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

Waterton Collection and New Photoshop Techniques

Working on some new stuff these days… I finally have enough images of beautiful Waterton Canyon to make a separate collection on my website for them.  Included in this amazing category are tons of bighorn sheep, beaver, deer and the lovely pristine waters of the South Platte River as it streams out of the Rockies on it’s way through eastern Colorado and Nebraska, all the way to it’s destination as it joins the Mighty Missouri River near Omaha.

Bighorn Sheep Waterton

Fortunately I was able to add a few more to the new Waterton Collection today from our latest mountain bike adventure yesterday. The sheep weren’t too active on such a lazy beautiful early winter day but we were lucky to see Scruff all by himself making his way past the cliffs and up to higher ground where he would enjoy his day from the lofty heights of the canyon walls.

Bighorn sheep herd in Waterton Canyon Colorado

As we rode up the rugged road we did spot the entire herd  resting up on a grassy mountainside, not a very photogenic scene but a welcome sighting anyway. As we waited and hoped for them to come down for a drink in the river a rumor emerged that a beaver was busy building a new lodge near the diversion dam at the 2.5 mile marker near the picnic grounds.

Beaver in Waterton Canyon

We decided to take a quick ride up there to see if we could get a shot of the little guy hard at work. Indeed, we did catch a few glimpses of the hard working wilderness construction worker as he brought a few sticks from upstream to add to his new home which will hopefully house up to six of the photogenic aquatic rodents in the near future!

After a small lunch at the nearby picnic grounds we headed back down for another look at the sheep herd which had barely moved in the hour or so that we were upstream. We watched for about 45 minutes for any sign of action before giving up and heading back to the truck.

I’ve been messing around with a couple of features that I’ve never felt the need for in the past, the radial and graduated filters now available in Adobe Camera Raw. Others have been using these features to create much more dramatic images so I guess I’m going to have to keep up!

Bighorn Sheep Waterton

Anyway, I have been using the radial filter on certain wildlife images, mainly the portrait style captures of bighorn sheep. I just click on the animal’s head, adjust the ellipse to cover a pleasing area of the face and horns, select invert selection to adjust only the background and less important parts of the subject and make adjustments to darken or brighten the background as needed to make the face stand out more. You can also adjust the percent of feathering to make the transition in the mask less noticeable. In this particular image I left the face alone and darkened the back part of his body and the cliff walls to create a more dramatic effect.

South Platte River in Waterton Canyon

The use of the graduated filter is more obvious, darken or lighten certain parts of the image to correct uneven lighting. To use this I just select the filter and drag up or down to set the direction of the effect. You an also change the angle of the horizon to match the needs of the image as well.  In this image the contrast between the dark and light parts of the river was too great to create a useful image so I used a dark filter on the top half to calm down the intense brightness of the sunshine on the water.

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile CanyonAs the action in the bighorn sheep rut season winds down I am looking forward to the next great mating season in Colorado. The time of the eagle migration and mating season is nearly upon us and rumor has it that a few of the  great raptors have already been gathering in Eleven Mile Canyon. I am also looking forward to up to 50 bald eagles making their winter visit to Barr Lake State Park next month to fish and look for a mate! Be sure to hit the follow button so you don’t miss any upcoming action in the Colorado wilderness!

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!

Photoshop Sky Replacement

Just downloaded Adobe Photoshop 2021 with the new sky replacement filter and it just so happens I recently captured the perfect picture to try it out! On last week’s journey to Tin Cup I captured this relatively boring image of the town with the San Juan’s in the background. Unfortunately with all the smoke and no clouds the mountains and sky were quite undramatic 😦

Ghost town of Tin Cup Colorado

The new feature comes with three types of clouds, blue sky, sunset and spectacular if you really want to go all out! For this one, anything but one of the blue sky selections failed to match the plain sunshiny foreground.  So… with this feature you can adjust the lightness, darkness and location of the edge, brightness and temperature, and even apply some adjustments to the adjacent foreground!

Ghost town of Tin Cup Colorado

So for this image I have chosen some wispy cirrus clouds which required no scaling at all to look realistic. The default color temperature worked well and only a little adjustment to the edge fading was needed to match it to the mountains.

I have to admit, I’m a bit torn about this feature… I am a bit of a purist in that I believe that a photographer should take whatever steps possible to capture the image in camera. However, at times replacing a sky can mean the difference between a salable image and a useless capture. Time will tell how my thinking evolves regarding this matter!

Frosty Fog

Frosty Fog

For the above picture I used a spectacular sky setting which required quite a bit of edge adjustment to overcome the software mistaking the fog bank for sky. I also faded the color of the new sky quite a bit to match the grey brooding mood of the day.

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!

The Deep Freeze

Sub zero temperatures and about six inches of fresh snow greeted the sunrise this morning and I was just flat too tired to trudge out into the snow with my shovel at 7:00 a.m. to photograph the beautiful amazing sunrise. By the time I finally did dig the old Dodge out the sun was so bright I couldn’t even see, much less capture good pictures!

_MG_6898

So I spent the day cleaning the house and working on some things I’ve been thinking about lately. Saw my flashlight the other day when I was doing something else, thinking “hey, there it is”… Of course now I have forgotten where “there” is and spent part of my day looking for the flashlight. Didn’t find the flashlight, but at least I got some things done that I’ve been meaning to do.

One of the things I was wanting to do was research the new “Compressed Raw” feature that Canon has come out with, so after watching a couple of YouTube videos on the subject I went out and snapped a couple of shots of the hill out back to do some comparisons. The final verdict on that subject is that although Compressed Raw would probably work just as well while saving a lot of disk space, it turns out for those of us who use Adobe DNG there is no space savings at all. Raw and Compressed Raw result in a DNG file of equal size. I did turn off high ISO noise reduction as it has no effect on raw files at all. Long exposure noise reduction I decided to leave on, even though it results in doubling your exposure time length in the production of the black frame it uses to cancel

Elk Herd on a Beautiful Rocky Mountain Evening

out the hot spots with. Even though it renders your camera unusable for a few seconds it seems that the feature is the most efficient method of ridding your image of the annoying hot spots.

Also, while I had the computer turned on I decided to process one more image of the elk from my awesome adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park 🙂 Unfortunately the aches and pains of three days of shoveling snow are going to mean an evening of hot water bottles and ibuprofen. Hope you enjoy the pictures!

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 mixer  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

The Work

Shooting the pictures is the fun part that makes it all worth while, but for a stock photographer there is a considerable amount of work to be done that isn’t all that much fun.  With the capturing of hundreds, even thousands of images comes the job of cataloging and editing and processing. Summertime would seem like the ideal time for the shooting end of photography but it isn’t always, especially during mid day with the sun directly overhead. The intense light and lack of shadows wreaks havoc on an image unless you get out very early in the morning… and today that didn’t happen! Now I hear the echo of thunder rumbling in the valley and it is just a good day to be sitting at the computer 🙂

Foraging DeerSo, first of all I am tidying up my web site a bit, cleaned up the links on the left and added some clarifying language on where making a click will actually take my readers, that should help 🙂 Also going through my many past photo shoots searching for images that I overlooked at the time of the shooting. I never shoot jpeg mode, don’t relish the idea of losing 30% of my data upon each click of the shutter. So I always shoot RAW mode and each image requires careful processing to get the exposure, color balance, contrast and shadows and highlights just right. And with my new tools available with the most current Photoshop Cloud I hope to make them even better than before!

This particular image was taken during a horrendous spring blizzard in the Pike National Forest as I ventured out on snowshoes to catch the action. Definitely had to use the AquaTech rain cover for the camera on this one! The snow was really piling up and the animals were having trouble getting to their food source. This doe was reaching for the pine trees as she tried to get food wherever possible, if you look closely you can see the snow piled up on her face as it falls from the pine needles as she eats. I don’t usually see the deer trying to feed on the pine trees so this capture is a bit unusual.

Now the distant rumbling has given way to bright flashes of light followed by loud cracks of thunder.  I can also hear the rattle of hailstones on the roof. Glad to be safe inside with my furry four legged friends who seem to be taking the racket in stride. I hope it is raining this hard in Breck and please pray for the firefighters, the people and the wildlife that are being displaced by yet another Colorado forest fire.

 

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

Hiding in My Cave

The weekend before the big Fourth of July holiday week, also the time for the mass migration of city people to the mountains… Lol, the tourists are like, “where are all the fireworks booths”? Mountain people… there aren’t any, we kind of frown upon burning down the mountains for entertainment. My  town is on a major artery to the Continental Divide and there is now a steady stream of trucks pulling trailers with ATV vehicles aboard, camper trailers, RVs and cars by the thousands. As for me, I will not be participating in the festivities… not a fan of crowds and noise. I’m taking a break from summer and shooting, doing some cleaning, some chores and catching up on my computer work.

Stock photography is purchased ahead of time in preparation for the next season’s advertising campaigns so I am going through my fall and winter images to see what I may have missed uploading at the time I did the shoots. Earlier this year I finally upgraded to a modern version of Adobe Photoshop and I am exploring all the new capabilities. One particular tool I have fallen in love with is the Fx tool in Camera Raw. The dehaze tool has assisted me with cutting through the whiteness of snowfall and bringing out detail in the hazy mountains and trees of on a couple of shoots I did in snowstorms.

Frosty Aspen TreesI remember this particular image well… I was hoping that by snowshoeing to the top of Bald Mountain I would be able to climb above the snow and clouds in order to get some unique shots of Pikes Peak across the valley. However I was not able to get above the snow this day and the images with snow and fog in them were quite white with little detail. As you can see by the small patch of blue sky however, I was nearly successful in climbing above it… Maybe a couple hours later would have done it. Too long to hang out chillin’ on a frozen mountain top though, I had to shoot what I could and get back down! The screen on the camera appeared to show that I had had captured sufficient detail, but Photoshop was just too confused by the snowflakes and fog for me to be able to bring it out. However with the new Fx dehaze tool which operates on the linear digital data file, new detail is a piece of cake 🙂

So, there it is, the plan is to just hang out in my cave relaxing with the puppies and kitties while the city people ravage the high country with their four wheel drives and terrorize the wildlife with their explosives.

 

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

Ebb and Flow

Totally resisting going out into the world this morning. Monday on the  job getting harder and harder to face… After three days off from my unfortunate necessary supplemental job, the old body feels mostly like I haven’t been run over by a  truck and I am not looking forward to the return of the pain.

Snowy RockiesSo while still basking in the good feelings I have from yesterday’s Donkey Derby in Cripple, I am working on these winter pictures from last year that I was not able to process at the time, hoping that if I stall long enough there will be some miracle and I won’t have to go to work. As far as the images, the camera got them right but my old version of Photoshop mostly turned them white and I was not able to pull the details out and make a decent image from the raw captures. However I now have the most recent version of the Photoshop Cloud with some new tools available and I am enjoying making something of these images that I took while snowshoeing in a snowstorm in the Pike National Forest high on a ridge north of Ute Pass Colorado.

The tool that has made the difference is in the special effects section of Camera Raw. The reduce haze tool is able to bring out the details from behind the falling snow and make some pretty cool looking art! Also, in the ebb and flow of the stock photography business, iStock / Getty seems to have turned the corner and is starting to make a comeback. I had sort of given up on them and turned my attention to Adobe, but despite having the worst commissions anywhere, iStock / Getty continues to be my biggest income earner and is showing signs of a significant pickup in sales. So just in time for uploading some fall and winter images to my agencies, it is a stroke of good fortune that I have been able to resurrect these snowy images.

They are also making a nice addition to my own website where I sell my collection of prints and gift items. I have put the winter images in the Rocky Mountain Winter gallery, so if you want to see the new ones, just click on the gallery links to open the contents.

Finally, my photography tip of the day… if the zipper on your camera bag is getting a bit sticky just pull the Chapstick out of your pocket and run it over the teeth. Chapstick is based on paraffin which is better than using a petroleum based product like Vaseline. Slide the zipper back and forth a few times, and it should be good as new!

 

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