The Digital Photo Guy

Tag: Topaz Labs

New Day, New Post, New Directions

by on Apr.26, 2015, under Articles, gear, Lightroom, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing, Photoshop CS2/4, Photoshop Elements

Nichole Paschal of Topaz Labs to Present Webinar

Most digital photographers know about Topaz Labs’ powerful suite of software that can turn photos into amazing art with a single click. And, most photographers know about Nichole Paschal, Topaz’s outstanding webinar guru. A wonderful photographer in her own right, Nichole has agreed to present a custom webinar to the Wickenburg Art Club Photography Group and you’re invited.

On Monday, May 4 at 6:30PM Arizona Time (6:30PM Pacific, 730PM Mountain, 8:30PM Central, 9:30PM Eastern) Nichole will present a webinar custom designed for new photographers as well as advanced dSLR photographers. She has even added in a segment for cell phone photographers. Stripped of all the jargon and techie “stuff,” this webinar simply focuses on “Creating Beautiful Photography.”

Although the webinar, with my input, was created especially for our Photography Group, Nichole has graciously allowed me to invite my blog readers. To register, simple follow this LINK to receive your log-in code. DO NOT share that code as it is unique to you. Using that code, on Monday, May 4th at 6:20PM Arizona Time (about 10 minutes early,) log-in to the webinar. Once you’re logged in, you be able to hear us as we prepare for the webinar.

Anyone with a PC or Mac and high-speed Internet access can participate. There will be a Q&A period at the end where Nichole will field questions. There will also be a random “door prize” of a free Topaz software license of your choice. Be sure to review the complete line of Topaz Labs programs so you know which one you want if you’re the lucky winner (the complete suite is not eligible, just single licenses.)

To get a sense of Nichole’s presentation style (outstanding!) check out some of the 200+ Topaz Labs videos on YouTube. Even if you don’t use Topaz software for some reason, the basics are all there and you can learn a ton.

This Old Blog is Gonna Change

I want to thank the nearly 1000 subscribers who have helped make this blog successful over the past 10 years. But, as with everything in life, things change and it’s now time for this blog to change. Up to now, my focus has been on landscape, nature and birds with a smattering of other subjects thrown in from time-to-time. However, you may have noticed a shift over the past few years. First, I started photographing pin-up models like Tylor and Tina. Last November, I photographed glamour models at the Arizona Shootout. In between, I photographed Alyssa Caitlain at the junkyard and in a studio.

Last week, I photographed more models at the Spring 2015 Arizona Shootout and, for the first time, made fine art nude images. This isn’t to say I no longer make landscape or nature photos, just that my interests have expanded and I’m now photographing subject matter that may not be to everyone’s taste. Here are some examples.

AmeliaSimoneBW-102   AmeliaSimoneBW-103   AmeliaSimoneBW-104

For the moment, I’ll keep my more explicit images in my Model Mayhem account. But, as readers get used to the new genres, I may post some here. I hope my readers know me well enough by now to know that I won’t be posting erotic or pornographic images but only what, in my opinion, are artful images of the human form.

If you choose to stop reading my blog because of this change, I thank you for your past readership and wish you the best in all your future photographic endeavors.

If you choose to continue reading my blog, I thank you for your acceptance of change and hope you’ll enjoy the new disciplines I intend to pursue.

Lighting Gear

The photos of Amelia Simone (above) were made using Canon 580EX II and 550EX Speedlites (buy them cheap on Craigslist,) Impact 60″ umbrella, David Honl speedlite grid and Interfit COR751 light stands. The backdrop was a piece of mottled velour from Walmart and she was posed on a standard folding table with a piece of black cloth draped over it.

YN_kitA cool device I bought specifically for studio work is the Yongnuo YN-622C-TX kit and two YN-622C transceivers for a $155 from Yongnuo on eBay. I’m not a fan of Chinese goods but, in this case, my concerns were unfounded because these E-TTL compatible triggers (yeah, you heard right, E-TTL) are well made, 100% compatible and easy to use. Even the Chinglish user guide was rewritten by New Zealander Clive D. Bolton. In the end, this was much ado about nothing because I’ve never had to read the manual.

So, what’s the big deal you ask? Let me count the ways. First, regardless of whether you’re using one flash or 10 flashes, the YN-622C-TX (C = Canon, N = Nikon) lets me control the flashes from my camera. I can twiddle around with the flash control in the camera’s Menu but that’s a lot of twiddling. I can also control the flashes using the switches and menu on the flash but that’s a lot of walking back and forth. Using the YN controller I can assign different flashes to different Groups (A, B or C) and adjust each flash output from 1/1 (Full) down to 1/128 power. For people just learning about flash photography, I can set everything to E-TTL and let the camera do all the thinking.

All native Canon modes are supported including E-TTL, 1st Curtain, 2nd Curtain, HSS and, even, Multi-Mode. Each Group can be turned on or off so it’s easy to test which lights are producing too much or too little light. And, the best feature of all is the simple, intuitive control interface. As I mentioned earlier, I unpacked the triggers from their boxes and began using them within 10 minutes.

For studio portraiture, where I want the key (main) light to fill light ratio to be about 3:1, I can set the Key to Group A and the Fill to Group B. If I want a hair light, that can be Group C. The triggers can be set to one of 8 channels so you’re not firing someone else’s flashes or vice versa. There’s a Test button to check your configuration. In the category of really, really cool, one of my 3 transceivers can be used as a transmitter if my controller should croak. In other words, I have a YN-622C-TX controller and 3 YN-622C receivers. If the TX should be dropped and stepped on, I can use one of the receivers as a transmitter. I’ll be down one flash but that’s not usually a big deal because I can set my LumoPro to Optical Slave mode and let one of the other flashes trigger it.

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Fire! and a Bunch of Dead Bodies

by on Mar.18, 2014, under Lightroom, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing


OK, so the fire was a controlled burn training exercise but it was still fun to get in close and play PJ (photojournalist.) The original destination was the Old Miners’ Cemetery in Jerome, AZ, a hippy-dippy artists’ colony in a historic  mountain-top mining community. Jerome, like Bisbee, AZ, is a mining town that has successfully reinvented itself after the mines were tapped out and closed in the early 1950s. Today, Jerome is a cool little town filled with artists’ galleries, restaurants, coffee shops and tourism money. It’s a great example of a town that moved into the future rather than dry up and die like so many small towns that cling to a forgotten and, ultimately, insignificant, past.

OK, pontificating over, on to the the photos. I saw the black smoke from the Old Miners’ Cemetery and immediately knew it was a structure fire. In old mining towns like Jerome, fire is an ever present danger so I knew the local FD would pull out all stops. I hustled over there only to discover it was a training event. Still, I was able to get in close for some great PJ shots. In fact, I was so close that when the wind suddenly shifted, hot cinders rained down on me burning my shutter finger.

Jerome-103   Jerome-104   Jerome-105

Jerome-106   Jerome-101

The first shot is just as I got there. I was using my Canon 5D Mark II with the 24-105/4L for landscapes at the cemetery and didn’t have time to swap out for my Canon 7D so I went with what I had ready. The moral of the story is, “Don’t over think the scene, just start shooting.” This was when the fire was at its tallest and wildest. After I got several keepers “in the can” (does anyone still say that?) I moved positions to get the old mine head in the frame (2nd shot) to make it look like a mine fire. As I was taking the shot of the bearded FF (#3) I noticed the second hose handler was a woman. I know there are female FF but this was the first time I had photographed one in action. The only way I could tell she was female was when her ponytail flipped out from under her helmet. On the last two photos, I briefly considered moving in front of the FF to get their faces but discretion won out. Getting old certainly takes a toll on my spontaneous stupidity!

Jerome, AZ Old Miners’ Cemetery

The real reason for being in Jerome was to photograph the Old Miners’ Cemetery. This is an old, semi-cared for cemetery that seems to have been last used around 1916. The rest of the group met up at 7:30AM but I wanted to catch the first light so I got there at 6:30AM. There’s a reason they call it the “Golden Hour.” Unfortunately, it was a typical clear Arizona day so the “Golden Hour” only lasted about 15 minutes. The cemetery scenes were perfect for BW conversions. I started out using Topaz Labs B&W Effects but found I could get faster and better results by first converting in LR4 and adding the finishing touches with TL B&W Effects.

Jerome-201   Jerome-204   Jerome-203   Jerome-202

In the first image, I used the Transparency slider in BWE (B&W Effects) to bring back a hint of the underlying colors. To do this, you have to do the whole conversion in BWE because, obviously, if it had been converted in LR4, there wouldn’t be any underlying color to bring back. The remaining three were converted in LR4 and tweaked in BWE. I don’t recall the exact steps but I usually started with one of Topaz Labs presets.

All photos were made with a Canon 5D MkII and 24-105/4L on my Gitzo 3530LS with a Markins ballhead. Now, I know some of you will automatically wrinkle your nose at the thought of lugging around a tripod but, trust me, there’s no way you’re going to be making good photos at Oh-Dark-Thirty without something to steady the camera.

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Topaz Labs 30% Off Sale

by on May.11, 2012, under Articles, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing

Topaz Labs Mothers’ Day Sale

For those who are interested in Topaz Labs plug-ins, this weekend only (Mothers’ Day 2012,) TL is offering a 30% discount on ALL products. The discount code is “TopazMoms” (without quotes, does anyone really enter codes with quotes?)

Hope to see you on Team Topaz.

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Old Videos, New Questions and Cool Deals

by on Aug.04, 2010, under Articles

Topaz Labs introduces DeNoise 5


I hate to sound like a Topaz Labs fanboy but their newest iteration of DeNoise 5 is better than my old standby, Neat Image v6. The difference isn’t huge but TL is somewhat better in the areas of speed, ease of use and detail recovery. NI has a small edge on price. I use the NI Home+ version that includes both the Standalone and Photoshop/Photoshop Elements plug-in version for $49.90 while Topaz DeNoise is $49.99 until August 31. After that, the price jumps to $79.99. Topaz offers free upgrades for current licensees while NI offers free minor upgrades to licensees and a lesser Upgrade Fee for major upgrades.

As always, my readers can use the code “digitalphotoguy” to receive a 15% discount on all Topaz Labs purchases. I am not affiliated with nor do I have any financial interest in Topaz Labs.

Cheap Canon 24-105/4L IS Lens

Here’s your opportunity to bag a Canon 24-105/4L IS lens for an incredibly low price. Every Canon shooter needs this lens.

Old Videos

There’s a link at the top of every page on my site titled Videos. That link takes you to (hold on, are you ready for this) the Videos page. Everytime I repost an old video or article, someone asks, “Where’s the previous/next/other video/article?” I think the worst thing about the Internet has been to foster a mindset that it’s someone’s job to do your thinking/research. Notice how I didn’t link the word Videos to the Videos page because I want you to find it for yourselves.

New Questions

Long-time students know that a benefit of taking my classes is continued e-mail support. My motto is, “Failure is not an option, you will learn!” I regularly answer questions for students from 5 or more years ago.

Recently, new readers (not past students) have started sending me questions that take time and effort to research and/or craft an answer. While I don’t mind questions that have universal appeal and are of interest to many readers, I don’t have time to answer specific questions about one person’s gear, computer configuration or idle curiousity unless they are past students.

I hope everyone understands that I have to save my limited bandwidth for past and present students who have paid for my expertise.

One final point, in order to consolidate my time and efforts, I respond to Comments on this site before I answer e-mails.

Cool Canon Deals (The Real Deal)

If you have a broken, out-of-warranty Canon digital camera lying around that will cost more to fix than it’s worth, you can upgrade to a refurbished Canon for a great price. For example, I have an old Canon 10D. It’s in fine condition but, for the sake of this example, let’s assume it’s broken. Canon charges a flat fee depending on whether it’s a “Standard Repair” or a “Major Repair”  for most repairs. Let’s assume this camera will cost $250 to repair but it’s only worth $200.

Canon will trade the 10D plus $559 for a Canon 40D, a newer and better camera. Current used prices for Canon 40D is about $600-$700 so it’s a great deal when you consider it’s been serviced by Canon and comes with a 90 day warranty. They also have refurbished G11, 50D, 7D and 5DMkII available.

To get more detals, call Canon at 800-753-4200 and ask for Sales.

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Monday Morning Tip – 11/16/09

by on Nov.15, 2009, under Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing, Photoshop Elements, Webcast, Workshops

Another Video MMT

Good morning! This week is another VMMT (Video Monday Morning Tip). This time I review the noise reduction capability of Topaz Labs Adjust 3 and compare it against my old favorite, Neat Image. I’ve been using Neat Image for about 5 years and the company has been great about keeping the product updated. But, bottom line, I believe they’ve wrung out about all the performance that can be gotten from their wavelet-packet noise reduction algorithms. Topaz Labs claims their newer design is better than wavelet analysis.

(If you’re a “bottom line” sort and just want the results, the VMMT is in the Tips & News section)

Anyone who uses noise reduction (NR) software knows that a basic trade-off is loss of details. This is seen in portraits where skin looses texture and appears “plastic” when NR is applied with a heavy hand. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a good test portrait but I used an otherwise very noisy photo.

After I produced today’s VMMT, I remembered these photos from the Barona Indian Powwow. These photos are good examples of bad examples and work well for NR testing. The first two are resized, compressed jpegs of the entire photo while the third is a portion of the image to better show NR details. Can you tell which is which? A major advantage of Topaz Adjust is that both NR and sharpening can be performed inside one plug-in.

Noise Image v6   Topaz Adjust 3

100% Crop, A-B Comparison

Topaz Labs intrigued me because their proprietary algorithms are developed in-house which makes sense as the founder, Dr. Albert Yang, is a DSP (digital signal processor) expert. (continue reading…)

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