Major Change of Focus

Seems like forever since I have written a blog, other than making note of new videos I have created. Not that I haven’t been shooting… of course I’ve been blazing away as usual! It’s just that I have been concentrating on my Youtube Channel more than ever. I recently made a Facebook post and one of my longtime friends commented, “Where have you been all this time!”, and of course I’ve been happily posting away like there’s no tomorrow. The sad reality is that my main source of exposure has been a miserable failure. I have noticed that when I post I get a few likes from the same dozen or so people which could mean a couple of things… It could mean I have a dedicated core group of fans, or it could mean that Facebook has decided that this small group are the only individuals who are going to see my posts. The comment from my long time friend leads me to believe the latter.

Coyote Cold Stare

Hence the reason for my change of focus to my Youtube Channel. From my analytics data I can see a direct correlation between hard work and results. The more videos I create and the harder I work on creating quality content, the more views I get. Eventually views become income. I can see a return on investment. With my Facebook posting I am just beating my head against the wall, you know the old saying… Insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

I have also begun work on a new social media platform, S.W. Krull Imaging is now up and running on Patreon, another platform that doesn’t actively squelch it’s own creators. I don’t really enjoy writing in great detail about the techniques and equipment that I employ in my photography and video but I do get a lot of questions about those details. I have decided to devote my Patreon posts to more detailed information for my customers that are truly interested in that and willing to commit to financially supporting my work. And the beauty of Patreon is their support of their own creators ability to reward followers. My followers there are rewarded with beautiful merchandise and monthly rewards for their support including digital and physical prints. Please visit my channel there and discover the details of this new exciting arrangement!

Of course my WordPress blog will continue to be my main hub of operations as well as home for the S.W. Krull Imaging domain! Visitors here will continue to have links to my newest and best creations including access to my main print and stock image portals. This beautiful coyote image is my latest creation and there is a whole story behind the creation of this image. I hope you will visit S.W. Krull Imaging on Patreon for this exclusive story!

Also learn how this juvenile bald eagle image was resurrected from the digital noise of a high ISO early morning shot!

Juvenile Bald Eagle

Trying Topaz DeNoise and Sharpen

I do a lot of low light wildlife photography and some images even though captured perfectly under the conditions suffer from noisy high ISO values. I have recently seen a lot of good reviews about the Topaz AI products so I thought I’d download the trial versions to see if they might be beneficial to my work. I must add, this blog post is not sponsored by Topaz or any other product.

So the first image I was interested in is this shot of a Great Blue Heron. This fellow would fly past me once each morning, well before the sun had cleared the ridge on the east side of Eleven Mile Canyon. There was no way to wait for better light, the heron made his one flight at first light and that was it. On this particular image I was using a 400mm zoom with a 1.4x extension. Shutter speed was 1/1250th at F9 and ISO 16000. So on this image I ran both Sharpen and then DeNoise in that order. The image on the top is the unprocessed image while the one on the bottom has been processed using Topaz AI. I find that running the sharpen first, followed by the noise reduction seems to product the best results.

Great Blue Heron in Flight

Using only Photoshop v22

Great Blue Heron in Flight

Using Topaz AI DeNoise and sharpen plugins with Photoshop v22

Both images are in the acceptable range, I had originally submitted the Photoshop only image to my stock agencies and it was accepted by the reviewers. However I do find the Topaz AI processed image to be more appealing. The colors are much smoother and when viewed at 100% and details on the bird are more discernible and the eye is especially sharper and clearer, a very important detail in wildlife photography.

This red-tail hawk in flight capture I made was on the verge of being unusable in my stock image portfolio. Just a slight amount of motion blur when combined with digital noise from a low light situation put this capture slightly out of tolerance for viewing at 100%. I found that Topaz AI sharpening and noise reduction combined were able to put the image back into tolerance, thus rescuing a very valuable image. Again, the unprocessed version is on the top and the Topaz version is on the bottom:

Colorado Red-tailed Hawk

Photoshop V22 only

Colorado Red-tailed Hawk

Photoshop using Topaz AI Sharpen and DeNoise

This next image is a bald eagle also photographed in low light. I wanted to set the camera at a 1600th or 2000th of a second but the lighting conditions resulted in ISO values of 9000-16000, and I was hoping for a clearer image so I went with 1/1250th again. This time I was not using the 1.4x so I was able to use F5.6 and ISO 4000. Again, the Topaz processed image is on the bottom:

Bald Eagles in Eleven Mile Canyon

Photoshop only

Bald Eagles in Eleven Mile Canyon

Photoshop using Topaz AI Sharpen and DeNoise 

This was a near perfect image to start with so unless looking at it at 100% the differences are almost indiscernible. However even with these small web sized versions, when viewed at 100% the Topaz processed picture is obviously the cleaner image.

I also wanted to see what the software could do with a failed image. In this shot of the eagle I either didn’t achieve focus or there was too much motion blur. Not sure which it was but the image is unusable in my portfolio:

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

 Photoshop only

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

 Photoshop using Topaz AI Sharpen and DeNoise 

Now in this situation the original image is obviously blurry and unusable. In the sharpening window I used the “focus” tab and had to slide the sharpen slider all the way to the right. This image has made an amazing transformation. From blurry and unusable it has become sharp and focused, quite an impressive feat!

All in all I’d have to say I am very impressed with these products and I will be purchasing both Sharpen and DeNoise for sure. I haven’t tried GigaPixel yet, not sure I am going to need that. So far I have found with my 32mp camera my images are plenty large enough even after relatively severe cropping. Also the stock agencies don’t like uprezing and my print lab recommends against it as well. They probably have their own version of uprezing software and don’t want to mess with double enlarging of images.

I hope you found this review useful, and don’t forget to click the follow button if you want to be the first to see my next blog post!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Bald Eagles in Eleven Mile Canyon

Reprocessed with maximum sharpness

Panorama of a Storm

The skies have cleared and the warm Colorado sun is shining on the freshly snow capped mountains once again. I decided to try and get out for pictures and a nice snow shoe trek… which turned out to be no easy task. I quickly discovered that my windshield scraper had met a cruel fate sometime in the last couple of days so I was reduced to trying to scrape with only a piece of the blade 😦 Eventually the defroster kicked in and I was able to get out of the driveway.

Fresh Snow on the Sangre

The roads in town weren’t too bad and I was quickly on my way to the trailhead. However the highway was extremely icy and even though I spotted an amazing looking herd of elk I dared not stop for fear of being unable to get going up the hill again 😦 As I passed by the overlook I noted that it had been plowed and was easily accessible if I were so inclined.

Unfortunately the parking lot at the trailhead was not plowed and as I pulled in I could feel my tires slipping and spinning on the icy snowy mess so I just kept going so I wouldn’t get stuck. I barely made it back out to the entrance so I ran the stop sign and continued back towards town.

The conditions weren’t that great for photography, lots of haze lingering in the air obscuring the complete bright white mantle of fresh snow on the Sangre de Cristo, but I decided to try my luck at the overlook anyway. I snapped a few of the magnificent range when it occurred to me that this might be a good day for a panorama πŸ™‚ I set up the shots in manual mode, iso 100 with 160th of a second and f11 for good depth of field. The image combines 15 vertical exposures into a 120×20 inch full size image using thephotomerge feature in Adobe Photoshop. The sky wasn’t an even blue all the way across due to the bright sunlight on the middle of the scene, but I think it turned out halfway decent… What do you think?

Fresh Snow on the Sangre

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Last Photo Shoot of 2017

My last outing of the year… Tomorrow is supposed to be cold and miserable and I’ll be too tired anyway. It was beautiful out this morning and the sunrise was amazing so Big Dog and I quick loaded up and headed for the trail.

Today my diligence was rewarded with the amazing spectacle of a giant lake of fog between Grouse Mountain and the Sangre De Cristo. I hoped it would remain until we could get to the high spot for the best view of the rugged canyon and the high peaks of the Sangres. Fortunately it did and we got the shots πŸ™‚

It was a long trek this morning and both me and my four legged bud are worn out. But what a way to wind up a great year! I have a few more of these to process, but a couple are up for sale as wall art and cool stuff from coffee mugs to yoga mats! Click the menu buttons for products and pricing!

Further Exploration

The day started out in a tizzy when Photoshop informed I had one day to log into the Creative Cloud or my subscription was going to be closed. I had no idea, I am used to Photoshop managing the subscription and updates automatically. So I checked and sure enough, no updates have been applied and I had to go in to help, manage subscriptions and was prompted to log in and download the updates. Mental note to continue checking for updates.

Once past that crisis, a nice breakfast at Broncos killed enough time for the sun to come out and make a trek into the woods tempting. Been meaning to get a bit further down the trail towards Little Grouse Mountain and this was looking like just the right day for it. 

It was pretty windy at the trailhead but Big Dog didn’t seem to care so we forged ahead. Not far around the first bend the mountains began to block the wind and it turned into an amazing beautiful Colorado winter morning!

So onward we went, through the beautiful historic countryside of the Cripple Creek Victor mining district past the many failed dreams of the area’s earliest pioneers. I imagine we made it well past where there have been any people recently as the trail was getting pretty rugged. 

Finally we emerged one valley from what I believe to be Grouse Mountain and the view was amazing! It looks like the trail will take me to the base and hopefully right on up the mountain. I’ll have to pack some more supplies for that journey though, including some water for the dog. 

In the picture you can see the rugged valley, the mountain and the magnificent Sangre De Cristo range in the background. Please be sure to click the links in the menu to bring up my image galleries where you can purchase wall art and many cool household items with my mountain art!

Upping the Game

Always looking for ways to up my game to gain an edge on my competition. I’ve been noticing a lot of my competitors publishing pictures with extra amazing and not necessarily realistic color and detail.


I like my art to represent as closely as loss the scene as my eyes witnessed it, but I do have to stay competitive so I did some research on creating High Definition in Photoshop. Much to my surprise, there is a nice tool already in the software to do just that!

So here I have done the same picture both ways… One with my old methods and one with the HDR tool. I could have used a lot more effect, but thought I could see some distortion setting in. Wondering which rendition my customers like better?

Please click the links in the menu to view product options and pricing for these images and more!

Black and White

I wasn’t quite satisfied with yesterday’s image, it didn’t convey the coldness that I intended. This morning I decided to bring it back up and use a Photoshop technique I invented some time back for black and white renditions of deer in snow. One time I was working on one of those blizzard images and the color in the trees and brush was so faint it only detracted from the image.

Mule Deer in Heavy SnowI converted it to black and white and as I looked at it I felt like the monochrome option on the channel mixerΒ  had only served to make the deer invisible. Accurate painting of color into a black and white is so time consuming and tedious that I really didn’t want to go to that much effort for a stock image. So I thought, well, the background is almost black and white anyway, what if I just had a hint of color to the deer? If I go slightly outside the lines onto the nearly black and white background it won’t show, so I can do this quickly without a lot of tedious work around the hairy edges of the deer and it might be really cool!

I created a new layer from the background layer and converted the layer to black and white using the monochrome option on the channel mixer. Then I brought up the eraser tool with an opacity of about 10% and painted over the deer. The technique brings out a hint of color on the subject helping it to stand out while leaving the cold stark background in black and white. The color on the deer is almost imperceptible so it doesn’t detract from the coldness of the image while at the same time providing some life to the subject.

 

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items

Giving Thanks for Cyber Monday

I know, Thanksgiving would have been a much more appropriate time for a blog message… but I was working on Thanksgiving Day and was kind of bummed about that and didn’t really feel very thankful about it. Looking back though, it wasn’t so bad… way better than last year, which was the worst Thanksgiving of my life. Last year was my first Thanksgiving alone in almost 30 years and the first one since the passing of my wife. She loved Thanksgiving and always set up an amazing holiday, no matter what our circumstances at the time. So anyway, we all had to be at work to prepare for Black Friday, which was actually starting at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday evening. So the nice personnel lady fixed all kinds of food for us and we just celebrated in the break room. Most of the people I know are the people I work with, so it was actually a very nice holiday dinner. By about 4:00 p.m. we had all the merchandise ready for sale and on pallets wrapped in plastic and waiting for the 6:00 start.

Peak StormOur job then was to wander the store watching the pallets to make sure none of the merchandise got up and left before it went live on the computer at 6. We had a good crowd, by the end of the day, but people up here are pretty civilized so I spent the last half hour or so just chatting with the people crowding around the bed sheets pallet. Lol… had no idea bed sheets could cost so much! $25 or so for a set of the things, and I was thinking even the Black Friday sale was about twice what I would want to pay for those items! My bachelor solution was to spend $8 for a sleeping bag at Walmart and pretend I am camping :) Oh wait, I am camping… every day of my life! Well anyway 6 p.m. came and I was ready with my trusty box knife to cut the plastic and allow the festivities to begin. Fortunately it all went down in a fairly orderly fashion, with some people actually helping other people to find and grab stuff. Cleaning up the plastic ended my involvement with the big day and I was headed for home.

I had no Black Friday shopping to do… Last week I was in need of a new laptop, but wisely decided to take care of that ahead of time to make sure I actually got one without having to get into a fight over it! Cyber Monday finds me up and running on my Lenovo with my new version of Photoshop CC for Photographers. Haven’t gotten a new version of Photoshop since CS2, so the new interface was a bit bewildering at first, but since I have pretty much figured out all the things I need to do, written my action scripts and forged ahead. I’ve pretty much learned all the ins and outs of the new Raw interface, but haven’t even begun to try to figure out what Lightroom might do for me.

Today I’m thankful that I have the job that took me away from normal Thanksgiving activities… I’m thankful for good health for myself and my family scattered all over the country and for another year of living the dream in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. But I’m also thankful that the big sales killing holiday is all over with… and this is my opportunity for a shameless Cyber Monday plug for my S. W. Krull Imaging website on pixels.com that I use to sell prints and gift items, some of which would make great Christmas gifts πŸ™‚ My lab sells traditional prints on museum quality paper, shiny metal and acrylic sheets, and stretched canvas. Also available are Christmas cards, T-Shirts, phone cases for iPhone and Samsung devices, and many other handy items suitable for displaying a photograph.

I’m also thankful that the shortest day of the year is almost upon us. In just a little over three weeks the sun will reverse it’s journey southward and the days will start to get longer. That’s always a big day in my life… When my thoughts can begin to contemplate the end of the long Rocky Mountain winter with it’s cold dark nights and way too early sunsets behind the ridges. I also would like to take time out this morning before the hustle and bustle of the new week begins to pray for some friends who will be facing the possibility of some life changing and terrifying news this morning. I also pray for the homeless and for those who aren’t blessed with big families to celebrate Christmas with, and for the troops overseas who will not be able to make it back for this special time of year.

 

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items

Creative Cloud

Just bought a new laptop, kind of a low end Lenovo but it’s pretty fast, easy to set up and runs Photoshop very well.Β  Was too lazy to look for my old Photoshop CS2 disk and have been meaning to try out Lightroom and Photoshop CC for Photographers so I decided this was as good a time as any. I downloaded the trial version and was a bit disappointed that it was only a 7 day trial. I really could have used a month but it didn’t take long to see the advantage of the upgrade. The whites, blacks, clarity and vibrance sliders in the Bridge corrections are worth the $9.99 per month investment alone. The clarity and vibrance sliders do in easy steps what I have previously had to do manually or with clumsy action scripts to create a colorful image that really pops. It has been a bit of a challenge to find everything on a UI that has been changing for ten years without my notice, but I am very pleased with the new functionality and will be licensing a copy in the next couple of days. Fiddled a bit with Lightroom… I like the obvious capability that it presents, but it is going to take some time to get proficient enough to comment on it and seven days is just not enough. Right now I will content to use the new controls available in Bridge, particularly some interesting chromatic aberration correction tools.

Hiking buddies on Mount Massive ColoradoMeanwhile I haven’t been doing a lot of shooting.. I have recently added Adobe Stock to my list of agencies that I sell from and have been very encouraged with the results. So much so that I decided to go back through my backup disks and upload the best of my old RF stuff. I started with my oldest images, the ones taken with my original Canon EOS 1D, and worked forward. Today I just uploaded the last of 2016… at least the ones that I had already prepared for other agencies. When I get my new Photoshop subscription, I may choose to go back and process additional images, along with shooting new ones.

By next week though, I should be starting to shoot anew… with a good seed of probably about a thousand images in my Adobe Stock port once they are all inspected. Not a day goes by that I regret turning in my Exclusive Crown at iStock… There is just way too much enjoyment to be had by having the freedom to submit content elsewhere and especially to be able to make phone posts to my Facebook without having to worry about whether I am violating a contract. The future is looking great again πŸ™‚

 

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items