Sleeklens Landscape Lightroom presets review

As per my Ethics guidelines I must state I have not purchased this particular product.
At time of writing I am not currently affiliated with or sponsored by Sleeklens.
I was recently asked to provide a review and my thoughts on a product by Sleeklens called “Through the Woods” a Lightroom landscape preset workflow. Sleeklens produces presets and action sets for Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop CC.

After agreeing to a few terms to do the review the product arrived as a zip file
That contained several PDF files

  • A  readme first PDF that contained a link to the installation video and an invitation to join the sleeklens Facebook group for support.
  • A TOS (Terns of Service)
  • A how to install PDF
  • A “recipe” list to help get you started.

And two folders, one for brushes with 30 brushes in it and one for presets containing 51 presets.

Install was mostly painless especially if you follow the included instructions.
I in my usual way managed to get it exactly backwards and had to do a bit of uninstalling/reinstalling.

To Install presets follow the video linked in the install document.
To Install brushes follow the instructions in the install document.

Screen grab of the presets and brushes that are a part of the Through the Woods collection
Hint: all images in this post can be clicked to open a new window/tab with a larger easier to see image.

sample of what the presets and brushes look like

sample of what the presets and brushes look like

The sample shows one of my annoyances with Adobe Lightroom, while LR presets can be grouped into collapsible sections. LR brushes cannot, you are always scrolling through huge lists to get to the one you want which is invariable at the bottom of the list.

To test what the presets and brushes could do I selected one very over exposed image, one very under exposed image and one with an average exposure but mediocre image.
In all cases these images would normally have seen the big X of rejection in Lightroom.
Here are the images and the “recipes” as Sleeklens calls them that I used to process the three images.


Image 1 – The Over Exposed image.

Original on left, Sleeklens processed on right.

Over exposed image processed with sleeklens workflow

Over exposed image processed with sleeklens workflow

Over exposed image processed with sleeklens workflow

Over exposed image processed with sleeklens workflow

The Recipe used

Presets
All in one – Dawn rising
Exposure – Less Highlights
Color – Deep blue sky
Tone/Tint – Color pop
Polish – Sharpen

Brushes
brighten (applied to land and reflection)
brighten (applied to  land)
add golden sun (reduced effect, applied to  land and reflection)

Manual settings
Manually reduced Saturation to +19 and Vibrance to +40
Manually adjusted cyan cast in sky towards blue
Manually reset black/white points


Image 2 The Under Exposed image.

Original on left, Sleeklens processed on right.

under egxposed image sleeklens preset test

under exposed image sleeklens preset test

The Recipe used

Presets
Base – High Dynamic Range
Base – Morning light
Exposure – Less Highlights
Exposure – Brightnen Shadows
Tone/Tint – color pop
Polish – Sharpen

Brushes
Brighten (applied to land)
Add golden sun (reduced effect, applied to portions of land and reflection)

Graduated filter
cloud definition

Manual settings
Manually reduced Saturation to +19 and Vibrance to +21
Manually reset black/white points


Image 3 The average exposure average image.

Original on left, Sleeklens processed on right.

average exposure image sleeklens preset test

average exposure image sleeklens preset test

The Recipe used

Presets
All In One – Shine into Sunset
Polish – Sharpen

Brushes
Brighten (applied to land)
Add golden sun (applied to  land)
Darken (applied to a tiny portion of land)

Graduated filter
cloud definition

Manual settings
Manually reduced Clarity to +30 Saturation to +30 and Vibrance to +5
Manually slightly increased overall exposure and reset black/white points


My thoughts

Now for my thoughts on the Sleeklens workflow presets and using presets in general.
The Sleeklens presets and brushes do seem to work well to help process images, or at least get you to a good starting point for heavier editing fairly quickly.
In many cases I had to dial back the effects as they seemed to be a bit over the top.
But that is probably common for development presets as every image is different and would need some custom adjustments tinkering.
They did have an interesting stack able capability where you could apply as many of the presets as you wished and they did not affect each other.

What is a preset

A preset or brush is just a Lightroom setting (or settings) you come up with that you then save with a name. Which you can then recall with a single click and apply it to other images as needed thus saving you some time.
With purchased presets like the Sleeklens collections you are buying settings created by people skilled at editing and processing images.
You are getting some of their expertise instead of trying to re-invent the wheel by creating your own preset sets.

You still need to learn to use presets and brushes properly and take the time to apply them to each image, there is no magic auto fix!

My personal workflow

The “presets” I do use daily are smart collection workflow driven.
They are based on moving images from import to distribution in a quick timely fashion with very little actual image development to try to recover a flawed image.
The majority of my own under/over/mediocre images usually meet the rejection trashcan very quickly.

With the “Through the Woods” landscape presets there is the option of trying a few presets to adjust or recover some of my images if so desired.
Though even in Lightroom it now seems possible to repaint an images so it looks quite different from what was originally photographed.

Links to Sleeklens products and services if you are interested

This is the “Throught The Woods” presets I used for this review Landscape Lightroom Presets
Sleeklens products Lightroom Presets
Sleeklens also offers a Photo editing service

And finally Sleeklens has a fairly active and informative YouTube Channel

Our big camping adventure, in the soaking wet rain.

We (wet) went off for a little camping trip

The first week was one of the wettest ever! Not much chance to wander around and make images.
Standing under a flap I did make many clips that assembled nicely into a short video. So everyone can experience the wonders of another day of nonstop rain.

Reading, Photo Magazines of course, consumed much of the time during the first week.
Started reading the “VisionMongers: Making a Life and a Living in Photography” Book by David duChemin as well.
Watching episodes of “Dead like Me” and “BloodTies” on the old laptop helped pass some of the time.
All the while helping our diet with many varities of custom health foods.

rain food #junkfood #junkfoodjunkie

rain food
#junkfood #junkfoodjunkie

Also managed to watch all four of the “Pirates of the Carabian”,  three of the “Smokey and the Bandit” and “Back to the Beach” (a Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello)  DVD movies in the soaking evenings during that week.

Innovation to keep the wet out!

We did need to innovate a bit and created rain cover stands from 3 inch ABS DWV pipe TEEs.  Making the cable end connection inside the pipe fitting is a bit of a trick, but it can be done.
Place one end of the 30amp cord in one side and down into the 90 bend. Then put the other end  from the next cord in from the other side and push them together inside the fitting.
The 15amp cord had to pass through frist,  there is no room for its ends once the fat 30 amp ends were in place! Then you just stand them up, keeps the connectors dry and  up of the wet forest floor. As long as the water does not rise too far!
Or  just use bigger 4 inch pipe tees instead! Though they take up much more space to store.
Worked out well for us ,  no rain caused shorts or power outages,  the laptop  and camera batteries all charged up and kept on working!

ABS power cord rain covers

ABS power cord rain  covers

The Camping Cat was not impressed!

Kit-Kat
2006-2017
Taken too soon

camping cat not impressed

camping cat not impressed

Fortunately the next week was much drier !

Carden Alvar, new Provincial Park in the making!

Carden Alvar birding area

Sometimes you discover gems like the Carden Alvar lurking in your own back yard!
Been traveling past this area often (turns out it is only a few minutes north of my location) on my way north.
To such destinations as Algonquin, Killarney, Superior, Thunder Bay, Temagami, and many other places one might imagine one has to go to find “great” images.
Little did I realize what a gem was just a short trip away!

Old barn along a road in Carden Alvar

So I took a quick run around the Carden Alvar.
It was not a bad trip, maybe should not have used the wife’s small car though.
It bottomed out in a few places and a few rather loud thumps occurred.
But there were lots of other people also trying to drive and bird around portions of it in small cars too.
Would not recommend trying that trail in a small car if it rains though!

I did not see the fabled Loggerhead Shrike, but you could hear it singing (rather laughing at all the people) in the trees.
The Loggerhead shrike is the only member of the shrike family endemic to North America making it a rather unique bird to spot.
There were lots of other birds to be seen flapping around the area too, (no rubber chickens though).

It has a very nicely set up birding trail area by the “Ontario Field Ornithologists

A portion of the area has become the Carden Alvar Provincial Park . The Land use amendment to create the new Provincial Park was approved and the new Park is underway. There are hiking trails in the new park that now exist! Brochures, maps and more information can be found on the The Couchiching Conservancy web site.

Oh, the purple loosestrife invasion is doing very well, there were huge fields full of it everywhere!

Purple loosestrife in a field at Carden Alvar

Purple loosestrife in a field at Carden Alvar

 

The Photographers stages of being.

The Photographers stages of being.

plasma ball lightning

plasma ball lightning

stage 1 “The Complete Newbie”

Knows they want to take pictures but have no idea how to go about it.

stage 2 “The Interested Beginner”

Knows there is more to photography they begin the process of learning and spend time looking to forums & groups to help grow their skills.

stage 3 “The Obsessive Amateur”

Has a growing evolving kit of equipment.
They spend large amount of time pouring over manufacturer equipment specs and arguing over even the most trivial of details on forums.
They become overly obsessed with the equipment IQ capabilities.
Unfortunately while sidetracked by all the neat equipment available to them they do not spend much time actually growing their skills by working on task of image making.

stage 4 “The Image Maker”

Realizes the equipment is just a tool, a necessary evil.
They finally embark on the real journey of understanding light and imagining. They have a tendency to become a bit reclusive while chasing their new found vision and drop off from or become infrequent visitors to on-line communities in favor of actually working on their skills of producing images.

stage 5 “The Master”

at the zenith of their abilities they reach the Zen of image making.
They become one with the image making process and their equipment (Anyone who believes they have reached this stage, have not!)

stage 6 “There is no stage 6”

By far most people who embark on the photographic journey appear to progress fairly quickly from stage 1 through stage 2 to stage 3 where many tend to get stuck.
They become mired down in trying to understand all the wonderful equipment that keeps appearing on the market for them to obtain.

Many fortunately eventually escape the bling and flash of all the new kit after a while, and get back on track of becoming a proficient image maker.

Though not all make it to stage 4, their hobby becomes the photo equipment in itself. Which is fine, especially if you are a photo equipment manufacturer!

Stage 5 is a myth, no one ever actually gets to this point though some have gotten very close!

Filter tests for long exposure, unusual, infrared

Long Exposure Filter Tests

Filter tests or what happens when I find myself out with a new Hoya R72 infrared filter, a Lee big stopper filter and a piece of shade 10 welding glass.
If you want to see any of the images larger just “Right click” them and select “View Image” in FireFox or “open image in new tab” in chrome and safari!
Internet Explorer does not follow normal web standards and this option is missing.

The filter tests

Original – unprocessed
Original scene

Original scene
ISO 100 f/13 1/60second 40mm

Lee Big Stopper
Original
 

Processed
Original from bi

Original from big stopper
iso 100 f/18 24seconds 40mm

processed from big stopper

processed from big stopper
iso 100 f/18

Welding Glass
shade 10
Original
 

Processed
Welding glass original

Welding glass original
iso 100 f/8 45 seconds 40mm

Welding glass processed

Welding glass processed
iso 100 f/8 45 seconds 40mm

Infrared
Hoya R72
Original
 

Processed
Infrared original

Infrared original
iso 800 f/8 44 seconds 40mm

Infrared processed
iso 800 f/8 44 seconds 40mm

I was out testing my newly acquired Hoya Infrared R72 filter from Vistek .
When I decided to also test out how a piece of shade 10 welding glass (8$) would handle the scene when used as a long exposure filter, something I had read about on other sites.
A use it definitely was not intended for.

All image processing was done in Adobe CC LightRoom 5

The first image pair for comparison is from a Lee Big Stopper 10 stop neutral density filter.

As expected the color from this excellent filter was very good to start with, and color correction and processing was very easy.

The second image pair is from the shade 10 welding glass.

It is not intended for passing true color and it introduced a very strong green cast that was fairly difficult but not impossible to semi color correct.
The glass does alter and remove some of the light spectrum so getting to a true color balance my be tricky to next to impossible
It however is passable and at 8$ could be used in a pinch for anyone wanting to try out long exposure photography before deciding on spending the 150$ or so for the real thing.
The shade 10 welding glass also appears to be about 3 to 4 stops darker than the real 10 stop photo filter.
As such initially calculating exposure was completely hit and miss using the histogram to get to something passable.

The third image pair is from the Hoya R72 infrared filter.

It cuts out most of the entire visible light spectrum and thus cannot be color corrected at all.
Resulting images must be processed as monochromes. False color image can be produced with appropriate post processing techniques.
High point of an infrared filter is it works best in the hot mid day sun, when normal photography produces lackluster images.

Attaching the shade 10 welding glass

NOTE: if you try this we are not responsible for anything at all that might happen.
It is easy if you have a petal lens hood, we just used a couple of rubber bands!
Just be very careful not to touch and damage the front element of your lens with the welding glass if you decide to try this,
it is much safer to first mount a cheap UV filter to the lens to protect it from any accidental contact with the heavy glass.

Attaching welding glass

mounting welding glass, with rubber bands 
mounting welding glass with rubber bands

mounting welding glass with rubber bands

mounting welding glass with rubber bands

mounting welding glass with rubber bands

In the next image set I included an x-rite colorchecker passport (really helps with getting images color corrected!) to try to show the effects of the deep green filtration.
If you examine the color chiclets closely you will see that some of them have gone very dark indicating the colors that have been completely removed by the filter,
which makes getting back to a accurate color balance very difficult if not impossible.

Color corecting welding glass

Original
no filters
welding glassprocessed
base image no filter

base image no filter

Welding glass original

Welding glass original

Welding glass processed

Welding glass processed

Algonquin Provincial Park – Canada’s amazing park system

Algonquin Park

Algonquin park lake in morning fog

Established in 1893,  Algonquin Park is the oldest provincial park in Canada.
Located only a 3 hour drive north of Toronto, Ontario the park provides a wilderness experience that is easily accessed from Southern Ontario.
Encompassing about 7,653 square kilometres (2,955 sq mi), it contains over 2,000 kilometres of back country canoe routes connecting  thousands of its pristine lakes.

Providing for any level of outdoors actives.
From the “civilised city” camper. With eight campgrounds and fourteen hiking trails. That provide easy access for the car camper arriving with tent or trailer. Some even providing electrical hookup along the Highway 60 corridor.

To the skilled outdoors person. With 29 different entry points allowing access to the thousands of kilometers of back-country canoeing and hiking. For overnight and multi day use a back-country permit is required. And you will need to show your approved camp stove to the warden before entering.  There is also a complete bottle and can ban in effect in the back-country.

The park is home to an active and healthy black bear population. As well as wolf packs and fox requiring good back-country skills for those traversing its rugged landscape.
Algonquin with 272 recorded bird species, some residents some migrants, is also a haven for the ornithologist!
Not to forget mentioning spotting the occasional elusive moose!

Located in an area of transition between northern coniferous forest and southern deciduous forest the park is along the “border” between Northern Ontario and Southern Ontario. For the landscape enthusiast the park provides excellent diverse scenery in all seasons, especially in the fall when the trees along the highway 60 corridor turn to an amazing riot of colors.

The park boasts a large visitors centre located at Km 43 containing a shop, restaurant, museum and a viewing platform overlooking several lakes. As well as a Logging museum at Km 54.5.
WiFi is available only at the visitors centre,  and fortunately in most places cell phones still do not have a signal allowing for a quiet peaceful time while visiting.

Whether you are car camping or going back-country I highly rate the park and can only recommend it.
It is well worth the visit!

You can find out more about the park and make your camp reservation at Ontario Parks

For updates and news about the park visit the Friends of Algonquin Park FOAP

There is also an excellent Art Gallery at Km 20 on Highway 60 inside the park boundaries, it is well worth a visit. Entrance to the gallery is by donation, which helps fund it operations.

Enjoy your stay!

 

Graph Paper Press themes

I have been using various GPP themes for our site for many years now.
(This site is currently using the GPP Albdo theme that interfaces with PhotoShelter’s Marquee theme very nicely).
The themes really are easy to configure, setup and use, and they sure beat trying to write your own code!

I am a GPP Affiliate.

Graph Paper Press WordPress themes

Graph Paper Press is a small team of web designers and developers based in Brooklyn, NY who build graphically minimal WordPress themes for photographers, artists and entrepreneurs. Their content-rich designs allow you to create a blog, build a portfolio and sell your photography or artwork online in one place! They offer a variety of free WordPress themes and premium WordPress themes that cater specifically to the needs of creatives. Getting started is easy:

  1. Register an account with Graph Paper Press.
  2. Browse and find a theme you love!
  3. Download it and follow the installation instructions!

Effortless Customization

Graph Paper Press has dozens of WordPress themes and plugins that are both easy to use and customize. Their themes allow you to change fonts, colors, backgrounds, headers, menus, insert logos and create slideshows so that your site is exactly what you want it to be.

E-Commerce Ready

Graph Paper Press also makes a free plugin called Sell Media that allows you to sell photos, prints and other media directly through your WordPress site. Coupled with its many extensions, Sell Media becomes an easy platform through which you can track sales, calculate commissions, protect your work and connect with your customers. It’s a sure-fire way to create and manage a photography business through WordPress. Install Sell Media and voila! You’re running a business!

Final Words…

Sometimes things just don’t work out, and that’s okay. Graph Paper Press offers a 30-day, money-back guarantee on all of their products.

Use this coupon code and save 25%

SAVE25TODAY

Get Started Now

My GPP Affiliate link:

A mini review of Sky Crystals

A mini review of Sky Crystals – Unraveling the Mysteries of Snowflakes

Sky Crystals - Unraveling the Mysteries of SnowflakesSky Crystals – Unraveling the Mysteries of Snowflakes by Don Komarechka

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great book! It is a hardcover printed on a heavy stock that showcases the images very well. The book is divided into 3 main sections, with lots of very well reproduced images.

The first section goes into the science and mechanics of how snow crystals are formed.
The second covers the equipment and how-to of shooting your own images of snowflakes.
And the final section covers post processing the many shots in software to arrive at the final image.

Highly recommended read if you are interested in the science, or photography of snowflakes or even just looking at all the pretty pictures of these short lived wonders.

It was a catalyst in rekindling my interest in macro photography!
Very pleased to have purchased it!

View all my reviews on Goodreads

The book can be obtained from http://skycrystals.ca/

New year and Finally done with all the changes!

lookng up through the trees

Looking up

New Year and DONE!

Finally just in time for the new year,
completed all the major changes to the image library.

It really nice to have Lightroom handling most tasks almost automatically, including uploading selected images to the Photoshelter image bank,  my 500px feed and even facebook (yuck on that one.)
So went forth and bought myself a new decent ASUS ProArt PA248Q IPS monitor to celebrate,  unfortunately it really shows how bad the color was on my supposedly calibrated Samsung  23″ consumer grade monitor.

However the 2 monitors are working out very well side by side with the Asus being used to display the image being worked on  while the Samsung is handling the text and menus.

Also picked up a NetGear Push2TV over the holidays, it lets me wireless display anything my Google  tablet & laptop see over  Miracast or WiDi,  will be great for shows & seminars  (Now hoping some nice Santa brings me a 1080p projector next year. )

Awesome new theme to compliment all the changes

painted chairs

Awesome new theme!

Trying out the brand new just released “Awesome” WordPress theme by Graph Paper Press.
It really is very interesting and quite different than what you normally see!
As usual for a GPP theme it has been very easy to implement and configure  to just the way you want it.

I suspect the hardest part will be to get our main image bank on Photoshelter to at least appear to integrate with this new awesome theme!

Right now it is a bit of a jarring switch going from the main GPP site over to our photo image bank and back again.