Topaz Labs 2017 end of year sale – 35% off coupon!

Topaz Labs has kicked off their End of Year SALE!

Starting today and valid until January 01, 2018

Get 35% off storewide, including plugins, the collection, collection upgrades, studio adjustments,
the Go Pro Pack and go Pro pack upgrades
(The Go Pro Packs and Collection are already 50% off, you can use this coupon to save even more!)

Use Coupon Code “HOHOHO” to save 35% through New Years Day.

The Coupon Code is valid on both stores!
If you are interested in the Studio Adjustments or the Pro Pack to to the Topaz Studo Store
if you are interested in the Plugins or the Collection go to the Topaz Plugins Store

Topaz Labs 2017 year end sale

Topaz Labs 2017 year end sale


Topaz Labs Black Friday 2017 75% off Coupon

Topaz Labs Black Friday 2017  75% off Coupon

From November 21st through November 28th

For Black Friday Topaz Labs is offering 75% off of all of the traditional plugins in the full TopazPlugin Collection or the newest technology in Topaz Studio with the TopazStudio Go Pro Pack.
Whether you want to achieve stunning photography enhancements
or apply artistic effects, either option has you covered.

Visit the Topaz Labs Black Friday page to learn more

The plugin Collection includes 17 Topaz Products including the Topaz
Studio versions of Impression, Clarity, Detail and Simplify. (over $1000
individually) for only $249.99. As an added bonus you receive a few pro
adjustments in Topaz Studio from Impression, Clarity, Detail and Simplify
As well!! Can’t beat best of two worlds!

*(Detail: Precision Detail & Channel Mixer; Clarity: Precision Contrast &
HSL Color Tuning; Impression; Simplify: Abstraction & Quad Tone & Edges)

You can also save on the updated Go Pro Pack with all 20 currently
available Pro Adjustments (over $450 individually) is on sale for just

The savings aren’t just for new purchases either. Owners of the older
Topaz Collections or older Pro Packs can take advantage of the savings as
well! They will just need to log in to their accounts, then add the
collection to their cart to claim their unique upgrade price for additional
savings on the Collection or Go Pro Pack!

*Note that this discount does not apply to individual plugin or adjustment purchases,
which are sold at full price.


The coupon code ‘BLACKFRIDAY17’, will be auto applied in either store when
you add the Pro Pack or the collection to your cart

Topaz Collection Black Friday 2017 75% off coupon
Topaz Collection Black Friday 2017 75% off coupon

Want to buy both

Want to buy both the collection and the Pro Adjustments?  Topaz Labs has you covered!
Visit Topaz Labs Black Friday page to see  how to get the most out of your money
It explains how to buy the the collection, redeem the Pro Adjustments
then get the Pro pack, so you aren’t double charged for effects in both packages!

As per my Ethics guidelines
I am a affiliate of Topaz Labs

Adobe release new products versions



Adobe releases their new versions of many products.

Of Interest to photographers are the former Adobe Lightroom CC has been renamed to Lightroom Classic CC
And the new Lighrtoom CC is now cloud based.

New plan pricing

Lightroom CC plan

Includes the all-new Lightroom CC and 1TB of cloud storage.

Photography plan

Includes the all-new Lightroom CC, 20GB of cloud storage, Lightroom Classic CC, and Photoshop CC.

Photography plan with 1TB cloud storage

Includes the all-new Lightroom CC, 1TB of cloud storage, Lightroom Classic CC, and Photoshop CC.

That’s US$10/mo for 980meg of additional storage?
In a year you could by a 4tb drive for the same amount, and handle your own backups.

For now think I will stick to the base photography plan!

Only time will tell how this will work out for them, but working in high end “cloud” systems for years I would not trust my personal important data to any of them.

Hacks, cracks, thefts and redundancy failures oh my.

Now the fun starts checking in on just how well these updates and new programs really work!

Topaz Studio (free version) Impressionistic test

Topaz Studio trial

After downloading the free version of the new Topaz Studio I planned to give it a whirl.
Then I selected a not so good (read normally an image that  would have been deleted) image file to play with and in a only a few minutes created this impressionistic result.

It only took a few minutes! Using the builtin filters and presets, along with a little careful masking. Tools that are all available in the free version.
While the interface is not quite what I was used to with other more traditional editors it did not take long to get the hang of how things worked.

I promptly tried it on a rather pedantic image of  a field of wildflowers and in no time at all came out with this impressionist result.

I am on an impressionist kick at the moment, however Studio can do a full gaumet of image types from highly realistic, to out of this world!

Get your own copy for FREE and get started with a great editing suite at this link
Get Topaz Studio FREE

Extend Topaz Studio with Pro plugins

Want even more control and power?
Purchase individual plugins that will extend the functionality of Topaz Studio here Shop individual plugins

Or Go Pro and Save! get the entire Pro Plugin suite and save 50% off the individual purchase price!

* Note that the current 50% off offer may end at any time!

Truth in advertising: I was impressed enough with the capabilities of the new Topaz Studio even in the free version that I have joined their affiliate program.

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

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

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

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

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

All In One – Shine into Sunset
Polish – Sharpen

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!

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 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

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

Hoya R72

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

no filters
welding glassprocessed
base image no filter

base image no filter

Welding glass original

Welding glass original

Welding glass processed

Welding glass processed