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Writing with Light

Software Reviews

Topaz Glow

To say that I’m excited by the release of Topaz Labs newest plug-in would be a huge understatement. This week Topaz Glow was released and what a great addition to Topaz’s arsenal of great tools.

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Topaz Glow can be used as a stand-alone or a plugin (for PC & MAC) to transform your photos from dull to dazzling. Containing more than 70 unconventional and quirky filters, you can infuse your images with neon, graphic, liquid and other electrifying effects. Glow reveals hidden textures in your photos that aren’t visible to the naked eye. While you may not want to apply Glow on every image, you can take your creativity to the next level with this awesome plug-in.

Glow comes packed with 70 filters which you can use as is or you have complete artistic control to customize, combine and tweak to make your vision come to life.

Topaz Glow is regularly priced at $69.99 but until December 31, 2014 you can pick up Glow for $49.99 using the coupon code INTROGLOW.

Here are a few of my images processed with Topaz Glow. Click on each image to see a larger version.

Topaz Glow, Topaz Labs, sunflower, flower

Topaz Glow, Topaz Labs, Italy, Tuscany, door, blue, travel photography

Topaz Glow, Topaz Labs, Paris, Louvre, night photography, long exposure, travel photography

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Topaz Impression

Last week Topaz Labs announced the release of their newest plug-in, Topaz Impression. I had the pleasure of taking Impression for a test run this weekend and to say the least…I’m impressed by Impression.

As with all of the Topaz products this new plug-in is intuitive and easy to use. Impression comes loaded with 47 pre-sets that are designed to help you realize your vision by transforming your photos into realistic-looking studio art. You can use the pre-sets as they are (which is excellent) or use them as a jump off point to create your own unique piece.

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The Preset Panel

Once you’ve selected your preferred pre-set you can click on it to go to the editing panel. There you can adjust the brush strokes, its width and length, opacity, brightness, contrast, texture strength and many more adjustments that allow you total control over your artistic creation. Impression also gives you total control over your colour palette.

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The Editing Panel

 

Here are a couple of images that I created using Topaz Impression.

Jardin des Tuileries, Paris, garden, fountain, water, summertime, France, travel photography, Topaz Impression

Tuscany, Italy, red chairs, orange wall, Fine Art, travel photography, Topaz Impression

I liken this plug-in to a very cool app but its oh so much more. If you’ve always wanted to create beautiful digital art then Topaz Impression will enable you to do so. As with all of the Topaz Labs products you can download a free trial and try it for yourself. Click here to down load the free trial or to purchase Topaz Impression which is 25% off until September 30 by using this coupon code: SEPIMPRESSION.


Black Friday Sale at Topaz Labs – The Complete Collection

You all know that I’m a big fan of Topaz Plug Ins and regularly use Topaz B&W Effects, Topaz Clarity, DeNoise and Detail just to name a few.

Topaz Labs is running a sale on their complete collection (and that doesn’t happen very often) starting today to Dec 2nd The Complete Collection is on sale for $199.99 (normally it’s $379.99) Use promo code blackfriday2013.

Happy Shopping!


Have You Been Naughty or Nice?

Can you believe that the holidays are just around the corner. Have you started on your holiday shopping? Have you put together your own wish list? If you’re anything like me the mental wish list starts in January and just gets longer as the year progresses. 🙂 Just in case you haven’t started I thought I would help you out with your list this year. The ever-growing number of products on the market makes it really hard to stay focused on what essential gear should be in your toolkit. Below is a list of equipment, software and reference material that I use and find invaluable for my photography business. So grab a cup of java, sit back and have a read through this rather long post. You may find a deal or two as well as some free stuff. Keep reading  🙂

Gear

Canon EOS 7D Digital SLR Camera with EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens Kit

Canon EOS 7D, camera, DSLR

I really love my Canon 7D. I’ve had it for about 2 years now and it’s definitely a workhorse. I sometimes find the need to shoot at high ISOs (3200 and higher) and it handles noise beautifully. It’s got a 19 point AF System and a shooting rate of up to 7fps. It’s really come down in price since I bought mine so worthwhile taking a look at this.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens

Canon 24-70 f/2.8L, lens

I must say that this lens is one of the best investments that I’ve made. The 24-70 f/2.8L is the lens that is always on my camera. It’s so versatile for all types of photography and the images this piece of glass produces are sharp, sharp, sharp. I promised myself a long time ago that as I needed to upgrade or buy new lens I would wait until I had the money to buy a quality lens and Canon’s “L” lens live up to the hype that you always hear about. You may want to put this one on your wish list ahead of time so Santa has sometime to save up for it.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM Lens

Canon, telephoto zoom, 70-200mm, f/4, lens, image stabilizer

I wrote a review on the 70-200 f/4L back in the summer. I loved it then and I sill love it. You can read the review here and find out why I went with the f/4L instead of the f/2.8L.

Kirk L-Bracket

Kirk Enterprise, L Bracket, Canon 7D

Is this a must have? For me it is. It allows me to mount my camera onto a tripod in either a horizontal or vertical position quickly. The Kirk L- Bracket works with any Arca Style Quick Release Platform so if you have a Really Right Stuff or Markins ball head this will work. Make sure your purchasing the one that will fit your DSLR.

WD 4TB My Book Studio Edition II Quad Interface External Hard Drive

If you’re not backing up your images you’re taking a big risk with your images and all the hard work you’ve put into them. You’ve read it before I’m sure…the question isn’t “will your hard drive fail but when”. After I transfer all my images from my memory card to my hard drive I back them up immediately to my WD external hard drive which is a RAID drive. I then have an additional backup, the LaCie 3TB d2 Quadra Hard Drive with USB 3.0 / Thunderbolt. Both these drive perform extremely well and I’m confident that if one should fail my library of images are just a few keystrokes away.

WD External RAID Drive

BlackRapid RS-W1 Ballistic Nylon Women’s Strap (Black)

After many years of using a traditional camera strap I found I was doing more damage to my neck then I really wanted to. I tried different straps…padded around the neck, different materials but I just wasn’t pleased or comfortable. A friend told me to give the Black Rapid a try, I did and I really love this strap. It’s saved me a lot of neck ache and the BlackRapid made specifically for women (don’t laugh you male photographers out there) is curved in just the right places so it sits across your chest nicely. And yes there are non-female versions available as well.

Gura Gear Bataflae Camera Bag

Gura Gear Bataflae 18L, review, camera bag, backpack, exterior

Gura Gear Bataflae 18L, review, camera bag, backpack, interior compartment

I just wrote a review about the Bataflae a couple of weeks ago which you can find on my products review page. I love this bag and if you or someone you know needs a new camera bag then look no further.

Filters and Memory Cards and Batteries…Oh My!

My go to store for photographic equipment is B&H Photo in New York. Unfortunately I don’t get to New York as often as I would like but their online store is the best. Even for little ‘ole me living in Canada, B&H has made so easy to order from them. If your living in Canada they will calculate shipping, customs and duties before you submit your order online so you know exactly what you’re paying.  I’ve done the math and I save money when I order from B&H.

Software & Plug-Ins

Here’s a list of the software and plug-ins that I use and swear by. These form part of my workflow and I couldn’t do what I do without these tools. You might be surprised to find Photoshop Elements on the list and not Photoshop CS. I was holding out for the longest time and was eventually going to purchase CS and then Adobe changed the rules of the game. Since I didn’t already own CS5 or CS6 I would have had to pay the full subscription rate for Adobe CC so I decided against it. Do I feel that I’m at a disadvantage by using Elements? Absolutely not. I think the advances in Elements over the years has made it a software any professional photographer can use.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 12 for Mac and Windows (Download)

Elements12
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 Software for Mac and Windows (Download)

LR5

Topaz Labs

product-types

Clarity, Black & White Effects, Adjust, DeNoise, Detail…these are just a few of the Topaz plug-ins that I use. I write about them in my blog posts and usually let you know when I’ve used them in processing my images (check the tags). You can get a 15% discount on all Topaz products by using the discount ELPHOTO.

I also wanted to let you know that Topaz Labs is running a promotion on its Black & White Effects plug-in. Until November 19th B&W Effects is only $29.99. That’s a 50% savings and a steal for this plug-in.

Give the Gift of Art!

Yikes…I’ve said it…there you go. Here’s a bit of shameless self promotion. Gear is fun but if there’s someone special on your list why not give the gift of art. You can head on over to my gallery. All images are available in a variety of sizes. Make sure you check out the Float Mounted Metal Prints. They look great and they’re ready to go up on the wall when you receive them. From now until December 25 use the code Holiday2013 and save 15% on your order.

 

Edith Levy Photography

eBooks & Free Stuff

Well really…you must have known that I would include some of my favourite ebooks as part of this list 🙂

Ok…let’s start with some free stuff….yes free…first from Craft & Vision. Just click on the images and download…Happy Holidays!

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Other Craft & Vision titles that are a must for your library include:

Lightroom 5 Unmasked

eyePhone – Make Stronger Photographs with Your Camera Phone

Making the Print – Printing Techniques for the Digital Photographer (A Masterclass)

Here’s a terrific ebook from Ian Plant and the team at Dreamscapes and it’s absolutely free…

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…and if you haven’t yet picked up and read Visual Flow – Mastering the Art of Composition then I suggest you check it out. You can read my review of Visual Flow here.

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This free ebook has just been released from photographer and author Mitchell Kanashkevich, 7 Tips for Natural Looking Travel Portraits.

7 Tips Travel Portraits

Well I hope you’ve enjoyed my little round-up of gear, software, art and ebooks. Hopefully I’ve given you some ideas for gifts for yourself or for some one special. If you’ve enjoyed this post and found it useful please share it with your social networks. Thanks and have a great week everyone.


Topaz ReStyle & A Sneak Peak at Pebble Beach

Topaz Labs added to its award-winning line-up of plug-ins yesterday with the launch of Topaz Restyle. Have you ever stared at your computer screen and just felt that the image you were working on needed something else but just couldn’t put your finger on it. Topaz ReStyle helps you expands your creative vision by offering photographic styles you might never have dreamed of, or that you weren’t sure how to create. With over a thousand looks (or pre-sets) and the ability to fine tune your effect to your liking, Topaz ReStyle gives you more options than you can imaging.

The work space / interface is the same as other Topaz plug-in’s you’ve come to rely on and that big, beautiful preview box pops up before you click on your preset so that you can quickly scroll through and see what your image will look like.

Here are some of the unique features introduced in Topaz ReStyle:

1. Breakthrough Mapping Technology. ReStyle introduces a cutting-edge process of mapping color and tone statistics from a selected style to a target image. This new technology creates high-quality transformations, even for dramatic styles and looks.

2. New Style/Preset Creation Method. ReStyle creates presets using a source image’s color and tones, allowing you to save your own unique styles to use later.

5. Blending Modes. With ReStyle, Topaz Labs has incorporated blending modes for the adjustment modules, essentially showing 8 different looks for each style preset.

3. HSL Technology in 5-Color Style Sliders. Easily enhance your selected style’s 5 dominant colors using the unique hue, saturation and luminance controls.

4. Advanced Masking Workflow. The masking module, attached to each adjustment tab, contains a comprehensive set of tools including an edge-aware brush, gradient mask, smart feather tool, color aware tool and more.

5. User Interface Design. Topaz Labs has developed a cleaner, more modern and efficient interface to improve usability, workflow and overall aesthetics.

Ok…so let me show you. (Click on the images to enlarge…they look better)

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Original RAW file

China Rock, 17 Mile Drive, Pebble Beach, Carmel, California, golf course, fog, travel photography

After using Topaz ReStyle

I also used Topaz Clarity in the second image (before applying ReStyle) to make the image pop slightly.

Topaz ReStyle will be priced at $59.99 but Topaz Labs is offering 50%off, so until Aug 31 you can purchase ReStyle for $29.99. Click here to purchase or why not download a free trial and give it a test run first.


I Can See Clearly Now…with Topaz Clarity

I’ve been fortunate over the last week to have been able to test Topaz Labs’ newest plug-in Topaz Clarity. Topaz Clarity enhances contrast and clarity with absolutely no artifacts or halos. With just a few clicks you can easily manipulate your micro, mid-tone and overall contrast, transforming your image from ordinary to extraordinary, while maintaining the natural feeling and tonality you are after.

While the plug-in is simple enough (you’ll recognize the familiar interface of the other suite of Topaz plug-ins) Topaz Clarity is a very powerful tool. I was a bit skeptical when I’d first heard about this new release but once I started using it I was blown away by the subtle yet powerful improvements achieved using this.

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 10.25.50 PM

Here are some of the unique features introduced in Topaz Clarity:

1. Selective Contrast Control. With Clarity, Topaz Labs has developed a cutting-edge process of selecting specific contrast variations in the original image, allowing you to quickly target and then increase or decrease the contrast and clarity in that specific variation.

2. Breakthrough Halo-Free Algorithm. Boost contrast and clarity without emphasizing transitions between light and dark areas, eliminating the common problem of halos, noise and artifacts.

3. Advanced Hue/Saturation/Luminance Technology. Using IntelliColor technology, you can easily enhance your image with the HSL filter, getting stronger, yet more natural HSL adjustments.

4. Re-Imagined Masking Workflow. The masking module, now attached to each adjustment tab contains a comprehensive set of tools including an edge-aware brush, gradient mask, smart feather tool, color aware tool and more.

5. User Interface Design. Topaz Labs has continued to develop a cleaner, more modern and efficient interface to improve usability, workflow and overall aesthetics.

Topaz Clarity comes with 9 collections of presets that includes Architecture; Fashion; Macro; Nature & Landscape. The presets are a great way to speed up your processing or giving you a good starting point for the look your after.

Instead of continuing to “tell” you what Topaz Clarity does I’ll “show” you instead with a couple of images I worked on specifically for this review. Please click on the images to enlarge and really see the detail.

Flower, Macro, yellow, gerber

Before

Flower, Macro, yellow, gerber, Topaz Clarity

After – with Topaz Clarity

Boston, harbor, long exposure, black and white, pier

Before

Boston, harbor, long exposure, black and white, pier, Topaz Clarity

After – with Topaz Clarity

Topaz Clarity will retail for $49.99, but it’s being offered now at a special introductory price of $29.99 through May 31st. Use promo code: claritynew Click here to purchase.