Sunday, November 02, 2014

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

They made Topaz Impression even better!

Topaz released version 1.1 of Impression today! [update: version 1.1.1 came out a week later with some more improvements] The big problem is "too many presets"! There are so many you could spend an hour deciding which one you like best!

I was just playing with this one. It's amazing how saturated the world gets when you shoot in the rain, at dusk. Since I can never leave well enough alone, it's a 5-shot HDR, enhanced with Topaz Impression, Georgia O'Keefe II preset, dialed back to 66% and Edge and Detail Enhanced in Topaz Simplify.  

The picture above is a bit of mystery to me. It was really loved on Social Media, in fact the "Topaz Impression" group selected it for their masthead. I have to be honest, I don't love it that much. I get that it emulates Georgia O'Keefe's brush style and colour choices, but I initially found it too strong. Interestingly, I shot it from virtually the same spot as another image a couple of years ago (different, it was about the foreground vegetation). At that time, I was about to discard it when Rosa said it was absolutely my best work, and of all my images, she chose that one to have a print made for herself. It just shows that everyone's taste is different.

Honestly, I liked this picture much better, but I didn't get a lot of reaction to it. To me, this is a gallery-ready image. It's a rework of an older image, using the Impasto preset in Impression. I took this picture because the bike colour matched the wall colour and as I captioned, I wonder which came first. 

Here's a pencil sketch of my house taken at the same time but enhanced with a totally different preset in Impression. I started with something called Cavedweller IV but did a lot of custom modification from there. 

One more:

Once again, I used Impression and selected the "Sketch III preset. I won't bore you with the variations I made, the 5-shot HDR,  the second layer with a different brush rotation, the added subtle lighting effects in Photoshop... oh, too late, I already did! This needs to be viewed larger, so click on it.

Back story on this image: Friday night was the first sprinkling of snow up in the Highlands and as I was driving to Haliburton for the event below, I spotted this stand of trees frosted with snow. I ventured into the woods and came across this cabin. I would have preferred a shot where the cabin was much smaller, in other words, with a wide angle lens; but I had the wrong one with me and this was the best I could do. There was a large run of split firewood where I was standing so I couldn't get further back. Just guessing: the owner of this property has logged it, the stand of trees is clearly second growth. Maybe the cabin was built to house the loggers. It was clearly disused and yet there were several bush cords of split firewood there, that shed in the foreground was only a small part of it.

If you're not yet a Topaz junkie, or just haven't tried them yet, get thee to this link or click the box at right to try/buy any of their products. And if you enter "faczen" in the checkout box, you'll get a 15% discount.

Zombie Walk!

Linda send me some pictures that she had taken when she and Cheryl went to the Toronto Zombie Walk a few days ago. They were really great, and intriguing! (Here's the link to her online gallery). Then I heard on the radio that they were going to have one on November 1st in Haliburton, so I went! I hoped to match the quality of Linda's images but I don't think I succeeded. However, here are a few samples. It was a fun afternoon!

Gord Kidd under that makeup. Apparently I'm supposed to know who he is but I've only lived here 7 years, so what do I know? 

A far more subtle "undead" person.  

My favourite shot (so far!). I cropped this out of a larger image, too bad I didn't get tack-sharp focus on her eyes. Remember, you can blow up any image by clicking on it. She was really into the role, never saw her crack a smile, even when she won an award for her costume/makeup.  

OK, maybe this is my favourite shot... for the photographers/Photoshoppers out there, I had my Speedlight on the camera with the Gary Fong Diffuser and compensation to -1ev. I wanted to separate the subjects from the background, but in the end, the background you're looking at is not what was there. I created a black background then added in some Flypaper textures. It was still too prominent so I used Impression/Impasto to change it. Some extra sharpening and a little retouching on the Zombie Girls.

By the way, these weren't the only people there who had put in contact lenses to change their eyes. Some people took this event quite seriously!

Retouching hint

Admittedly, I'm no professional retoucher (imagine trying to retouch that picture above!). But I get that you can overdo things (who, me? LOL), plastic skin is not a good look. My ex-GF asked for my help with a picture for her website and because I'm a nice guy, I spent over an hour on it. Honestly, I could have left it after 30 minutes, but I got carried away and tried to do it just right. Here's the before and after:

Disclaimer: not my photo. Taken in a Sears photo concession. Not 'that' bad, but lighting was too hard, pose was not flattering, artifacts in the background, focus not bang on... click to enlarge.
So what she asked me for was to take down the reflections, and a small enhancement on her teeth. In addition, I changed the perspective slightly (they had her looking up at the camera), cleaned up the fly-away hair and spotted a few blemishes, cropped it differently, used liquify on some places not in the final image and then worked on the skin, although she doesn't need it.

So what's the hint? I decided to finally try "Frequency Separation" to do the smoothing. The idea is to split the image into two layers, one containing the colour information and toning, and the other the details (pores, lines, etc). It works. It's a little tricky at first, but you have quite a bit of control.

I'm not going to give you a link to a tutorial on it, I watched a few of them before diving in: Google it. "Frequency Separation". As usual there are 704,329 pages in Google.

So what do you think? She looks pretty good for a 75 year old lady. OUCH. Stop That. I'm kidding. She's not a day over 65! You owe me one, Iris!

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