Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Impressions of Doelan

Topaz Labs are about to give digital photographers an even worse reputation than we already have. Their latest program 'Topaz Impressions' makes turning your photographs into watercolour masterpieces (questionably of course) as easy as painting a wall, and it seems to have become the latest craze in post-processing. I have always admitted that the artistic direction is always where I have wanted to take my photography. Not the upside-down-ice-cream-on-a-road photograph that sells for £500,000 kind of art (I hate that), but the visual creation of something more than just being a photograph. My normal outlay has been through HDR photography, the blending of multiple exposures into one exposure fits all imaging. This will probably always be my favourite type of photography, and it still gives photography a modern and unique look. However, looking through my blog archives you can see times when I have tried to something a bit different with my pictures.

Up until now though, there has not really been any enormous leap forward with creating art pieces out of photographs and the results have just been 'alright'. Topaz Impressions changes all that. I used a photo from my recent trip to Brittany, a river shot taken in the village of Doelan. This is a quintessential tourist snap. But I think this just might be the target for Topaz Impressions. As you may be able to guess from the original photo below, I did not do any pre-processing before Topaz accept for some cropping. Impressions gives you many presets to choose from when you load your photo up and I have not nearly enough time to explore them all yet but for this picture I went for Monet, an artist who's work I have often been compared to. I then used the sliders to adjust the picture to my preferences and brought the picture back into Lightroom. The picture looked good when you turned the saturation down a bit, but as this was a sunny day, I wanted to keep the bright feeling. There wasn't much else I did apart from turn the highlights down a bit (I did a bit of layer masking in photoshop to help with this as well) and then a bit of sharpening, though it's not as essential as a normal photograph.

They say that Photoshop can't make a bad photograph good, but I think Topaz Impressions can definitely give a striking new look to your tourist snaps. I can see me now going through my Venice photos from a few years ago, and giving them an all new look. Artists will of course hate the fact that they were created on a computer, not while sipping absinthe by the riverside, whilst being admired by onlookers for your artistic genius, but times change, and I can't wait to see more examples of impressionist photographs surface on the net.

The original image

Click on the photo and use the arrows to compare them together:

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Beach at Sables d'Or

After I thought I was nearly finished with photography (see my last post below), I was very fortunate to find a new creative inspiration, which helped me capture shots like the one above. This also shows what can happen when your initial plan fails.

First of all I should say though, how great this location is. The last few days of our trip to Brittany was spent in the seaside village of Sables d'Or (or 'Frehel', I wasn't quite sure which name was the correct one), and my word, the beach is spectacular! My wife and I both agreed it was like walking along a tropical beach (though we were in very northern France), and it was a lovely, quiet beach as well.

I knew this particular evening would yield a wonderful sunset, and my plan was to photograph a mini version of Mont Saint Michel that belongs to the area, but I could not nearly figure out how to get there. I gave up driving after about half an hour and then decided to head there the only I knew possible, along the huge stretch of beach. Even at the stage above, I was nowhere near it (I would realise this the next day), so nonetheless decided to anchor my tripod into the sand, and take some pictures of the beautiful colours and patterns that remained that evening.

I try not to be modest, but I think I'm actually beginning to think like a serious photographer now. My main motivation for capturing the picture above, was not just to create another HDR picture, but to really capture the drama I felt at the time. It was just a sense I got from the combination of sky and the wonderful landscape, and I tried to capture this feeling.

The processing in a nutshell

Ok I said I would try to provide more of these so here it goes....

1. 5 bracketed shots loaded into Photomatix and processed to contain a nice arch of dynamic range with a boost to the detail as well (never over doing it in Photomatix)

2. 2 versions eventually produced in Photomatix, first with the standard tone mapped look, the 2nd with a more natural look (this is quite standard for me now).

3. Both finished versions loaded into layers in Photoshop.

4. Curves adjustment applied to the tone mapped version.

5. Masked in more natural elements of the other layer such as the beach (at 60%) to give a sharper foreground.

6. Dodge tool used to bring out more colour into the orange parts of the beach and sea.

7. Dust spots removed with content-aware healing brush.

8. Picture loaded into Nik Color Efex. First tool used - Pro Contrast. Adjusted the colour tone and improved dynamic contrast.

9. Remove Color Cast used to again change the overall tone of the picture.

10. Back in Photoshop, High Pass sharpening used for general sharpness. Blended with Overlay at 70%.

11. Photo loaded into Lightroom. Brushed over the trees along the middle of the picture to bring out the shadows more.

12. Boost of sharpening added with high masking.

13. Tiny saturation of orange colour.