creating a "flatter" texture, and more.
* Edges: smoothly enhances edges with a unique process that looks "vectorized". This creates smooth and well-defined lines in your photo that work great on image features like hair and eyelashes.
* Texture: recovers and refines original detail in your image to keep it looking natural. For example, re-introduce original skin texture in your portraits to prevent your post-processing from looking too overdone or "plastic". 
Here's the link to the Topaz Clean product page. To take advantage of the half-price offer (valid until the end of May), enter the code "mayclean" at checkout when you order it.

Do you live in the past?

I do, and I admit it. My sister shared a site with me and I thought I'd pass it on. This website is called "45rpm DB" and it contains the full recordings of 77,000 45rpm singles dating from 1950 onwards! You can search for anything, but look at the "archives" tab: it shows the top 10 charts for each month and year. It's amazing how you can remember every single song from that many years ago.

As I type this, I'm listening to Michael Jackson's "BAD" from 1987. Before that it was Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" from 1973. How about "Surfer Girl" by the Beach Boys from 1963? Love this site!

Give yourself an Assignment

Again, this is for my photog readers. But it leads to some pictures for the rest of you too see, too. Bear with me.

I'm a really strong advocate for the "Competition" process in camera clubs. Not only does it get you to think about doing your best work, but it also gets the creative juices flowing. For me, it helps to have a theme or a reason to go shoot pictures. I like the time limited ones that force you to focus on a topic. I'm not that good with long projects, although I'm trying.

So last week, I noticed that the river was up again in Minden. We're all hopeful that it doesn't result in another flood situation like last year. I took a few photos and sent them to the local paper and not only did they want some, they also asked me for pictures to illustrate an article on "Signs of Spring".

This fixed dock on the Gull River in Minden is underwater again.

So are parts of the RiverWalk pathway and this bench illustrates how much the river is up 

Signs of Spring. Well, it's late this year. So if you go out in the woods today, you're in for a big surprise. Nothing to see! The trilliums (and trout lillies) are about the first wildflowers up) weren't there yet.

Early shot of an infant trillium not open yet. Just about the only one I could find. 

What to do, what to do. I did find some pictures from previous years in the archives, but I wanted to do some new ones. So I gave myself an assignment. What else would be harbingers of spring?

Iconic symbols like songbirds back at the feeder.

I hate grackles. OK, "hate" is a bit strong, but they show up in herds (I think a flock of grackles should be called a "Feh" or a "Yucky"). They drive off all the other birds, they squawk, they empty the feeders in a matter of minutes. This one was fluffing out his feathers, probably a display thing in mating season. Too bad there was an out-of-focus twig  blocking part of the tail...

I did manage to get this shot of a female rose-breasted grosbeak.
The male eluded me – every time I got close enough for a shot, he disappeared. 

Anyway, back to the 'assignment' thing. What else says 'it's spring'? "Well", I thought, "what about people out doing outdoor chores"? So with that in mind, I went out and found these:

Jack was out raking leaves on a property in Minden 

Keith was transplanting some trees at his place in Hunter Creek. Interesting guy: He and his wife (Carol?) retired here a year or so ago: they're not comfortable with country living yet, his wife says she never knows where she is, the roads aren't laid out in a grid like they were in the city! Keith and I talked about the flooding, he says anyone who builds or buys a home on a flood plain sort of deserves what they get! 

I stopped at the Minden Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Mart. Sue only opens for the season in April, so there's a sign of spring! It's pretty cool in her place with all the doors and windows open, she has to dress to keep warm. 

Spring flowers for sale, like these miniature daffodils and bluebells say "spring"! 

Tulips. This is going to be the cover shot for an insert section in the Minden Times next week! 

I think this is a killer art shot. Out behind the Fruit Mart was a stack of flower pots waiting for plants. A little Photoshop (Topaz) and voilà! Going in my fine art portfolio. Contact me to buy a print!

By giving myself an assignment (or being lucky enough to be given one!) I was able to find some interesting images.

I mentioned larger projects: I've got two in mind. I'll share those soon. Watch for it!

Image of the Week

For 7 years I've been shooting this tree at the Minden Wildwater Preserve. I finally got it. This is a 5-shot HDR, using Nik HDR Efex Pro 2. I set "de-ghosting" on so I could isolate the moving water on just one frame. I'm definitely making a large scale art print of this one. Haven't decided what medium yet, probably Epson Cold Press Natural, and I'll probably ask Jim to mount it for me using his patented process. You need one for your wall. You know what to do

OK, enough typing. Time to go out and see how the Trilliums are doing. Oh, and I think I got a shot of that male grosbeak. Next time!

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