Why I use Nik from Photoshop

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Views at Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA
Views at Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA. Four images shot with a Canon 400D, merged in Lightroom and edited in Photoshop using Nik Viveza and Color Efex.

Recently I posted a video on You Tube explaining why I like to use the Nik Plugin’s from Photoshop rather than Lightroom. This came about because in all my Nik videos I start with a RAW file in Lightroom This is then converted to an image that I edit in Photoshop. A couple of people asked why and so I recorded the video for You Tube.

The video has been very well received but given it’s only had a few hundred views. To ensure everyone has access to the information I decided to also post this blog. Whilst I am referring to the Nik Collection in the video, the same argument applies to most filters.

The problem I have when using a plug-in for Lightroom is that you can end up creating lots of new files. This can be hard to manage and quickly becomes messy. If you are working on a RAW file you have no option but to convert the RAW file to an image before editing it with (what Lightroom calls) an external editor. This creates a new file, duplicating the original RAW file with adjustments.

After you have edited your image, you may need to apply a second filter to the image. When this happens, you have the option to work on either another copy of the image file or apply the adjustments to the image you created previously. The first option creates yet more image files. The second provides no “back-out” in case you make a mistake; you would need to start again from the RAW file.

Photoshop is better option as each adjustment filter can be applied as a new layer. The Nik Collection even has a setting you can use to automatically.

Once you are working with layers in Photoshop, other options are available to you:

  1. You can reduce the opacity of the layer if you find the effect you applied is too strong.
  2. You can use layer masks to hide or reveal areas of adjustment in the image. For example, you might like the sky in the adjusted image but not the rest. You could use a layer mask to hide the adjustment but then paint back the adjusted sky. You can even create quite complex masks using luminosity and channel mask techniques.
  3. Perhaps the biggest advantage is that you can convert layers in Photoshop to Smart Objects. When you apply a Nik filter to a Smart Object, all the settings you apply in Nik are saved, including control points. This means when you save your finished image as a PSD file, you can open and adjust the settings in your Nik filter, even moving control points.

If some of this doesn’t make sense, watch the video below. If you want to know more about the Nik workflow, look at my book “Nik Efex from Start to Finish”.

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Friday Image No.122

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Trees on the mountain. Sony A7r + Canon 70-300 USM lens.
Trees on the mountain. Sony A7r + Canon 70-300 USM lens.

This week I thought I would share an image I shot last weekend in the Lake District. This image was captured from the banks of Thirlmere looking across the lake towards the Helvellyn range. I shot the image using my Sony A7r using a Canon 70-300mm lens. It’s a single shot in RAW format, converted in Lightroom and then tweaked a little using Nik Viveza.

At the time I was shooting this I was complaining bitterly about having to use the Sony with an adapter. The adapter is supposed to support auto-focus but it’s so slow its useless. Instead, I was manual focusing by zooming in on a point using the camera display and then trying to set the focus. For some reason, I was finding it difficult to focus and threatening to go back to using a Canon full frame. It was only when I loaded the images onto the computer in Lightroom that I could see they were spot on with focus.

I suspect I was finding life too easy shooting with the Fuji XT2 (which I was using alongside the Sony). I’m very pleased I didn’t give up on the Sony as it produced some excellent images.

Have a great weekend and don’t forget my book is free to download this weekend. Just search for “Mastering your camera” on Amazon.

Bracketing Limitation Workaround

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Fuji XT2 six image HDR
Fuji XT2. Six images at 1 stop intervals blended using HDR processing in Lightroom. The image sequence was shot using the technique discussed.

From time to time I like to shoot multiple sequences of images at different exposures. I then blend these either with HDR software or using luminosity masks in Photoshop. My Olympus EM5 makes this very easy. I call up the bracketing option in the menu, set it to the number of exposures I want and the interval. I also set the shooting mode to continuous which allows me to shoot a sequence by holding down the shooter button. When the sequence is complete there is a slight pause allowing me to release the button. This makes the entire process very easy, allowing me to hand hold.

At the weekend, I came to shoot a bracketed sequence using the Fuji XT2. This also makes shooting the bracketed sequence very easy. There is a dial switch allowing you to change from single shot to bracket. You press the shutter button once and the sequence of three images is captured with no need to keep your finger on the shutter. I found this great, until the scene I wanted to shoot required a five-image sequence at 1 stop intervals. That’s when I found out that the XT2 is limited to shooting only 3 images in a bracket. Come on Fuji, please fix this in your next firmware update. It’s basic stuff.

Now, I should stress that it’s not just Fuji that seem to have overlooked the obvious. When I also came to set up my Sony A7r at the weekend, I found a similar problem. This camera can be set to shoot a bracket sequence of 5 images, providing you don’t want to set the exposure intervals to more than 0.7EV. As soon as you set the exposure interval for a bracket to 1EV or more, you can only shoot a 3 shot sequence. What on earth are they thinking.

If you have been frustrated by this limitation with your camera, there is a simple workaround (other than changing your camera):

  • Set your camera to bracket 3 shots at 2EV intervals in the Av mode (aperture priority) and set your exposure compensation to 0.
  • Shoot the bracket sequence of 3 images.
  • Set the exposure compensation to +1.
  • Shoot a second bracket sequence of 3 images.

This gives you two sequences of three images, but across the two you will have images at 1EV intervals. These will range from -2EV to +3 EV which is what you need for HDR and Luminance blending if you want to ensure maximum flexibility. Unfortunately, you’re not going to be able to hand hold using this method but hopefully it will make things a little easier.

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Friday Image No. 121

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Crater Lake. Panoramic from 4 images on the Olympus EM4.
Crater Lake. Panoramic from 4 images on the Olympus EM5. You may recognise the image from the new banner at the top of the blog.

Today I thought I would share an image I shot back in May2016. It’s taken in one of my favorite countries – America. I love visiting the USA. It’s a vast country with a varied and stunning landscape. I also find the people very friendly and polite so it usually makes for a great trip.

On this occasion, I was doing a three-week road trip down the west coast. Originally I had planned to drive from Seattle to Santa Monica (I still want to visit) but in the end, I went as far as the south of Oregon, headed back inland and visited some more great locations before ending up back at Seattle.

This image was shot at a location called Crater Lake. I was staying at the lodge on the rim of the lake for a couple of nights. This was shot on the second morning before I left. It’s four images from the Olympus EM5 which were then stitched in Lightroom. There was quite a bit of work I Lightroom and Photoshop to ensure a balance of tones across the scene.

I hope you like it and have a great weekend.

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Free Book Relaunched

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Mastering Your Camera
Mastering Your Camera. Free Book Offer

I have been updating one of my books following feedback from a few readers. The book was called “Beginning Photography the Right Way” which appears to be misleading. Experienced photographers have contacted me to say they found it valuable and a good refresher on many points. I have therefore decided to make a few corrections/updates and re-release the book under the title “Mastering your Camera”. Here is the link to the book on Amazon UK http://amzn.to/2jCOfC1.

If you previously purchased this book from Amazon, you can download the revised version for free. Just login to Amazon and navigate to the “Your Account” page. Click the link to “Manage your Content and Devices” then search for the book in the list. You should find an “Update Available” button next to the listing. Click this and it will download the updated book. The book is also enrolled in Kindle Unlimited allowing you to read it for free if you subscribe to this.

Free Book

There’s also good news if you didn’t purchase the original book as I’m giving away free copies to all my subscribers and followers to say thank you. On the 20th 21st and 22nd January the book will be available for free on Amazon. The book can only be downloaded from Amazon and it’s only available on these dates so please don’t ask me to provide copies (this is a contractual arrangement with Amazon).

A Favour

If you’re in a camera club or know someone who might enjoy/benefit from the book, please pass on details of the free download dates. My hope is that more people will learn about and benefit from my work. Perhaps they will be sufficiently impressed to leave a good review.

Don’t Have a Kindle?

If you don’t have a Kindle, don’t worry. You can still access the book using the free Kindle Readers. Kindle Readers are free software from Amazon that can be downloaded to your computer, tablet device or phone allowing you to read Kindle books. They support all the major platforms (Mac, Windows, Android). I have one on my iPhone for when I get stuck waiting somewhere and it’s excellent.

Here is a link to amazon page where you can download a free Kindle Reader App.

http://amzn.to/2iF7sik

I will be sending out a reminder email to Lenscraft members soon.

Fuji Lens Update

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A long lens is an essential part of a Landscape Photographer's kit. Olympus EM5 + Panasonic 45-150mm.
A long lens is an essential part of a Landscape Photographer’s kit. Olympus EM5 + Panasonic 45-150mm.

Back in December I wrote about how my Fuji 55-200mm lens had been returned. I bought the lens second hand from Wex Photographic a couple of months earlier but then never really tested it. Yes, I took a couple of reference shots but nothing more. It was only when I had the lens on a shoot with me that something didn’t seem quite right. By then I had passed the 30 days return period which was my own fault.

In case you’re wondering what was wrong, I had problems achieving a sharp image either hand held or at any shutter speed. Look at this example of trees (click it to see the full resolution version). The left side of the image is out of focus but the right side is much sharper. This isn’t a depth of field issue as that would be front to back sharpness.

Full resolution XT2 image showing my 55-200 lens problem. The image is out of focus on the left but not the right.
Full resolution XT2 image showing my 55-200 lens problem. The image is out of focus on the left but not the right. Click the image to see the full resolution version..

Despite being outside the return window I contacted Wex who advised the lens comes with a 6-month warranty. The lens was returned to Wex who then returned it to Fuji for repair. Just before Christmas I received a message from Wex advising Fuji could find nothing wrong with the lens and it had been returned as working fine.

I called Wex and spoke to one of the team managers who was excellent – he understood photography. He spoke to me for around 20 minutes looking over in detail the hi-resolution sample images I had provided. His view was that there was a fault, possibly in the IS.

The lens has now been returned to Fuji and I’m waiting on the outcome. In the interim, the longest focal length I can shoot with the Fuji is 55mm. I keep returning to the EM5 for long shots.

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Friday Image No. 120

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Morning view from Higgor Tor. Fuji XT2 + 10-24 lens, 0.6 ND Grad filter. ISO200, 1/4" at f/10.0.
Morning view from Higger Tor. Fuji XT2 + 10-24 lens, 0.6 ND Grad filter. ISO200, 1/4″ at f/10.0.

I must start this post by wishing everyone a belated Happy New Year and by apologising. My last post was on the 23rd December and I haven’t been able to publish anything since due to illness. I came down with a very nasty bug on Christmas Day and have spent much of the time since in bed asleep. Hopefully I’m now on the mend and can begin to post a little more. But please forgive me if I’m not back to full speed for a while.

I did manage to upload a short video on YouTube whilst I was ill. I had already done most of the post production work but you will notice it finishes rather abruptly. I have lost my voice so won’t be able to do the editing part until I can speak again. Hopefully that won’t be long but some might disagree.

Anyway, here’s to a productive 2017 with some great photography for everyone.

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