digital photography

Alternatives to the Creative Cloud 3

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This image has nothing to do with the post, I just like it.

Today I would like to share a further idea about an alternative to the Adobe Creative Cloud that you may not have considered.  Or, perhaps you have considered it but ruled it out for possibly several reasons. That alternative is Adobe Elements.

Now please don’t dismiss this suggestion immediately. Elements is a good package, it’s just that it’s a little limited. It includes a nice organiser which is a cut down version of Bridge. You can use this to easily organise, rate and search for your images. Elements also has sufficient editing tools to produce good results when working with photographs. Best of all, it’s quite easy to use.

What appears to rule Elements out for most photographers is not its features but its limitations. Personally, I would find editing all my images in 8-bits worrying. I would miss the ability to create smart objects and I would cry over the loss of the Curves tool (which I find essential).

But what if you could solve these and other problems? Would you then be interested in using Elements? If you’re thinking ‘maybe’ then you should investigate The Plug-in Site, especially their enhancements for Adobe Elements:

  • ElementsXXL – Adds up to 640 powerful features to Photoshop Elements that were previously only available in Photoshop. These are included as new menu items, icons, buttons, key shortcuts and dialogs, to integrate Elements interface.
  • ActionsXXL – Allows users to create, record, play and save Photoshop actions. ActionsXXL also offers a Batch feature for automatically processing multiple documents or image files with actions, scripts and other features. You can even use actions created in Photoshop.
  • LayersXXL – Adds up to 180 photo and design features to Photoshop Elements that were previously only available in Photoshop. These are all designed to help you work with Layers in Elements.
  • MetaRAW – Extends the functionality of the Adobe Camera Raw plugin in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. It lets you open camera raw files with Adobe Camera Raw, which are normally not supported by it, and allows applying Adobe Camera Raw as a filter to image layers.
  • Filter HUB – A powerful replacement for the Filter menu of Photoshop and Photoshop Elements and offers many advantages over it. It supports built-in filters (from the Filter, Adjustments and Enhance menus), filter plugins and third-party automation plugins.

All of these can be purchased either individually or together in the Elements Bundle for a substantial discount. The only drawback is that most of the products are only available for Windows.

In case you’re wondering, no I don’t get any commission from this. I just like to share good ideas with fellow photographers.

Friday Image No.131

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Ponta de Sao Lourenco, Madeira
Eastern end of Madeira, Ponta de Sao Lourenco. Olympus EM5, 12-40 lens, f/7.1, 1/400″ @ ISO200

For this week’s Friday image, I wanted to share another from my recent trip to the island of Madeira. This image is taken from the eastern edge of the island where a long strip of land juts out into the sea. This is taken towards the end of the strip, looking back towards the main part of the island. It’s quite dramatic to be standing on a relatively narrow strip of sea cliffs, able to look down on the sea to either side. Damned windy as well.

I hope you all have a great weekend.

Checking my RX10

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Derwent Valley, The Peak District. Sony RX10 with 0.6 ND Graduated Filter

A few weeks back I wrote about my Sony RX10 and how it had to be repaired. The front element had a problem with mould growing on the inside and given the front element is part of a sealed unit ,the entire unit had to be replaced. Rather than use a Sony repair centre I opted to use The Real Camera Company in Manchester. These guys really know their stuff; I purchased my Bronica SQAi kit from them about a year ago.

Having received my repaired RX10, I have been unable to test it properly due to a combination of the weather, a trip to Madeira and having too much work on. At the weekend though I decided to take a walk in the Peak District and took the RX10 along in the hope of giving it a try. As it turned out, the weather wasn’t that good, clouding over quite heavily, and I didn’t shoot any great images. The image at the top of this page is probably the best.

What the trip did allow me to do was evaluate the replaced lens. In short, I’m very pleased. It’s as sharp as my previous lens and I’m confident that the results are much better. The corners are still a little soft, but the central part of the image appears excellent. The other point that I noticed is that more distant detail is now being retained better than with the old lens. Previously, you could see the finer details such as grass and rock turn soft. Now this isn’t noticeable.

I’m feeling very happy about my decision to have the camera repaired – it was certainly cheaper than replacing it. Could I do without the RX10? Yes. Do I want to? No way, it’s a brilliant camera and perfect for a walk in the countryside.

Friday Image No.131

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Madeira cliffs. Olympus EM5 converted to Infrared.

For this Friday’s Image, I thought I would share another of the images from my recent trip to Madeira. Whilst the weather at the time might not have been perfect, the landscape is amazing. Look at the image above. This was the view from one of the coastal paths we were walking at a height of around 400m.

The weather for this shot was a combination of humid haze and rain. My standard Olympus EM5 couldn’t see the distant hills so I switched to my infrared converted EM5. This seemed to fair much better and could cut through the haze to some degree. I’m pleased that it did as the landscape was quite breath taking.

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

Alternatives To The Creative Cloud 2

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Blencathera, The Lake District. Captured as a RAW file using the Olympus EM5 and processed in Exposure.

A little while back I published a post concerning alternatives to the Adobe Creative Cloud. Whilst many people love using Lightroom and Photoshop (myself included) some don’t like the Adobe Subscription model. Today I will share the first alternative that might appeal to some of you; Exposure from Alien Skin.

I suspect many people reading this won’t have come across Exposure, or perhaps I should say Exposure X2 which is the latest release. Of those that have, you might be forgiven for thinking of it as a plug-in for Lightroom and Photoshop. Indeed, it can be used as an enhancement filter but it’s also a standalone solution.

The Browser is reasonably quick and allows for basic flagging and tagging of images. You are then able to filter the images in a folder based on flag, colour or star rating. This is all basic stuff but if you organise your images based on date shot and don’t need to add keywords, it might be all you need.

Exposure will read a range of image file formats including RAW. It would though seem to be limited to RAW files it recognises as my older version, Exposure X doesn’t recognise my Fuji X-T2 RAW images (the new X2 version of the software will though).

When editing images in Exposure you can take two approaches. The easy way is to use one of the many film pre-sets that ship with the software. In all honesty, I think these are brilliant and will produce a digital rendering very much like the films they simulate. It’s very quick to achieve good results with the pre-sets and you can also create and save your own.

The other alternative is to use the editing tools of which there are many. These are well thought out and surprisingly flexible. For example, you have a film grain tool that allows you to simulate different film sizes, roughness, colour variations, processing and then apply this in varying levels to the shadows, midtones or highlights. The tools are developed well beyond Lightroom in some respects.

In addition to the usual editing tools there are several special effects that can be applied to simulate all manner of old film effects such as light leaks, scratches, fading etc. My personal favourite is the Infrared processing that simulates the halation effect found in infrared films such as Kodak HIE. I use this tool frequently when processing my digital IR images.

If you haven’t guessed by now, Exposure is very much a film simulation tool but despite this you can create some very impressive adjustments. The limitation of the older versions (such as mine) is that the adjustments are global. With the new X2 version you also gain access to a layers feature which includes layer masking. I suspect this alone will persuade me to upgrade in the near future. There are also other feature which move the software towards being a one stop image editor.

I have been using Exposure since version 5 (that’s about 5 versions back) and I really like the results that can be achieved. The images you can produce have a feeling of maturity and sophistication that is difficult to explain. Where Exposure scores highly in my opinion though is in Black and White conversion and vintage film effects.

Newlands Valley, The Lake District. Captured with the Olympus EM5 and converted for a vintage photo look with Exposure X.

If you are looking for an alternative to the standard Creative Cloud tools, this is one worth evaluating.

Friday Image No.130

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Clearing Storm in Madeira. Olympus EM5, Olympus 12-40mm, ISO200, f/7.1, 1/320″.

I’m hoping you haven’t noticed, but this past couple of weeks has seen me take a holiday. I say I hope you haven’t noticed as I tried hard to keep the blog up to date with posts and replies to comments.

My break has taken me to the island of Madeira where I was trekking in the hills. It’s my first time to the island and whilst the holiday was good the weather wasn’t. I believe our flight was the last to land for a couple of days and some members of the walking party were severely delayed.

Despite the poor weather, the trip was very enjoyable. The weather conditions also created the opportunity for a bit of photography with my trust Olympus EM5. The image above is just one of the stunning locations on the island.

If all you Fuji shooters are now screaming why didn’t he take the X-T2, the answer is size. I can easily fit the EM5 together with three lenses into a small shoulder bag. This makes trekking with a full backpack and taking pictures very easy. There is no way the X-T2 with three similar lenses would fit in such a small pack.

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

Free Book Offer – This Weekend

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Mastering Your Camera
Mastering Your Camera. Free Book Offer

This weekend my book “Mastering your Camera” is available for free. It’s only available on the Saturday and Sunday (25th and 26th March) so be sure to pick up a copy. And don’t forget to let your friends know.

Here is the link to book but you can also find it by searching for the title.

Mastering Your Camera

If you find the book isn’t immediately free in your Amazon store, try again a little later. I understand the timing of the offer is based on one of the US time zones. I know last time I did a free offer, people in Australia and New Zealand hand to wait until the following day to take advantage.

Important

Although this is a Kindle eBook, you don’t need to own a Kindle to read it. Many people miss out as they don’t realise there is a free Kindle software from Amazon. This allows you to read Kindle books on various devices including PC’s, Mac’s tablets and phones. My personal favourite is my phone. It works very well and is with me most of the time.

If you haven’t seen the Kindle software before, here is the link.

Link to Kindle Software & Apps

Enjoy.

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