composing, photography, review

creator vs. taker (ad)

Isn’t this a quite funny headline? You know, I’m a photographer. As a photographer, I show you the world the way it is and how I see it. To bring my images to your vision, I need to develop them. For developing the raw data recorded by my camera, I need some software known as raw developer. It’s just like in the old days where the photographer took the exposed film out of his camera and put it in some chemicals to magically get colorful images out of a grey stripe of plastic.

In 1988, the first version of Photoshop was introduced. This was initially an image manipulation program and became later quite popular not only for advertisers but also for photographers. I personally don’t need these functions for my images. Beside working on deeps and highlights, vibrance, cropping, and sharpening I do nothing to my images. Thus, I only need a raw developer and nothing else.

One raw developer I work with is Luminar by Skylum. This product appeared first in 2016 for MacOS only. Now, it’s available for Windows also. When Syklum started integrating artificial intelligence for some reason, these features became more and more powerful and made life easier for people photographers as well as for landscape photographers.

The current version, Luminar 4, replaces all previous versions of Luminar, including Luminar Flex. So, saving edits as editable separate files isn’t possible anymore and I suspect, this won’t come back anymore. Even the option, to export an edit as a PSD file for Photoshop only saves it as a flattened file.

This past week, a new version of Luminar was released: Luminar 4.2

Although, this is a new minor version, the changes are remarkable! This version brings new tools to your hands. These tools are powered by artificial intelligence to enhance your images in a very natural way. I guess, most of the skills were taken over from Photolemur, a company Skylum took over after 2018. With Luminar 3 AI skills were introduced for the first time and enhanced with Luminar 4. Now, Luminar steps up quite further and brings some additional creative tools to your hand. To show you a bit about what’s possible, I attached one of my Images.

Here we are in Tromsø, standing at the edge of the harbor and looking over the fjord to the part of the city located on the other side of the fjord with the famous Arctic Cathedral. I included the clouds from an image taken about an hour earlier from the same place looking in the same direction while waiting for the blue hour. The other two objects (aurora and planet) are taken from the standard library supplied by Skylum with the installation package.

Despite, I don’t like these make-offs, it demonstrates what’s possible and how realistic it looks like. I have to admit, the software does a great job. Although, I focused here on the tools for landscape photographers,  I also encourage people photographers to have a look at Luminar 4.2, as it also includes some great AI-supported tools for them (AI Skin & Portrait enhancer and shine removal)

To test it on your own with your own images, there’s a test version available to download for free to check all features out. It’s available for Windows and for MacOS. A license is good for two computers.

When using the code “SOLANER” during checkout, you can save a few bucks.

Take care!

nature, photo-of-the-day, photography, review, travel, world

Throwback Thursday: A review of 2019

As usual, I did a review of my images taken during the year for creating a photo book with the best images and the most memorable images. I should represent the activities I made during the past 12 months as well as remind me in a compressed way, of what I experienced.

You know, I often create photo books containing the best images taken during a photo trip (i.e. to Wales in June). But, the annual review often contains also images that didn’t fit in such a book or were taken at other opportunities.

When preparing the book, I was very surprised about the change in kind of the images. In the past years, most of the images were landscapes or flowers beside some wildlife photos taken at certain opportunities. This year, animals (especially birds) were dominating the selection 😳. Only 3 quite bigger piles of landscape images were on the desk: Wales, The Netherlands from our summer vacation and the trip to the heathland in fall. OK, there were some other landscape images, too, but theses were mostly only single images.

Here are my top 12 images from 2019: (click on the images to enlarge them)

Take care!

 

photo-of-the-day, photography, review, seasons

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #77 – Favorite Photos of 2019

For the last Lens-Artists Photo Challenge in 2019, we were invited by Patti to look at our images taken during the past year and pick the best of it. Long-time followers know I do this every year and I already prepared the post for next week. Stay tuned.

So I had a look at my photos published on Instagram for this challenge and looked for which once the guys voted most.

Take care!

Computer, photography, postprocessing, review, software, technic

Luminar 4 is just around the corner

You might have noticed some images online on social media created with Luminar 4 beta. I was also able to have a short test on the beta version recently. I gave it a try, hoping the flexibility and image quality of Luminar 2018 would survive and bring it to a new level in terms of supporting more recent cameras, too.

When starting Luminar 4 and looking at the user interface, it’s very similar to the older versions. As a user of the older versions, you’ll feel being at home at once. Slowly, you’ll discover the improvements, as most of them are under the hood.

For those of you, not familiar with older Luminar versions: it’s a photo editing software in means of processing and enhancing an image just the way the lab did in the old film days. It’s not for doing compositions and montages. It’s for processing raw files and develop them as well as enhancing jpg files i.e. lighten the darks, correct the horizon, remove dust or noise, correct distortions or enhance contrast. All the tools are organized into 4 groups (essential, creative, portrait and pro), plus raw development (canvas) and levels. All edits are done without changing the original file

A very important improvement is the progress in the AI filters. AI is short for “artificial intelligence” and means, the software is analyzing the image and tries to improve it in a means of a very natural mood. I tried it with some of my own images and I was very impressed. Here, in this post, I included an image taken during my recent trip to the baltic sea. It was taken at a windy fall afternoon. The sky was mostly grey with some small blueish areas in between. Not, what you want to have in your images. The bracket fungus on this tree is located on the shadow side of the tree. So, we have a kind of backlit scene that helpt blowing out the sky in the image while having the correct exposure for the tree and the fungus.

out-of-camera JPG

You know, I’m a raw shooter and don’t use the out-of-camera jpg’s, because I know, the raws have much more details, which are lost when shooting in JPG only.

The next image is still the same raw but handed over to the AI of Luminar 4. I know, other raw developer software can do the same, but it’s not as easy as with Luminar 4.

sky enhanced by AI

No further processing, then simply clicking on the AI for analyzing and improving the sky parts. Done!

But, the AI can do much more. You can also use it for replacing the sky. Although I don’t need it in my workflow and don’t like such editing in general, I tried it for you. Luminar 4 comes with a set of different skies, but you can also use your own skies. So, you could take a photo of the sky in addition to your photo and combine them in Luminar 4 for getting the final image.

sky replaced by AI

There are many more options to try and to use for improving your images. In general, the improvements look very natural and much better than they look after using HDR software to process them.

I don’t want to conceal a disadvantage of Luminar 4: Just like Luminar 3, all your edits are saved in the Luminar catalog. Maybe, saving the edits as separate files will come back, as several testers brought this up as a complaint. Remember, it came back with releasing Luminar Flex as a result of the complaints on this same behavior when Luminar 3 was released. Luminar 3 and Luminar Flex are the same, but with the difference in the style of saving the edits: Luminar 3 saves them in the catalog while Luminar Flex saves them as separate files.

Advertisement because of set links:

Currently, Skylum offers Luminar 4 with a Launch-Discount either as a pre-order or you can get Luminar 3 at once and Luminar 4 as soon, as it is released. Remember, the release is just around the corner: Nov. 18th, 2019!!! So hurry, to save some money and get Luminar 4 as soon as possible. As in the past, Luminar 4 is for Windows as well as for macOS. You can use it either as stand-alone software or as a plug-in to Lightroom, Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Apple Photos. On the other hand, other plug-ins like Aurora HDR or Nik Filter are usable from inside Luminar 4.

Nevertheless, when you can live with this disadvantage, Luminar 4 is a fantastic software to bring up the details in your images without too much work. So, it can ease your workflow when improving your images! Not convinced yet? Skylum offers a trial period with a money-back guarantee for 30 days!

meeting, photography, review, travel, world

Photo & Adventure 2019

Yesterday, I was in Duisburg for visiting the fair “Photo & Adventure 2019”. For two days you were able to talk with people organizing photo travel trips. Several big dealers of photo equipment and a few brand stands were also set up to answer questions or give hands-on experience for cameras, lenses, tripods, filters, printers, photo paper, and much more stuff you need as a photographer. All the booths summed up to more than 150 exhibitors. One was also invented to attend some presentations on technology, image processing and / or travel destinations. There were also sold tickets to attend some workshops on different topics.

For me, this was a first time experience. In the past, I was in fear of the chaos because I know the venue. And it was, just like expected. Although I was their right for the opening, the parking ground was already overly filled. Fortunately, I got a free spot and headed to the entrance. At the info desk, I first had to clarify if I’d get permission to enter simply by showing the PDF of the online ticket, as I left the printed version accidentally at home – too far away to drive back for fetching it. But, fortunately, the scanner at the entrance was able to read the barcode right from the screen of my smartphone and I got in!

I wasn’t there for any particular reason. Just looking around, to get used to this kind of fair and compare it to photokina. It’s way smaller. The man focus is different. It’s similarly crowded, but worde to reach – at least for me.

I liked the images shown in the photo exhibitions. I also liked the supporting program: a few cosplayers acting as Jedi Knights, stormtroopers, Darth Vader and some further characters from the Star Wars saga, a troop of cheerleaders and a burlesque dancer. They all were there for entertaining the photographers and pose for some images.

Overall, it was an interesting event. But, right now, I unable to say if I’d go again.

Now, enjoy some impressions in the attached slideshow.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

culture, food, history, landscape, nature, photography, review, travel, world

I’m back ….

…. from North-Wales.
The week before last, I was in Great-Britain again. My destination was the Snowdonia National park and the island Anglesey, both located in North Wales. Wales is a part of the British main island and is located in the southwest, right next to the Irish Sea. Those of you, being able to understand German, can read this post in German language here.

Wales is a long-time part of the British empire and the integration path was very bloody. So, you can see impressive castles built by the Norman king Edward I. at the end of the 13.th century to overawe and rule the native Celtic folks living in that region. Also, he established roads for moving his soldiers more easily and more quickly.

Wales is dominated by agriculture: mainly sheep growing. You can not only find them on many meadows, but also in impassable mountain regions. Although, Wales is located at the sea, there are quite high mountains right behind the coast, just like the Snowdonia National Park with the eponymous mountain Mount Snowdon with a hight of 1085 meters.

In the past, there were many mines in Wales: coal, copper, and silver were dug out of the ground. But, these times are long ago. Compared to mining costs in other parts of the world, the costs in Wales were too high. Thus, mines (and other factories, too) were closed and people got unemployed. Just like in my own region, mining towns got deserted. Nearly everywhere in the small towns, you can see signs at the houses or in the front yards telling that that house is for sale. Rural exodus or rural depopulation seems to be an important topic here, too.

On the other hand, Wales is changing to become a tourist region. Hikers and climbers are to be addressed. The National Park lends itself to this. Many supermarkets are around to support hikers with food. Even in small villages, the supermarkets are open 7 days a week from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. or even longer. You can not only find the regular products for a supermarket, but you can also find a large variety of prepared sandwiches and other convenient food to take away on your hike. You can also find a lot of small restaurants, pubs, and inns with quite a good value ratio. Often you can find very good products like cake, scones, or sandwiches far away from regular life in the middle of nowhere, but in touristic interesting places. Only with the coffee one notices that the British drink tea. Don’t get me wrong. You can find coffee nearly everywhere on the menu: filter coffee (coffee americano), cappuccino, or latte macchiato. Unfortunately, the taste is sometimes not good. Either you taste the usage of instant coffee or the coffee is way strong or too thin. But, you nearly always get a nice topping made from frothed milk and some cacao powder.

The National Park is equipped with a cog railway. It needs an hour for climbing uphill to Mount Snowdon and after a pause of half an hour back to the foot of the mountain if you don’t want to walk down on your own. We walked down. but, I don’t recommend this trail to an untrained person. Often the path looks more like a creek bed than a beaten path. Big stones and very steep parts make the path quite challenging. We needed about 4 hours for the way down. High shaft hiking boots are the absolute minimum for mastering the path. And take a lot of drinking water with you. There is no option to fill up your bottles after leaving the top station of the cog railway. There’s also no opportunity to change your mind after leaving the top station on foot. Buy your tickets early, they get sold out quickly. Diesel engines drive the carriages on the track and one old steam train is also still in operation.

You have a fantastic sight in all direction from the top of the mountain and during the hike up- or downhill you get fantastic views of the side valleys.

The hike is very rewarding. Personally, I got impressed by a group of three young men hiking uphill. One of them was blind. He walked up to the mountain as calmly as if he were walking in the city on a flat walkway by trusting his friend on his right arm and his blind man’s stick the left. Several people came to us in different places that jogged up the mountain in bright sunshine and temperatures beyond 25 ° C. Amazing to what the human body is capable of with appropriate training.

As I said earlier, you can also find places for bouldering.


But there are also spots for more relaxed sports like canoeing, fishing or paragliding. The many lakes and treeless mountainsides are ideal for these many different sports in such a small area. Small parking areas beside the streets make it quite easy to stop every now and then, enjoy the landscape, take photographs or start a hike or a walk. Most of the lakes we passed, were easily accessible. On some of them, canoeists took their quiet laps. At the coast, you can start sailing or enjoy the beach life with sun-bathing, swimming, beach volleyball, and other typical beach activities. But, beach lovers should check in advance whether the location is equipped with a sandy beach. The beaches, I saw, were usually very flat-angeled, so that the sandy area was broad while low-tide but very small (or even completely gone) while high-tide.


Off the coast of Wales, you can find the quite big island Angelsey. It’s connected to the mainland by two bridges. Angelsey is even calmer than the Welsh mainland and the town are even smaller. The agricultural areas are mainly used as meadows, too. Despite you won’t see many cows or even horses, you can see lots of sheep of different races.


In the restaurants, you can usually find a small menu containg fish&chips, burger (much, much better that those you can find in the big burger restaurant chains)


steaks or local food. They use beef, lamb and pork. Some restaurants have some dishes for vegetarians on their menu. The offer is usually supplemented with soups and salads.

As a special feature you should mention, that often the order at the counter is expected (the food is then brought to the table), where partly also directly paid. Some restaurants also expect that guests do not just sit down somewhere but ask a receptionist to be assigned a table.

Just like in Germany, I noticed the missing of flying insects. Although this mad hiking a bit easier, by when looking on this from an ecological point of view, this is a disaster. Beside gulls, I saw many common birds: tits, robins, white and grey wagtails, magpies, crows, and ravens but very few swallows. I also saw ducks, geese and grey herons. Unfortunately, I was able to spot the national bird of Wales, the red kite, only once: from inside the cog railway uphill to Mount Snowdon.

You can reach Wales via the airports of Cardiff, the capital of Wales in the South (~150 miles), Birmingham in the east (~200 miles) or Manchester north of Wales (~100 miles). The distances are relative to the Snowdonia National-Park.

Take care!

animals, bird, nature, photography, review, travel, wildlife, world

Throwback Thursday: 2018

Today, I’m showing you my personal highlights from the last year in no particular order.

What happened during the past 12 months related to photography?

  • January:  Helgoland
  • February: hot-air balloon flight in the Bavarian Alps
  • April: Scotland, Isle of Skye
  • May: start of the hottest and longest summer ever (hottest year since the beginning of the recording of weather data)
  • June: Baltic Sea, Isle Usedom
  • July: Birds of prey and testing the OM-D 1 M III
  • August: Visiting Switzerland and doing some hikes in the Alpes, “hunting” foxes and deers
  • September: lots of flowers and insects, visiting Photokina
  • October: wildlife photography in different places and some nice Indian summer images
  • November: Baltic Sea, Zingst
  • December: lots of rain to refill the empty water reservoirs, that were dried out by the heat and the sun during the long summer

 

Click in the images to enlarge them

 

Take care!