Sunday, March 30, 2014

Frequency Separation

This week I mentioned how a technique called 'Frequency Separation' helped me fix my desert picture 'Tracks of the Desert'. Now I would like to demonstrate why. If you look at the 2 photos below, you can see in the original RAW image (with slight processing before being exported to Photoshop) there is a lot of dirt/murkiness to the right of the picture. It is in other parts as well. Now I assume this was caused by the thick, sandy desert landscape, but nevertheless, I knew it would not look good in my final image.

My finished image is not perfect, and hasn't completely eradicated the dirt, but the Frequency Separation technique (normally used in portraiture photography) helped me eliminate the poorer parts to a large degree. If you watch the video tutorial below by Glyn Dewis, it explains all the elements of using this technique, and it was indeed this video that helped me solve my desert problem. I hope you find some use for it in the future!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Windsor Train Station

Time is against me today, so here is a quick post of Windsor & Eton Central Station. I had not planned to post this at all (the picture is from about 2 years ago) but I was working on it to experiment with different styles of HDR processing. After a while I decided to see what it would like as a colour-tinted Monochrome, and this was the result. I created the last bit in Lightroom, but the majority of the work was done in Photoshop, using various Topaz plugins. I will blog again tomorrow to make up for my lack of a blog on Thursday. Have a great weekend all!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tracks of the Desert

The Arabian desert; a place perhaps few are lucky to visit, and the mind conjuring up images of Lawrence of Arabia are plentiful. In the 21st century however, you see a lot of tracks like the ones above, courtesy of the arabian adventure cars that deflate their tyres and roar over the sand dunes. It certainly was an adventure to take a trip in one of these, but the best parts for me were the frequent stops to take in the desert landscape, and if you were lucky, see an Oryx or 2 (we did). I took so many close up and landscape pictures of the desert that day, as I could not stop my sense of awe over the patterns of the desert.

It's almost certain that the big cars help create these patterns (like to the bottom left which I really love), but it doesn't really matter. Just to capture them in the late afternoon, as the sun goes down, is enough for me not to worry about if nature or man created them. I had to put the post-processing of this picture on the shelf for a while, as the desert mist made this look very murky and dirty, and I did not know how I was going to get round this. Then at The Photography Show recently, I saw Glyn Dewis present a technique called 'Frequency Separation' that helped me alleviate the problem to a high degree. I'll explain more about this on Thursday, or at the weekend.

Presenting the image in lo-res as it is above, is not the best way to view this picture. The low resolution does not capture the desert detail very well.

Therefore, please click the link, to see it at full resolution at

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Making Progress

The continuation of learning is an essential discipline within any art form, as it ensures not only that you continue to improve, but that you can adjust and stay relevant as well. I have been focusing a lot on improving my photography this year, and that means having delved myself into a fair few books and video tutorials. The photo above is a picture I have processed today, from a shoot I did in January last year (from the Newbury Marina). The version below is one I processed and posted this time last year. Please click on either picture and use the arrows to compare between the two.

If you are like me, I think you will feel that the first version is a clearly more satisfying picture than the 2nd. Without becoming too modest, I am very happy with the result today, mainly because it shows that I am improving, nearly 4 years after I produced my first HDR image (I'm even embarrassed by some of the elements in the 2nd picture). I don't mind admitting my influences, a lot of my improvement recently has come from video tutorials purchased from Glyn Dewis and Jimmy McIntyre, who have really shown me new techniques to use in Photoshop, and helped me realise where I have been going wrong previously. In Photomatix for instance, I never really had an idea what the purpose of the sliders were, and what the objective of Photomatix should be. I just knew which sliders I liked using. Now I clearly know what I'm trying to achieve in Photomatix (a balanced look without pushing any sliders too hard), and how to get there.

As I stated on Thursday, I was looking to do a blog recently on LR/Enthuse, and how to get a good dynamic range without using HDR. However, every time I feel like I'm moving away from HDR, I am always hooked back. I think it will always be this way. I am convinced now more than ever that understanding HDR techniques can truly make the best possible picture, despite the pro's who still argue against it. Whilst I will of course continue to explore many different techniques and ways to get quality pictures, my long journey with HDR has just taken a new turn.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Smugglers Inn

Recently, I have been experimenting with merging different exposure brackets together, without using Photomatix or any other tone mapping software. Particularly I have been using LR/Enthuse (somehow I had not heard of this before), which blends together multiple exposures in Lightroom, without the tone mapping process, allowing for a more clean image to be merged. The resulting photo needs to be further post-processed (as normal) but you can get a very pleasing result.

Now today's picture is not a merged image of any kind, it is from a single RAW file. I was planning to post a set of photos which had been either merged in Photomatix, LR/Enthuse or not at all, but I wasn't happy with any of the results, which probably says more for the picture I was trying, than the actual techniques. So that little experiment will have to wait, but in the meantime this is an image from Osmington on the Dorset south coast. I took this while staying in Sherborne recently, though of course we took a bit of a trip for the day to visit somewhere further afield in Dorset. I didn't actually take many pictures that day, largely because we had our dog let loose running around the south coast, but it was a lovely day nonetheless. This pub is a very popular spot around Osmington, probably because 'watering holes' are few and far between along this part of the Jurassic Coast. It's a fantastic little place though, full of character and charm. I actually did most of the post-processing work on a different picture in this set of brackets, but then copied them over in Lightroom to this version, and preferred this one ever so slightly more (was a bit sharper more than anything).

I have plugged on Facebook and Twitter recently my new interior design photography website It's more the business aspect to my photography, rather than the hobby side (which is this blog and, but nevertheless I will be blogging in the near future, some of my more favourite images from my interior design exploits. I welcome everybody to have a look at my new website and tell me what you think. Until next time...

Saturday, March 15, 2014

For the Last Time...Downton Abbey

Saturday evening has been a vacant slot for me over the last few weeks, but here I am back blogging at this time. I am currently building an interior design photography website, and as part of that website, I want to show my exterior work as well. I could not think of a better example to display my exterior work than of Downton Abbey.

Please understand it pains me a little to call it Downton Abbey. This place is very local to me, as I grew up in this part of North Hampshire. It has and always will be Highclere Castle. However, for the rest of the world, this is now recognised as Downton Abbey from the hit TV series.

I say 'For the last time' because I have posted quite a few pictures of this place in the past, and until I come out with some original interior shots (I'm always trying to get permission to photograph will happen), I won't be posting further pictures from here.

This was taken during my D90 days, and is a single RAW image. I processed it in Lightroom, Photoshop, Nik Color Efex and Topaz Adjust. It feels a great time to post this as well, as it is starting to become warm(ish) and bright outside. It could be a false dawn of course, but with glass half full, here's hoping a wonderful summer is on it's way.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


My blogging output has not been very consistent recently. I would like to pretend this has nothing to do with me acquiring a new smart TV with a Netflix subscription, but that would be an absolute lie. Nevertheless, here is another picture from my recent trip to Sherborne in Dorset.

This was taken the same evening as my last picture, though obviously slightly earlier. I did picture this scene during the red sky period as well, but I felt the timing with the cars and the sharpness was better with these early evening shots. It is an HDR of course, taken from 5 different exposures. The bus trail is taken largely from 1 of the exposures but I used elements of all 5 exposures in the final picture.

I've been posting quite a bit recently on my Facebook page, as I still want to build my following there. I love the fact as well that you are largely introducing your work to non-photographers, and it is great read their reactions to the photos. I wrote a piece recently about creating better iPhone photos and was asked if I could provide a guide on how to create better pictures with SnapSeed. I will therefore produce a guide to using SnapSeed and post the link up in the very near future.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Photography Show

2014 sees the launch of the first ever 'The Photography Show', perhaps seen as the UK's answer to Photoshop World. I attended this event on Sunday and can absolutely confirm it is like DisneyLand for photographers. Not only did it feature representation from many of the big photography companies, there were many of the world's top professionals present to offer photographic advice, and provide inspirational stories.

Nikon and Canon predictably had rival giant stands at each of the entrances, though there was also a huge presence by Adobe, Panasonic and Olympus. Adobe had many classes on throughout the day, more than I unfortunately could attend. I made it an absolute must to catch up with Mr. Tricks himself Glyn Dewis at his presentation 'Pro retouching using Photoshop'. As usual, Glyn was present to offer a short but plentiful burst of techniques using Photoshop, and of course there were some things I simply did not know, but cannot wait to start using. There is 1 photo in particular from my recent Dubai trip, that I have been holding back because it has an 'obstacle' let's say with it, but having watched Glyn's seminar yesterday, I think I now have the solution.

It was great to see some of the companies I have been following for a few years now such as Smugmug and Topaz, though I was quite surprised by their small presence. A smaller company making it's presence felt was DXO, an upcoming rival to Photoshop, or so they would have us all believe. Their software does certainly seem impressive and was well demonstrated by the charismatic Hector. I have since downloaded their products to trial, and well we shall see how I get on with it.

Perhaps the highlight of the day was watching a seminar by the legendary Joe McNally. Although I am not too familiar with his work, it is not hard to see why he is so admired. He took time to come and meet some of his audience (such as myself) before the show, and his speech featured many great photos along with the stories behind them. It was a wonderful insight into his career and his philosophy as a photographer, and one you could not help but get inspired by. It was a genuine real pleasure to see him speak, and I recommend it to anyone gets the chance.

A wonderful footnote to the Joe McNally experience, was learning today exactly who the guy sat in front of me was. I was sat in the 2nd row, behind all the special guests and Joe especially was delighted to see the guy in front of me, and they conversed for a couple of minutes before the show. Joe introduced his assistant to the man in front of me saying 'this is Steve McCurry'. Joe also mentioned him during his seminar (they both worked for the National Geographic) and I kept thinking to myself 'I'm sure I have heard of Steve McCurry' before, but I could not think where. So I googled his name today, and was shocked but pleasantly surprised to learn that the guy sat in front of me was only the guy who pictured the world famous 'Afghan Girl' photograph, perhaps the most famous photograph of modern times! Had I realised that at the time, I would have definitely introduced myself and said hello, but perhaps next time hey. It was still wonderful to know I was sat amongst such esteemed company for McNally's talk. I really want to see and meet many other great photographer's in the near future, they are so inspiring.

All in all it was a great day out, and I only hope this the first of many Photography Shows to come. The enthusiasm for photography in the UK is enormous, and it's great that so many of the world's top professionals come to acknowledge that.

Today's picture is one I posted on Flickr last week. I want to start getting back into the social media side of things such as Flickr, as I miss the interaction you get over there. Although I love doing this blog, you have to accept that the people are at places such as Flickr, Google+ and 500px. I took this just outside Sherborne Abbey, as the sun went down.