Category Archives: Software

The Nik Collection 2 Review

Apologies if you were waiting for last week’s Friday Image that didn’t arrive. That’s because I was doing a bit of a tour around the UK and couldn’t fit everything in. Part of my problem was unexpectedly managing to lay my hands on an early release of the new Nik Collection. This allowed me to prepare a video review in advance, but I hadn’t factored that into my plans for the week. Anyway, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to have a preview.

If you haven’t seen the new release already, it’s may be worth viewing my video before deciding whether to buy the release or not.

New Website Host

The other big demand on my time has been switching website host.

Recently the company hosting my Lenscraft website was taken over by a major hosting company. Since then the performance has been very variable and I’ve received increasing numbers of errors. I therefore moved the site to a different host and whilst it’s early days the performance has improved, and the errors have vanished. Fingers crossed this continues.

Friday Image No. 219

This is another image from my Scotland trip; unfortunately, I haven’t done much photography since. I still have quite a few nice shots I haven’t shared though so I’ll keep working through them.

4 image stich using Fuji X-T3, 50-200 Lens, ISO160, 1/12″ at f/11.0 Tripod mounted, 3 stop soft ND Grad on the sly.

This image was shot from a single-track road, on top of a hill, near to Achnahaird. We spotted the view whilst doing an initial drive around the area and decided to take a chance one morning after shooting the sunrise.

I stitched the panoramic from 4 frames in Lightroom. I took these with the camera mounted on a tripod and used a 3 stop soft grad on the sky.

I hope you like the image and have a great weekend.

Have You Tried Topaz Gigapixel?

Scottish Highlands, Lake Assynt. Fuji X-T3, 18-55, ISO80, 1/6″, f/14.0. Tripod and Kase 0.9 Soft Grad.

Gigapixel from Topaz is an image enlarger. The hype on the website says it uses machine learning to create more detailed enhancements. The website also shows lots of comparisons between Photoshop and Gigapixel. I was intrigued but at the same time very sceptical of the claims, so I decided to try it out on some of my images. You can see one of these in the video below which I just published on my YouTube Channel.

If you decide to try Gigapixel (and I strongly recommend you try it before buying), please use the link on this page. It’s an affiliate link which helps me cover the costs of running the Lenscraft website, this blog and producing YouTube videos, but it doesn’t cost you any more.

Friday Image No.219

This week’s image is another from my recent trip to the Highlands of Scotland. If you subscribe to the Light and Landscape free magazine (it really is excellent) you may already have seen this in my interview.

The image is a great example of matching the content to the conditions. The conditions at the time were surprisingly calm and the loch which was usually very choppy became like glass. There was also a thick blue haze in the air which tended to fade the distant hills. This allowed me to throw more emphasis onto the island and its reflection.

I captured the image using a Fuji X-T3 camera and a Fuji 18-55 kit lens. I mounted the camera on a tripod, and I set the ISO to 80 and aperture to f/14.0. This was to slow the shutter to 1/6” so that the surface of the loche was smoothed a little and the reflection became more broken by the ripples. I tried other speeds, but they didn’t work as well as this. A Kase 0.9 Soft ND grad was used over the sky to help balance the exposure.

Iridient X-Transformer was used to convert the RAW file to the DNG format before processing with Adobe Lightroom. The colour image was then processed to black and white using Nik Silver Efex Pro.

Lenscraft Newsletter

For members of my Lenscraft website, the latest newsletter goes out on the 4th May. It’s also published on the Lenscraft Newsletter page on the 4th May.

I hope you like the Friday image and have a great weekend.

I’m Giving Away Luminar 3

I’m giving away a copy of the innovative software Luminar 3, from Skylum. I purchased a second license key in error when Luminar 3 launched but didn’t use it. I’ve been in contact with Skylum who confirm I can give the license key away, so that’s what I’m doing.

Free Prize Draw

This is a free prize draw with my wife drawing the winner at random, after the competition closes at the end of April 2019. To enter, all you need to do is provide me with a short review for any of my books that you’ve read, using the entry form I created on Google. Here’s the link if you want to enter.

https://goo.gl/forms/Efv7H2eeouo3YwWE2

The odds of winning are currently very high; only four people have entered since the launch on Saturday 30th March.

Good luck.

Upgrade Your Camera by Changing RAW Converters

Snow covered mountain on Rannoch Moor. Fuji X-T2 with Fuji 10-24mm lens. ISO200, F/11, 1/420".
Snow covered mountain on Rannoch Moor. Fuji X-T2 with Fuji 10-24mm lens. ISO200, F/11, 1/420″.

This week I feel the urge to highlight something to the readers of this blog. If the image quality from your camera and/or lens is disappointing you, don’t rush to change it. Instead, try a different RAW converter.

I’m seeing more and more that there’s a large variation in image quality produced by different RAW converters. You’re probably thinking there’s nothing surprising there, except it’s not necessarily one converter that comes out better than the others.

The Best RAW Converter Depends on Your Camera

As I investigate this further, what I’m finding is that a RAW converter that excels with one camera can perform poorly with another. And it’s not just the camera that seems to be a factor. Some RAW converters appear to handle some lenses better than others.

This is important. The image quality of some RAW converters with certain camera/lens combinations can fool you into thinking the lens or camera is at fault. Don’t fall into this trap.

A couple of weeks back I demonstrated this using RAW files from a Sony RX10 and RX100. This week I published this video on YouTube. It shows the results from four RAW converters, processing two Fuji X-T2 RAW files.

There are two interesting points to come out of this:

  1. The difference between the best and worst of the four RAW converters tested is significant.
  2. The best RAW converter changed with the RAW file. Although I didn’t highlight it in the video, this difference is down to the lens I used.

So, before you rush out to change that camera or lens that doesn’t quite perform, try using a few different RAW converters. It could save you a lot of money.

Friday Image No.215

I captured this week’s Friday Image in Scotland last week on the famous and Rannoch Moor. I was fortunate enough for my trip to coincide with a light snowfall. Had it been a heavy snowfall I doubt I would have thought I was lucky.

I used the Fuji X-T2 with a Fuji 10-24mm lens handheld. The pool of water you see in the foreground was really very small. It looks a lot larger than it is because I had the lens set to 11mm. To make the foreground loom large, I crouched down low and in close to the pool. I was also careful to avoid distorting the mountain with the super wide lens by keeping the back of the camera vertical. Had I tilted it the image the mountain wouldn’t have looked quite so impressive.

I didn’t use any filters for the capture as the camera could just about cope with the dynamic range of the scene. I processed the converted RAW file using a combination of Nik Color Efex, Nik Viveza and Luminosity Masks created with Lumenzia in Photoshop.

I hope you like the video & image and have a great weekend.

How to use the Nik Collection in Lightroom

HDR image created with Nik HDR Efex in Lightroom. Do you know how to open Nik HDR Efex from Lightroom without looking it up?

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? If you want to use the Nik Collection in Lightroom, you right click and choose “Edit in” from the popup menu. You can then pick the Nik Collection plugin you want to use from the list. But life and Lightroom aren’t always quite this simple.

Have you tried to use Nik HDR Efex with this technique? By default, you can’t. It’s not in the list of available plugins. And what about all those new image files each time you launch the Nik Collection from Lightroom? How can you better manage those?

There’s a lot more to using the Nik Collection in Lightroom than is immediately obvious. That’s why I’ve published a free video tutorial explaining how to best use the Nik Collection in Lightroom. I even demonstrate how to add the missing HDR Efex plugin to the “Edit in” menu.

You will find the video on my YouTube channel with this link (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pl4hCzK35Gk&t=2s). I’ve published an accompanying article on Lenscraft about using the Nik Collection with Lightroom; the article also has the video embedded within it.

This is the first of a series of Nik Collection tutorials I’m intending to publish. I’m calling the series Bitesize Nik Tutorials, with each video being between 5 and 10 minutes (but don’t hold me to that). I already have 12 ideas to progress, but if you have any requests, please let me know. I will be publishing a new video on YouTube each week, usually on a Thursday. If you want to be sure not to miss any, you can subscribe to my YouTube channel.

I hope you enjoy the video.

Nik Collection 2018 by DxO – Is it worth it?

I have been receiving a lot of emails asking me if I have looked at the new Nik Collection which DxO released last week. Yes, I have looked at it and purchased a copy.

In short, the new software is all about fixing bugs and problems. The interface is the same as before and there’s no new functionality. And now you’re probably wondering why I shelled out hard earned money for software that does just what it did before.

If you are, I have three reasons which I explain in my video review of the software on You Tube.

 

Friday Image No. 183

Blea Tarn, The Lake District, Cumbria.
Blea Tarn, The Lake District, Cumbria. Fuji X-T2, 16-55 lens, ISO200, f/11.0, i/105″. Kase 2 stop ND grad (hard).

Before I went to Italy for a couple of weeks, I started experimenting with Luminar 2018 from Skylum. Now I’m back I have been looking at the software more and I’m even more impressed with the results I’m getting. Looking back to the earlier versions of Luminar this wasn’t the case, but they have improved the software significantly.

I now see myself working more with Luminar, On1 and Alien Skin in the future (as well as some Topaz tools). This is especially true now the future of Nik is uncertain once more, with DxO Labs in financial difficulties.

Anyway, I wanted to return to some images from the end of last year to see how they could be improved with Luminar. The one at the top of this post is an example of one that I initially passed over. After a little work in Luminar it seems to have an appeal and has retained a natural look.

I just love learning and working with new software.

Have a great weekend.

 

(This page contains some affiliate links. If you buy any of the software following these links, I earn a small commission but it doesn't cost you anything extra. This helps me continue publishing free photography resources.)