ABFriday: Derelict Boat

Happy New Year! And what better way to start the year off than with After Before Friday, sponsored by Stacy Fischer at Visual Venturing. To see how other photographers interpreted this month’s photograph, click here.

This month’s selection came from Laura Macky, whose past participation encouraged many of us to up our game after seeing her imagination let loose. Laura is a fantastic photographer; I follow her on Facebook and also on her blog, Laura Macky Photography.

Laura’s picture looked pretty good to me without any adjustments:

Original Photo

Original Photo

I did a minor correction to the horizon, using the far shore as my leveling point. I enhanced the colors, contrast, saturation, etc. in Lightroom. I also applied a preset by Matt Kloskowski called “Game Day”. I don’t usually use presets in Lightroom, but I liked how this brought out the colors and textures in Laura’s photograph. I also did a hard crop, to bring better focus on the bow of the boat. That was strictly a judgment call; the picture could easily have done without a crop. I didn’t do any cloning, although in hindsight, I wish I’d gotten rid of that piece of metal sticking out of the front of the boat.

After Lightroom adjustments, including the Matt Koslowski preset, "Game Day"

After Lightroom adjustments, including the Matt Kloskowski preset, “Game Day”

I tried one other crop – a square. It was only okay.

After Lightroom adjustments, cropped to a square

After Lightroom adjustments, cropped to a square

Topaz Labs came out with a new package that uses textures. I wanted to try it out! I liked the outcome, but I need to play more with these presets before being satisfied with how my work looks.

Topaz Textures, "Summer Haze"

Topaz Textures, “Summer Haze”

The preset, “Bold”, in Topaz Adjust gave everything a gritty look. This picture held up well with that and I considered just stopping here. I was surprised to see the light arc in the sky. It’s there in all the pictures, but not noticeable unless you look for it.

Topaz Adjust, "Bold"

Topaz Adjust, “Bold”

I also tried Topaz Simplify. It didn’t turn out badly – I liked all the textures better – but this worked better than I expected. It gives it more of a graphic look.

Topaz Simplify, "Painting 2"

Topaz Simplify, “Painting 2”

And lastly, I decided to play around in Topaz Black and White. I did it just to experiment a bit more. The colors were so rich and vivid, I couldn’t imagine not playing them up. Well, it shows how wrong that thinking was. This desaturated look from “Milk Memories” turned out to be my favorite. The hazy, gauzy look really played up the abandoned feeling of this boat.

Topaz Black & White, "Milk Memories" with the black grunge border #5

Topaz Black & White, “Milk Memories” with the black grunge border #5

Now that I look at them all again, I’m thinking maybe I do like the colors in the Topaz Simplify better. Maybe. Maybe not.

Still, it was fun to try things out and see what worked and what didn’t.

As always, let me know what you think! Did I pick it right or would you have picked something else? Don’t be shy – let me know!

If you want to see what I did in other challenges, click here.


Topaz Labs Free Trial

If you’re considering buying or using Topaz Labs products, I suggest you download a free trial now. Topaz often runs a sale of some sort on Black Friday (i.e., the day after Thanksgiving when the Christmas shopping bargains happen). I don’t know if they are this year, but they have in the past. This way – with less than three weeks left until Black Friday – you’ll know for sure if you want to buy it in the event there is a sale.

At this time, when their software is upgraded, owners receive a free update (note that is always subject to change).

To find out more about downloading Topaz Labs, click here. You’ll receive a $20 coupon and supposedly I get one too. I’m not a Topaz representative nor do they offer me anything for doing this. I’m merely sending around a reminder since so many of you have commented on thinking about trying it out.

More about my post processing can be found here.

Here are some examples of things I’ve done using Topaz Labs. Most of the frames around the pictures are from a different software, onOne Effects. They also offer a free trial (click here), but I don’t know if they offer any sales on Black Friday.


ABFriday – November 2015

Another month has gone by and it’s time again for the ABFriday One Photo Focus, sponsored by Stacy Fisher over at Visual Venturing. A number of us take the same picture and post process it with our own interpretation. It’s always fun to see what everyone does! This month’s entries can be found here and was provided by Helen Chen.

The original photo is on the left. I applied a few standard adjustments to improve clarity, contrast and exposure. I did some minor cloning of the inside doorway to get rid of the red object and some of the speckles in the upper half of the doorway. After some debate, I also cropped it down. The wall on the left was interesting, but I found it hard to figure out where I wanted to look! After that, the brick wall to the left was burned out and I used a masking brush to darken it down more. I also darkened the inside of the doorway. Since it was a bit junky, I felt a darker look made it more mysterious.

Now it was time to play with some Topaz Labs filters! This one was my favorite – a charcoal picture done in Topaz Impressions, with a dark vignette around the outside.

Topaz Labs Impressions, with a dark vignette

Topaz Labs Impressions, with a dark vignette

My intention was to create something mysterious and creepy looking. The charcoal didn’t do that, but I felt it really highlighted the jumble of vines and bricks.

This was a close favorite. It’s the same picture as above, but before I turned it into a charcoal drawing. This used Topaz Labs Adjust “Brilliant Cold” and “Dark Night”. It turned it into something dark and mysterious, while bringing up a lot of interesting colors and textures. I had to lighten the exposure more after doing that because it got too dark.

Topaz Labs Adjust - Brilliant Cold and Dark Night

Topaz Labs Adjust – Brilliant Cold and Dark Night

This one used Topaz Labs Restyle, “Swamp and Sherpa” (those names!). It’s a little too dark and I didn’t like the colors as well as on the one above. I could easily lighten it, but didn’t want to play with it any further since it wasn’t going to be my final version.

Topaz Labs Restyle

Topaz Labs Restyle “Swamp and Sherpa”

And here was my least favorite. It’s really hard to tell what the picture even is. It used Topaz Labs Simplified “BuzSim”. I like the bricks and foliage, but the vines to the right of the door are kind of weird and too blotchy for my taste. I’d also do a little more cloning on the inside left of the doorway, where that sliver of light is. On the other pictures it works as is, but in this one it doesn’t fit in.

Topaz Labs Simplified BuzSim

Topaz Labs Simplified BuzSim

So what do you think? Did I pick the right one or should I have picked something else? Let me know!

To see how I’ve edited other photographs, click here.


ABFriday: Street Art

Welcome to another month of After-Before Friday, where participants take a photo and each renders their own interpretation of it. The other photos are hosted at Visual Venturing by Stacy Fischer. This month, Ben Rowe, of Aperture64, volunteered a photo of the Pendennis Castle in Cornwall, England. I encourage you to visit both blogs – Stacy’s to see what other people did (and it’s always a wide variety) and Ben, because he does such a superb job of explaining how he edited his version.

So here’s the original photo. The red marks are some things I cloned out to slightly declutter the picture. This included two benches, a sign, a small amount of roof, and a blip in the sky. I also did some pipes up the side of the building (just to the left of the center), but missed one in the middle of the tower, where the arrow is.

Original Photo Before Lightroom Adjustments; Red Shows What I Cloned Out

Original Photo Before Lightroom Adjustments; Red Shows What I Cloned Out

I lightly edited the photo in Lightroom and cropped it down to reduce the sky and grass. I felt the castle was better seen when it filled the frame and the Lightroom adjustments brought out the colors and perked up the picture.

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ABFriday: Stone, Water and Sky

It’s once again time for After-Before Friday, hosted as always by Stacy Fisher over at Visual Venturing. To see other pictures from ABFriday, click here.  It’s always fun to check and see the many variations that happen each month!

On the left is the original photo; on the right is how the photo looked after I enhanced it in Lightroom. The colors and textures have improved and there is more variation between the sky and water.

This was the finalist, using Topaz Glow “Whiskers and Fur 1”. Topaz Glow uses “energetic sparks of neon lights” (per their advertising) “to create beautiful and vibrant images”.

I’ve found it difficult to find anything I like when using it, so my challenge this month was to see if I couldn’t figure it out. It took some experimenting, but I finally found a look that after some adjustment, I thought showed off the textures and colors in a way that was pleasing. To finish it, I used a border called “antique” from onOne Software to give it a vintage look.

The finalist! This used Topaz Glow,

The finalist! This used Topaz Glow, “Whiskers and Fur 1”, with an antique border from onOne.

I didn’t clone out the people. On the other experiments, I thought it helped give perspective to the photo and they were clearly recognized as people. For the Topaz Glow, it’s harder to tell what they are and if I were to redo the picture, I’d try it with and without the people to see how it looked.

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AB Friday: Capitol Building

Final Photo with Topaz Impressions Watercolor 4 and onOne Torn Paper Border

Final Photo with Topaz Impressions Watercolor 4 and onOne Torn Paper Border

Thanks to Stacy Fisher, sponsor for another month of After-Before Friday (ABFriday) and Robin Kent (Photography by Kent), who provided the picture! While other months had tough technical challenges to the photos, this month was hard because the photo was so nearly perfect already.
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So here’s the original photo. The people are minor, the building is straight (I checked) and the sky has a nice color. I really choked. I mean, what do you do with that?
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Original Photo

Original Photo

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After Before Photo June 2015: House

It’s once again the first Friday of the month, which means another round of One Photo Focus on After-Before Friday, sponsored by Stacy Fischer at Visual Venturing.

In honor of the one-year anniversary of ABFriday and the six-month anniversary of One Photo Focus, Stacy used one of her own photos to see how imaginative we could be. Below is the original photograph:

Original Photo

Original Photo

It’s not a bad photo, but there are some definite challenges between the sidewalk, fence post, other house, and the angle this was taken at. I tried to transform it so it didn’t angle quite so badly, but too much of the top got cut off. It was also hard getting that fence post out of there and leaving it look normal. So in the end, I cropped it down to show just the porch. I did some minor straightening so that the front post in the center was a true perpendicular when viewed.

Cropped But Not Adjusted Yet

Cropped But Not Adjusted Yet

There’s still a lot of clutter in the picture, which I found distracting. Topaz Simplify was my way around that, after I corrected for colors and exposure. I did a first round of corrections in Lightroom, but then used other Topaz filters to further improve the picture before using Topaz Simplify.

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