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Creative Tips Landscape Nature Photo Editing Topaz Labs tutorial

How to Photograph Waterfalls

Have you ever wondered how to photograph waterfalls so that you get that silky smooth water effect? It’s not as hard as you think! Here are a few simple tips:

Gooseberry Winter Lower Falls

Gooseberry Falls State Park, North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota

Gear Needed to Photograph Waterfalls

If you want to get that silky smooth water flowing effect, you’re going to need some gear:

  • Sturdy Tripod
  • Neutral Density Filters
  • Possibly a Polarizing Filter depending on your focal length and the scene you’re shooting.
  • Camera that can accept filters and can be set to manual to do long exposures.
  • Backpack or other means of getting your gear to the location.
  • Possibly ice cleats for your boots/shoes if you’re shooting in winter, like this particular shot.

Ideal Conditions to Photograph Waterfalls

The best weather conditions for shooting waterfalls is a calm overcast day. The rocks and surrounding areas are typically much darker than the whitewater that flows through the river channel, so sunny days can really blow out your whites and highlights. You also want calm winds since you’ll be doing long exposures and you don’t want the camera getting buffeted by the breeze. And of course, you want to shoot during a time of year when there is adequate water flowing, otherwise you’ll be left with a trickle (if anything) coming over the drop. Typically spring snow melt or after a rainfall are good times.

Gooseberry Upper Falls

How to Photograph Waterfalls

Once you’ve scouted a location and managed to get there, choose your composition and set up your tripod. Determine what aperture you want and keep it constant. Since you’re on a tripod, make sure your image stabilization is turned off. If you’re going after the silky smooth water look, you’ll want a relatively slow shutter speed, at least a few seconds long. Use a remote control to trip the shutter, or set a self timer so that you don’t move the camera when you press the shutter. I typically bracket my shots 2 stops of light apart until I’ve covered the dynamic range in the scene by keeping the aperture constant and changing ISO or shutter speed. You’ll be underexposing some shots to get details in the whitewater while overexposing others to get details in the surrounding rocks.

Post Processing

This particular shot was actually four different exposures that were then blended together using HDR (High Dynamic Range) software in Adobe Lightroom. There are other HDR programs out there, but Lightroom or Photoshop are the ones that I use. Once you’ve got your HDR, process to taste as usual.

Gooseberry Falls hdr

Four shots blended to create a HDR image.

This is what my image looked like after blending the four exposures together, but I wanted to add some color to give it a little more pizzazz. There are lots of ways to do that, but the fastest and easiest for me is to use Topaz Restyle plug-in. That program has more presets than I’ve counted, and you also have complete control to customize those presets and even change blending modes. It’s also non-destructive, so play around with as many different edits as you like. The options are endless! For this image, I used “Blue Gray Shade” and adjusted opacity as well as a few other tweaks to get my final result:

Gooseberry Winter Lower Falls

Final Result after adjusting color palette in Topaz Restyle

I hope you learned a few helpful tips – now go out and give it a try yourself!

 

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Creative Tips Lightroom Photo Editing Photoshop Topaz Labs tutorial

Topaz Texture Effects 2 Features

If you’re looking for an easy to use right out of the box photo editing software program, look no further than Topaz Labs! Topaz Labs now has 17 different products that enhance photo images easily and seamlessly with Photoshop or Lightroom. In the case of their newer products like Texture Effects 2, they also work as stand alone programs! Check out these Topaz Texture Effects 2 features:

Topaz Texture Effects 2 Features

I’ve already listed the major features of Topaz Texture Effects in earlier posts, but sometimes pictures are worth a thousand words – Especially for visual artists such as photographers. So here is a brief look:

Here are a few of my own images, including some double exposures:

Rock of Ages Lighthouse Antique

Rock of Ages, Isle Royale National Park

Grand Sable Dunes

Grand Sable Dunes, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Antique Tepee

Tepee, Blue Mounds State Park

Sandhill Cranes & Moon

Double Exposure of Sandhill Cranes & Moon

Topaz Texture Effects 2 Intro Tutorial

For a more in depth look at how the program works in real life, John Barclay did a 40+ minute tutorial that you can watch here:

This program is a TON of fun and if you already own Texture Effects, the upgrade to Texture Effects 2 is FREE!

Check it out with a 30 day free trial.

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Lightroom Photo Editing Photoshop Special Offer Topaz Labs tutorial

Topaz Texture Effects Basic Tour

If you follow my blog at all, you know that I’m a HUGE fan of Topaz Labs photo editing products. While most photo editing software plug-ins need to work within Photoshop or Lightroom, Topaz Texture Effects works as a plug-in as well as a stand alone program. I personally find their software very easy to use, but there are plenty of free tutorials available on YouTube if you need a little help or would like to get some tips and tricks that may not be as obvious. For example, check out this video tutorial of Topaz Texture Effects basic tour by Mark Johnson:

Mark goes through all of the different layer adjustment options:

  • Basic Adjustment
  • Split Tone
  • Texture
  • Borders
  • Vignette
  • Light Leak
  • Edge Exposure
  • Edge Blur
  • Dust and Scratches
  • Diffusion
  • Film Grain
  • Posterize
  • Double Exposure
  • Color Overlay

Import Your Own Textures

The cool thing is – you don’t have to settle for one of the 275+ assets that come pre-loaded with the software; you can upload your own assets and use them within the program as well. Mark shows you just how simple it is.

Share With the Online Community

Furthermore, there is an online community that you get instant access to within the program where you can download pre-sets that others have created! If you want to create your own pre-sets from scratch, you can do that too – and share them with the online community with a single click if you wish. Mark shows you how to do that, too.

Fully Customize Your Image

You can edit any layer in the preloaded pre-sets by deleting, changing, or adding different adjustment options to each image. You can add multiple layers of similar adjustments if you’d like; two different light leaks, for example. Since every adjustment comes with a layer mask, you can customize each layer by choosing what parts of the image you want to apply a particular effect to. You don’t even have to start with a pre-set; you can simply open an image in Texture Effects and edit from scratch like I did with this double exposure of Sandhill Cranes and the moon 🙂

Sandhill Cranes Moon Texture

Save $20 Thru January

Since Topaz Labs just updated Texture Effects by fixing some minor bugs and adding EVEN MORE textures and assets, they are offering $20 off the software through January 31, 2016! That means you get it for only $49.99 instead of a still bargain price of $69.99.

Rain Drops on Rose
Added “rain drops” to this rose using new “weather” texture in the latest Topaz Texture Effects update.

Like all Topaz Labs products, you can get a FREE 30 day trial on their software and any future updates are always FREE 🙂

Categories
Creative Tips Lightroom Photo Editing Photoshop Topaz Labs tutorial

Add Stars To Your Photos In A Few Easy Steps

In this tutorial, I will show you how to add stars to your photos in a few easy steps using Topaz Labs Star Effects.

Split Rock Lighthouse Star

Split Rock Lighthouse

Image Preparation

First, you will need to do any basic edits in your regular photo editing software. Topaz Star Effects works as a plug-in to Photoshop or Lightroom and is not a stand alone product.

Edit Your Image In Topaz Star Effects

When you first bring your prepped image in to Topaz Star Effects, you will notice three main areas of the screen. The left column shows the presets and the smaller image at the top of the stack gives you a preview of each preset as you hover over it. The large middle screen is what’s happening with your image as you apply the actions that you choose. For this particular image, I chose the preset “Lamp Post One” and at this point it looks like a hot mess.

Topaz Labs Star Effects

Now go over to the panel on the far right side of the screen. Under “Star Settings” you can choose different star types. For this image I went with traditional.

Topaz Labs Star Effects

Further down on the right side are the “Main Adjustments” – take the threshold slider all the way to the right. I think of the threshold as being similar to an opacity slider for a layer mask. Bringing it all the way to the right will hide all of the star effects.

Topaz Labs Star Effects

Go back up to “Star Settings” and you’ll notice there are show / hide stars buttons. Choose “show.” This will act similar to a brush on a mask in Photoshop – your mouse will look like a small button with crosshairs and anywhere you click on the image will allow the star effect to show through. In this image, I clicked on the reflector inside the lighthouse window so that only the one star shows in the image.

Topaz Labs Star Effects

You can fine tune your star effect further by going back down to the main adjustments and playing with luminance, how many points you want your star to have, size, spread, angle, etc. Further down on the right side there are even more adjustments for color, temperature settings, and additional adjustments for glow or ring flare. For this image, I only adjusted the number of points from twelve to six and I was done in minutes!

I find all of the Topaz products fun and easy to use – and I can do many things in a fraction of the time it would take in Photoshop. So, if you want to add stars to your photos in a few easy steps, give Topaz Star Effects a try! They have FREE 30 day trials on all of their software, and updates for each product are free for life 🙂

If you’d like to purchase a print of this image of Split Rock Lighthouse for your home or office decor, it’s now available in the Landscape gallery both with and without the star effect!

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Abstract Creative Tips Landscape Lightroom Nature Photo Editing Photoshop Topaz Labs tutorial

How to Create Surreal Forest Photos in Minutes

Want to learn a fast easy way to turn “blah” forest photos into something surreal? I’m going to show you a way to get two different options out of the same “ho-hum” forest photo in just a few easy steps using Lightroom with either Photoshop for the blur option or Topaz Labs plug-ins for a super fast impressionist painterly effect.

Impressionist Painterly Effect
Impressionist Painterly Effect

Original Forest Photo

I took this during the middle of a sunny day at St. Croix State Park when the light was a bit harsh. I really liked the way the forest looked in real life, but the image straight out of the camera was, well…. lackluster to say the least.

Boring Forest Photo
Boring Forest Photo straight out of the camera.

Original Edits in Lightroom

For this one, I only did some very basic edits in Lightroom: brought the temp slider down to emphasize the blues and turned the hue slider on the aqua channel way up. You may have to make different tweaks depending on the image you’re starting with.

Adjust Temp & Hue
Adjust Temp & Hue in Lightroom

Option One – Linear Blur

From this point, I did two different edits starting with the basic Lightroom adjustments. For the first, I then took the photo in to Photoshop CS6 -> duplicate layer -> Filter -> Blur -> Motion Blur and adjust to taste. For this one I had the angle at 90 and distance at 500 pixels. I used the normal blending mode at opacity of about 76. Save and fin:

Blur Effect
Linear Blur Effect

Option Two – Impressionist Painting

The second option was to take the basic Lightroom adjusted photo in to Topaz Clean to de-clutter some of the details. I wasn’t really satisfied at this point as it wasn’t the end result I was looking for, so I then tried Topaz Simplify and chose the Impressions Natural preset in the Painting category. In this case, I probably didn’t need Topaz Clean to get the result I ended up with. Since the Topaz Labs plug-ins work with either Photoshop or Lightroom, you can use them with either. I didn’t really tweak it beyond that except to add a vignette when I brought it back to Lightroom. Fin.

Impressionist Painterly Effect
Impressionist Painterly Effect

I got two completely different abstract forest photos that you’d never know came from the original – all in about 10 minutes. And I was lolly gagging. I’m not sure which edit I like better – I like them both for different reasons. I hope you like them, too! If so, do you have a favorite?

Both are available for purchase in the Abstract Gallery.

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Abstract Creative Tips Photoshop tutorial

How to Create Twirl Effect in Photoshop

If you like abstract photography, you’ll LOVE this twirl effect in photoshop! It’s fast and easy – SO easy you could create an action for it and make it even faster if you want to!

finished twirl in photoshop

Here’s how it’s done:

Twirl Effect in Photoshop

Start with any photo in 8 bit. This is the original:

140615Original1

Filter -> Pixelate -> Mezzotint -> Medium Lines

mezzotint

Filter -> Blur -> Radial Blur (slider = 100, blur method = zoom, quality = best)

radial blur

Repeat step 3 up to 5 times as desired. I just did it once in this example.

Duplicate Layer.

Remain on original layer. Filter -> Distort -> Twirl (angle value +80 or as desired).

Select new layer. Filter -> Distort -> Twirl (angle value = opposite of step 6, ie -80).

 

twirl

Alter new layer’s blending mode = lighten.

blend mode lighten

Merge layers. Fin.

finished twirl in photoshop

There you have it – the twirl effect in photoshop! Play around with it and have fun!

Categories
Abstract Creative Tips Photoshop tutorial

Turn a Panorama to a Photo Planet with Photoshop

Learned a cool technique from Ben Wilmore during Photoshop Week on Creative Live a few weeks ago: how to transform a landscape panorama into a Photo Planet!

Planet Zumbro

Basic Photo Preparation

This was my first attempt at this technique, so it’s a little rough. I also don’t currently have an ideal shot to apply it to (you want a nice panorama) and it was taken as a jpeg with a point and shoot camera, resulting in more artifacts in the sky than I like, but here’s the general “how to”:

This is the image I started with before any edits at all:

150404Planet Zumbro1You can see how the sky has got some artifact and there’s a distracting tree branch imposing on the upper left side of the frame, but what I was looking for when selecting an image was one where the right and left edges would blend together fairly well without too obvious of a seam. The horizon matches fairly close, as does the grassy area in the foreground.

Landscape Panorama Zumbro River BottomsI did some of the basic edits in Lightroom to adjust clarity, contrast, vibrance / saturation, and get the tonal properties the way I wanted them. Then took it into Photoshop CS6 for further editing to get rid of the tree and some of the artifact in the sky.

How to Make a Photo Planet

Now to the nitty gritty:

Filter -> Other -> Offset

Use horizontal slider to move the edge of the photo towards the center. Make sure the wrap around setting is turned on so that the image “loops around” and the right and left sides join together. At this point, you will notice an obvious seam that will need to be blended. I used a combination of spot healing and patch tool with content aware fill to do what I needed for this particular image. Content aware has become a good friend 😉

Once you’re happy with your seam touch up, you need to convert the document to a square shape:

Image Size -> note number of pixels of longest edge. Deselect constrain proportions (it may be a chain symbol depending on your version of PS), and manually enter the pixel size of the longer edge to both height and width so that they are the same. Your image will now look distorted / stretched.

Now you need to flip the document upside down or your sky will be the core of the planet instead of the ground:

Image Size -> Image Rotation -> Flip canvas vertical

Make sure your document is in 8 bit or this next part won’t work:

Filter -> Distort -> Polar Coordinates

This will give it the round shape. You now have a photo planet!

Filter -> Distort -> Pinch (I used 50%, which was the default) to pull in the center a bit.

Planet Zumbro

Fin.