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Writing with Light

Posts tagged “review

Visual Flow – Mastering the Art of Composition

I picked up an eBook last week that I had been meaning to read for some time now, Visual Flow – Mastering the Art of Composition by Ian Plant (with George Stocking).

Have you ever returned from a photo shoot, downloaded your images and thought to yourself  “these are ok but there’s still something missing.” Is it the composition? Is the scene too busy? Is it unbalanced? Now before I get deep into the ebook let me take a minute and introduce you to the author.

Ian Plant is a professional nature and landscape photographer; teacher, workshop leader and author who is a frequent contributor to publications such as Outdoor Photographer and Popular Photography. If you’re not yet familiar with Ian and his work then the best thing that I can recommend is that you get familiar with it. His photographs are masterpieces and a study in the art of (dare I say) composition.  Ian is also the author/photographer of 8 print books including “Chesapeake: Bay of Light which received critical acclaim from the Washington Post among others.

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Visual Flow takes you through critical and fundamental elements to consider and put into practise so that you compose your image in such a way as to tell the viewer a story. The story you’re seeing.  As Ian puts it in his introduction “A snapshot shows the world what your camera sees, but when you create a composition, you show the world what you see.”

“You had me at Hello”

Yup…I was hooked right at the introduction. Who would have thought that this 287-page ebook on composition would turn out to grab my attention…and keep it throughout the length of the book. Ian’s rich writing style and text complimented by the incredible photographs from both himself and George Stocking make this ebook an indispensable tool to add to your learning arsenal.

Let me give you an example from early on the book…”Visual flow…. is my way of conceptualizing photographic composition.” “Not unlike the flow of a swift-moving stream, you want the viewer’s eye to get trapped in the ‘visual flow’ of your images, swept along deep into composition.” “Your goal as a photographer is to engage the viewer’s eye, commanding their attention, leading them deeper and deeper into the scene before them.”

These excerpts are of course complimented by the photos that go along with them which act as the imagery to reinforce and substantiate the text.

The depth of information imparted in this book is incredible. Ian doesn’t just ramble off different compositional rules and techniques but gets to the heart of why an image works, how to make an image work and how you go about getting there. He discuss techniques employed in paintings by the masters…  Van Gogh, Edvard Munch, Da Vinci, to illustrate that compositional elements that have been used for centuries in the visual arts are also relevant today in the photographic arts. He also discusses concepts that originate in the musical arts such as “counterpoint” and how that relates to photography today. I was amazed and enlightened. I learned more from “Visual Flow” then I have in a long time.

Don’t get me wrong this book isn’t all about concepts and theories it’s also a practical guide on how to execute on these concepts. Ian goes through different compositional elements including abstract and physical elements. He discusses how to use shapes (curves, diagonal lines, circles, triangles, etc) to create a compelling image. How do you create visual mass and use negative space to your advantage? That’s covered.

You’ve heard about the rule of thirds? So have I. But do you know where and how it originated? When should you use and when shouldn’t you. Ian discusses this in-depth and provides insight that I, for one, found fascinating.

Interspersed throughout the book are image studies where Ian explains the different compositional elements of the image and why it works.

This is one of the most comprehensive books that I’ve read on “mastering” composition. I’ll be honest at $24.95 it’s one of the more expensive books that I’ve reviewed. Is it worth it? I’d have to say a resounding…YES. You can click here to purchase the ebook or if you want to give it a test run first you can also download a free trial.

If you haven’t visited Ian’s Dreamscapes site then I suggest you do. Aside from his wonderful site and blog you’ll also find some wonderful video tutorials in his store.

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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.


Sharp Shooter – Proven Techniques for Sharper Photographs

Sharp Shooter, ebook, Martin Bailey, Craft and Vision, review

Craft & Vision’s latest release is out and I was excited to see this one for 2 reasons. The first, is that it’s written by Martin Bailey and I thoroughly enjoyed and got a lot out of his previous book, Making the Print. The second reason which is probably more important is that I often get frustrated when I get home after a shoot, download my images and realize, once I see them on a big screen, that the shot that I thought was my killer image is not as sharp as it should be.

In Sharp Shooter, Bailey walks the reader through, in his usual clear and concise fashion, the gamut on the subject—from hand-holding techniques, stabilization, and what makes an image sharp in the first place, to macro-sharpness, depth of field, focus stacking, sharpening for final output, and more.

What was extremely useful to me was his in-depth explanation of Hyperfocal Distance and how it applies to different lenses. The section on focusing in the macro range and his coverage of shooting for focus stacking and processing of those images was invaluable.

Sharp Shooter, ebook, Martin Bailey, Craft and Vision, review

Sharp Shooter, ebook, Martin Bailey, Craft and Vision, review

Martin Bailey is a nature and wildlife photographer, British-born though now based in Tokyo. Fueled by his passion for travel and nature, Martin is an international tour and workshop leader, working on all seven continents. A pioneering podcaster and blogger, Gura Gear Pro, and X-Rite Coloratti member, he helps photographers from around the world to see and capture the wonders of this awesome planet we call home.

Use the discount code SHARP4 to get USD $1 off SHARP SHOOTER.  If you buy 5 or more products from the Craft & Vision collection use the discount code SHARP20 for 20% off. These codes expire at 11:59 PM (PST) July 4, 2013. Click Here to Purchase.


Lightroom 5 – Up To Speed

Yesterday Adobe announced the release of Lightroom 5 and with that announcement also came the release of Craft & Vision’s latest ebook LIGHTROOM 5 Up To Speed. This ebook is written by Piet LR5_Cover_largeVan den Eynde, an Adobe Certified Expert who walks you through all the new features and how to get started using the new tools in LR5. He really leaves no stone unturned.

This 77-page eBook, and the companion videos (50+ minutes), will you get up to speed with what’s new in this revolutionary digital darkroom software.

Topics covered include:

  • Installing Lightroom 5 & Upgrading Older Catalogues
  • The Advanced Healing Brush
  • Straightening Photos with Upright
  • The Radial Filter
  • Improving Your Workflow with Smart Previews
  • Improvements to the Book Module
  • New Features in the Slideshow Module
  • Other New, Improved or Changed Features
  • New or Improved Plug-Ins Since Lightroom 4

Van Den Eynde takes your through the installation process step by step which if you’re upgrading from a previous version is essential to ensure you don’t lose any of your previous catalogues. His instructions are thorough and will make the process seamless.

Each new feature is explained in the detail and the best part of this ebook are the accompanying videos. Each section includes a video tutorial that shows you how each feature works. While I love to read I’m also a visual learner so the videos are an added bonus for me and I think you’ll love them too.

LIGHTROOM 5 UP TO SPEED with the embedded videos is only $5. If you’re new to Lightroom and haven’t read Piets’s  LIGHTROOM 4 UNMASKED Craft & Vision is offering a special LIGHTROOM BUNDLE ($20 – full-time discount) which combines Piet’s latest eBook with his amazing Big Book LIGHTROOM 4 UNMASKED. Click Here to Purchase.

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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.

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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.


Behind The Action – Creating Adventure Imagery, Step By Step

I just finished Dan Bailey’s, just released ebook, Behind The Action – Creating Adventure Imagery, Step By Step. I’ve been following Dan’s blog for quite some time now btabut truthfully this is the first book of his that I’ve read. I’m not quite sure why I waited so long. If you’re interested in sports or adventure or action photographs then this is a must read.

What really impressed me was the way that this book is structured. Dan focuses on 12 different adventure and outdoor images.  These include:

  • Skate Skier
  • Trail Runner
  • Skier
  • Rock Climber
  • Mountain Biker
  • Hiker

In each of these “adventures” comes with its own recipe for success. This is what I found so unique about Behind The Action. It was almost as if I had Dan providing me with personal instruction on how to create a successful image. The recipe is:

  • Concept – here Dan discusses what his conceptual vision was for the image that he wanted to create even before he picked up his camera.
  • Gear – he describes in detail what equipment he used and what his reasoning was behind his choices.
  • Light – look at the images of each of the adventures and then read what Dan’s challenges were when the lighting was optimal and how he used existing light to his advantage.
  • Approach – learn what his approach was with each shot from the settings he used, the vantage point he decided on and why. Dan describes the “approach” as the “creative problem solving in the photographic process.”
  • Execution – once the approach has been decided upon the execution is all about the experience of the actual shoot. Did he change lenses, wait for better light, change his vantage point. Capturing people in action situations, the execution may end up being different from the planned approach. Gain insight into Dan’s thought process throughout the shoot.
  • Final Thoughts, Quick Tips and Post Production – in this final ingredient, Dan talks about analyzing the shots that he came away with, why the were successful and why they weren’t. He also describes his post processing for each image.

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Dan Bailey is a professional outdoor, adventure and travel photographer. His clients include Outdoor Photographer, The North Face, Patagonia and many others.

This ebook is a must read if you want to take better action and sports images but really the ingredients that Dan uses in his recipes can be used whenever you go out shooting.

Behind The Action is published by the team at LightStalking. You can click here to go to their page and order the book. Today only…use the code “EARLYBIRD” to get 20% off Behind the Action –  so get it now at only $19.95.