Sunday, 22 April 2012

Topaz filters and a little tree therapy

thicket © Caroline Fraser 2012
I have had a busy week, and have restored my equilibrium over the weekend with two long walks in the woods with dog.

I took a proper camera and a monopod; a compromise over the need to carry a tripod for decent depth of field, and my need to walk and feel unburdened by my equipment. As always I carry just one lens, and see what I can do with it. This weekend I have rediscovered the fun of a wide angle lens. My Sigma 10-20 mm has not been out for a while, but for my current project on chaos in the woods it is perfect, allowing a wider depth of focus than most of my other lenses, and better  quality images than a standard telephoto lens.

I have downloaded Topaz B&W effects for a one month trial, and am experimenting to see if it is something I would like to buy. I already have Lightroom which has a number of monochrome options, but am struggling to use the programme efficiently. Topaz can be used from within Photoshop, and is therefore simpler to use.

So what have I found?

I am wary of producing images that look overcooked. So many journalistic photographers seem to use Topaz filters for portraits, and the overall effect is to over accentuate the pores and wrinkles to a point where they look unatural. Likewise landscapes can have too much 'venetian' effect or 'pop', and the effect immediately destroys the image in my eye.

I like to use black and white layers within photoshop to enhance the contrast in an image without creating an obvious filter effect. I copy the background layer and convert the layer to monochrome. The blending mode is then changed to soft light or overlay and the percentage opacity altered according to taste.

black and white overlay on a colour image using soft light as the blending mode

Here is the first image unadulterated

and here with the Topaz diffusion filter applied as  a layer with some additional blur

with diffusion and blur

and here with no blur

with diffusion and no blur

Some images work better in black and white, especially for conveying nature's chaos.

original image

with high contrast monochrome effect and vignetting

colour image with  monochrome overlay in soft light blending mode

same image using Topaz BW  infra red effect, exaggerated grain and vignetting
One could play around for hours and  probably create all of these effects without Topaz, but the ability to preview many different effects, and then to fine tune the effect is attractive. 


aged effect

You just need to be careful not to overcook the albumen or go overboard on the 'grunge'. 

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