Daily Zen 2018-04-09

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Why I Love Topaz Adjust

A few weeks ago I purchased the bundle of Topaz products, including Topaz Adjust. Since then I’ve been constantly amazed at what this software can do for a bland, single-image exposure.

Here’s an example of a shot that I took while visiting at my parents’ house last week. The skies were overcast and gray, so I didn’t have much natural light to work with. I was shooting hand-held, and my kit lens is not all that fast, so I had to bump up the ISO setting to get a fast-enough shutter speed to overcome my shaky grip.  Click the images to view them larger:

I’m not sure what kind of plant this is, I just found it in the woods behind the house.  I liked the image of the green plant still stubbornly hanging on while everything else was turning brown and dying, but I felt like the shot could be more dramatic if I could recover some of the color and detail that was lost in the soft lighting from the overcast day.  I ran this shot through Topaz Adjust and Topaz DeNoise, with a little post-processing in Paintshop Pro X3 to enhance the edges, and look how it turned out:

Not All Dead Yet

Neither of the shots is exactly what my eye saw that day, so I’m not even going to debate which one is more realistic. I just know that I like the second one much better, and that is what my photography is all about–producing images that I enjoy viewing and sharing.

Here’s another example of a Topaz before-and after.

Before:

After:

Fall Color in Detail

Thanksgiving in the Country

I spent last week at my parents’ house in North Mississippi. They are fortunate enough to live on a beautiful lake called Lake Mohawk, and I was glad to see that there was still a bit of fall color remaining when I arrived there last Monday.

The skies were overcast and rainy for most of my visit, however. I wasn’t able to get out and shoot as much as I had planned (my tripod never got used during my visit), and most of the shots I took outside were at a higher-than-normal ISO setting. But thanks to the Topaz suite of products and Paintshop Pro X3, I was able to restore some of the color to these shots that was lost in the flat light of the overcast daylight.

This first shot was made with my 75-200 zoom lens. There is an abundance of wildlife around the lake, including lots of squirrels who like to hang out at the bird feeders that my dad stocks around the house.  I used Topaz Adjust to sharpen it up and bring out the details of the tree bark and the squirrel’s fur:

I See You Up There

There’s no cable TV where my folks live…instead, everyone has dish antennas.   There are several dishes on the hill behind their house, most of which are the smaller ones, but there’s still this big dinosaur that’s gathering leaves from the surrounding trees. This is an HDR image created from three hand-held bracketed shots using Photomatix v4, Topaz Adjust, and Paintshop Pro X3:

Return to Nature

And finally, here’s a shot of some of the fall color that was still on the trees when I arrived. By the time I left on Saturday, the thunderstorms of the week had pretty much left the trees bare. This shot was processed in Topaz Clean 3, using the “Stylize Details” preset. In Paintshop Pro X3, I used the Curves tool to adjust the exposure, and then I used the Edge enhancement effect to sharpen the edges:

Last of the Fall Color

West Fork Revisited

I revisited some of my shots from West Fork tonight, to see what I could do with some of the single images in Topaz Adjust. Here are the results (I really should remember to make notes of the presets and sliders that I used).

Be sure to click on the image to view large on black:

West Fork Revisited 001

West Fork Revisited 002

However, this next one just cried out to be processed as an HDR, with the shadowy details of the rock wall and the sunny highlights of the gold leaves. I just couldn’t resist running the bracketed series through Photomatix to produce this:

West Fork Revisited 003

Next stop with the Nikon will be back in North Mississippi as I travel home for Thanksgiving. Hoping to get some great shots while I’m there, and also hoping I can get through airport security without being forced to baggage-check my gear. Have a great holiday everyone!

Fall Color and Frustration

This is one of those days when I’m not satisfied with anything that I’m working on, in the digital darkroom at least.

Before I even started trying to process any of the shots from last weekend, I downloaded the trial version of Topaz Adjust and six other Topaz products (they have a great deal on their bundle right now).  I wanted to see how Topaz might handle some of the single exposure shots that I took of the aspens.  Even though I took almost every shot as a bracketed series of three, I knew there would be some issues with processing them as HDR’s because of how windy it was last Saturday.  I was thinking that I might just stick to processing the single exposures, and I wanted to see how some of the presets in Topaz Adjust might render them.

Anyway, after downloading the bundle, it took me a little while to get it to work in Paintshop Pro, not because I had installed it incorrectly, but because I was testing it on a raw NEF file.  Evidently, TA doesn’t play well with raw NEF files (at least in Paintshop Pro).  When I fed it a JPG or TIFF file, there was no problem. But by then I had wasted an hour and was ready to move on.

So then I decided to start looking through the bracket sets to see if there were good candidates for HDR.  You know how it is, you take all these shots and in your mind you imagine how great they’ll be….but then they just don’t turn out like you pictured them.  That’s been my evening.

Here are a couple of HDR’s that I produced this evening, using Photomatix V4 (I’m still trying to decide if I like it or not), with follow-up processing in Paintshop Pro.  These were taken on Snowbowl Road, north of Flagstaff, Arizona, using a Nikon D5000 with the kit lens (18-55mm), tripod-mounted:

Autumn Color 001

Autumn Color 002

I mean, I think they’re okay, but still they’re not as crisp and detailed as I would have liked.  I did run them through Topaz Adjust just to see how the presets would render them–it was pretty freaky and not at all an improvement.  I know I need to learn more about processing, and maybe I shouldn’t have tried to do these as HDR’s.  But you never know until you try.

Let me know what you think (and be gentle!).