When life gives you lemons…

KK Pop Edition
… you make Lemonade, of course.   You can apply these little words of wisdom to photography too. . . with a little help from a plug-in or two.

Is there such a thing as too many . . . plug-ins that is?  Did you catch the Perfect Effects 8 freebie a while back?  I did and have added  it to my plug-in library along with the Topaz and Nik plug-ins, and if those were not a enough, I just added the the quirky plug-in Fractalius to my library.  Like all the software I use, I wish I had more time to dedicate to learning each one of the programs inside and out.  Unfortunately, my day seems to be all about “Units of Time” (I borrowed that one from the movie, About a Boy, …love those quirky (yes, my word of the day) British films).  Anyway, so at the end of the day when all I have is about “one unit”…if that, I finally get to play.

Working with plug-ins, for me, is a lot like cooking without a recipe.  Sometimes all you need are the  basics, a good photo, add some basic adjustments (sharpening/contrast) and wah-la.   But what if your main ingredient isn’t that great?  Well, it’s not a total loss… you just add some special ingredients . . . the plug-ins.  CLP blog timeline May 2014 copy

So here’s the original.  An iPhone snap-shot.  Kind of cute… I Love how it documents the day and actually a very rare photo of me that I actually kind of like, but it’s only 72 dpi (sent to me via email attachment), dark, and kind of lifeless.meg and me in nest_no edits

Sure there are plenty of iPhone apps that probably could achieve the same result, but I wanted to do a little more.  In this case I thought it would make a fun time-line for my FB page.  So, I started with a good crop, ran it through my fave Florabella actions, brushed in my own straw with a little bit of Fractalius added, sent it into Topaz Adjust, then back again to Topaz Simplify, added a little Nik Color Efex (but at this point I can’t remember why), and then garnished with Perfect Effect 8 for some blur and vignette.  Too much?  Nope…not for me.  Because now I have a photo that I can share with you and my FB friends.

CLP blog timeline May 2014Am I suggesting everyone run and and get some plug-ins.  Nope.  Most everything I did here can probably be done in one of the many editing programs available, but for me, when time is short, they really come in handy.

Til next time,
Maria

 

Welcome to My Universe

Remember in my last post, I said I was working on something new.  Well, this isn’t it.   It’s still new…for me and I’m just taking a break from my other project.  It’s what I continue to love about this hobby of mine, there’s always another avenue to explore . . .

April’s photo club quest is abstract.  Hmm, architecture can make for some good abstract.  Here’s one from the archives.  abstract_arch   A trip to NY and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Stieglitz, Steichen, and Strand exhibit a couple years back.  But here in the eastern PA, it’s still kind of cold and still very much brown (now that the snow has finally melted) and I’m just not feeling very inspired.  So I decided to keep it indoors and get creative with what I can find in my own home, more specifically the kitchen.  Fruit. . .  might work… pasta, not quite.  Water!  Drops. . .  maybe.  Or how about . . . oil & water.

Round 1:  As you probably already know, 75 no 90 percent of any project is set up.  Figuring out the lighting, setting the stage, etc., etc.,  I needed a little help. You Tube to the rescue for a little how-to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQ5SH_vK7U8.  Simple enough . . .  Supplies:  soda cans (the legs), piece of glass, glass dish/bowl, desk lamp, colorful paper,  tripod & camera.  Easy, right . . . wrong.  Of course I was short one soda can, had no desk lap but did have my handy-dandy shop light, and the only glass container big enough was a pie plate had lots of scratches.   Here’s one my first shots with this rudimentary setup.  abstract_1

What did I learn:  That every imperfection in the glass shows up and [a must] vacuum before you start, especially if you are setting up on the floor. . . dog hair has a way of getting everywhere.

Have a look for yourself . . . abstract_1babstract_1a

But! I did find my inspiration or maybe it just because I’ve been watching Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey lately . . .

Round two:  Off to the craft store to find a clear glass bowl (no scratches) and to the grocery store for more soda cans.  The original and them my crop with a touch of polarization using Nik Color Efex Pro 4.  I’m having fun now!  My universe is expanding with every turn around the bowl, mixing up the oil, or just a slight change in the angle of the light.

Abstract_2abstract_3

But my universe is far from perfect . . . or maybe it’s just the perfectionist in me. I still have a few more ideas for round 3, as I continue to explore this little universe of mine . . .

abstract_4

Til next time,
Maria

Pixel Pushing

Ten years ago, the family and I took a whirlwind trip out west.   I took lots of photos but never really did anything with them. . .   Of course, they are priceless in terms of documenting our trip and showing that were actually there; but as for photographs, they are just . . . okay.  I decided to a pull a few from the archives to see if today’s software could make them more than just marginal.

The camera for this trip was a Kodak DC 4800 with it’s whopping 3.1 megapixels, and I’m pretty sure I shot on Auto. . . back then I just didn’t know any better.

Image 1:  Somewhere near Sedona, Az.

The Before:
GC - Sedona 054 GC - Sedona 054-2-Edit-Edit
The After:  You can really see a difference when you click on the images and make them larger.  Just don’t make it too big; I guess there is only so much today’s programs can do.  But who knows, in another 10 years . . .  I will hopefully get the opportunity to try again with the knowledge and camera equipment I have today and no pixel pushing required 🙂

The Process:  I started in Lightroom.  I always like to start there, starting with the basics: Some sharpening, noise reduction (was a must!), pretty simple.  Then off to Photoshop.  Here I use my plug-ins (yes, I know I can use them in LR; it’s just a preference of mine to work with them in PS).  First up, Topaz Clarity.  I am loving this one.  Since I don’t really speak the techie-language, I’m not even going to try, I just know I can get the result I want by starting with a preset and then tweaking the sliders.  I’m off to a good start, but there is still all that noise and then some.  I had Topaz’s Denoise, not sure where it went.  So I went to Nik Define2.  I like that I can apply it just to the area I want (the sky) by using a brush and bonus the Nik software in PS creates a layer to work from, so I make adjustments later if I need to.  Still, not quite there yet, I wanted some more detail but wanted to keep all that noise I worked so hard at getting rid of at bay.  After clicking around Topaz Adjust and Nik Color Efex and not really finding what I was looking for, I opted for Nik Sharperner.  I have two options here RAW presharpener and Output sharpener.  Now, I know I should probably look up what each one really does and why, and maybe someday I will, but let’s face it, I’m a clicker. If I click on something and it gives me what I want, that’s good enough for me.  I went with the RAW, which makes absolutely no sense given I was working with a low quality, low resolution, JPEG, but it did what I was looking for, what more can I ask.

In the end, other than the pushing of all those pixels resulting in a hot pixel showing up here and there (cloned out) and the fact that printing this large will never be an option, at least not a good one, I think this was an exercise well worth the effort.  Are they now perfect? Not by a long shot.  Are there other ways to achieve these results, if not even better one’s?  You bet there are.  But for now,  I relived some memories, taught myself a thing or two, and I learned a bit more about what the software I have can do, and that is pretty darn satisfying.

Here’s another one resurrected from the trip.  This is Coral Sand Dunes National Park in Utah, near Zion.   I kept pretty much to the same processing. . . Zion 027 Zion 027-2-Edit-Edit

’til next time,
Maria