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The content in this blog is entirely driven by my interest in Travel and Photography. I welcome alternative opinions on my posts and encourage discussion, however any non-constructive comments will be removed from the site.

By Willem, Jan 17 2016 06:03PM

When I first started editing my photographs on a computer around 8 years ago people used to fit into one of two camps when it came to HDR photography; you either loved it or hated it. Fast forward to today and the fact is you can’t ignore it no matter your feelings on the matter. There is a very good chance that the phone you carry around every day uses the process. We know this for sure because if you’re fortunate enough to own an iPhone, they don’t even attempt to hide it. At the top right of the phone you will see the little “HDR” logo. Apple lets you turn this off, but others are less forthcoming and less flexible with their offerings. We start to see HDR in some of the more advanced consumer and lower end DSLRs on the market today as well. My point is that the technology is here to stay and has progressed significantly.

I started using HDR software several years back and some of my early work received a lot of complementary comments from friends but it was also an extremely challenging prospect to balance the effect and avoid anything gimmicky. As cameras got better and Photoshop’s Lightroom improved, I completely ditched the dedicated HDR software and worked with the 90% solution that Lightroom offered. Recently I have been fortunate enough to work with some new software that was loaned to me by a company called Franzis. If you haven’t come across them yet you should check out their website and offerings. Now in their fourth iteration, HDR Projects 4 Professional is a fantastic piece of software that combines so effortlessly into Lightroom that anyone would be pre-programed to use it. Now if you don’t read any further take these three things away 1) HDR Projects 4 is a very useful HDR tool 2) Their selective adjustments brush puts Adobe’s to shame 3) It is a perfect companion to Adobe Lightroom.

I recently came back from Meteora in Greece where I was confronted with a lot of situations which the dynamic range of my camera simple couldn’t cope with. Ie I either had to sacrifice a well-lit foreground for a blown out sky or a well exposed sky for a dark or black foreground. The gut response in this situation was to set up a tripod and whip out some graduated filters but the harshness of the mountain skies meant that this was really a case for some bracketing and post processing.

The process for getting running on HDR Projects 4 is quite straight forward. For the purposes of this discussion I have used Lightroom as my starting point simply because it is part of my photography flow. So as usual, you open up Lightroom, import your photos and start browsing through. I came across this image of Saint Stefanos nunnery which I had managed to retain some of the sky in, but completely lost details on the bottom and left side of the photo.

Exporting to HDR Projects 4 was as easy as right clicking and letting the program switch you over automatically. You can even import the photo with whatever corrections/edits you have already made, which is simply fantastic. When you first land in HDR Projects you are welcomed with a complicated, but ultimately quite logical entrance screen. The only con about this screen is that it forces you to make decisions upfront which you won’t understand the first time around. If you’re not quite sure what to do tutorials online have assured me that just simply clicking through this is the best option until you are an experienced user. In fact, that is one of the nice things about HDR Projects 4. The defaults and pre-programmed settings are ace! You can be sure that when you eventually get down to post-processing you aren’t facing an hour long jargon-filled battery-draining experience. In the version I used I had access to 134 defaults which crossed a wide variety of photo subjects and tones. With the Meteora picture, I jumped straight to “Natural Dark Back Light” since I had taken the photo with the sun off to the top right of the photo.

There are a couple of neat editing features to use regularly when editing HDR photos. Most of the editing is done on the left side panel and the “Optimization Assistant” is one of the first you want to look at in order to tweak some of the default settings to improve the image quality. In my case the greens were too strong so I had to tone that back slightly using the “Dynamic” slider. The other option you’re going to want to use a lot is the “Corrections” tool which is similar to some of the spot removal tools we know but with one improvement: spot identification. I would like to see an improvement to the spot identification tool which on its own is a great concept, but still perhaps in an infancy phase. If you’re using a 4-year-old camera like me, spots are an increasingly regular frustration.

Exporting the edited photo back into Lightroom was disorienting at first but as soon as I realized what HDR projects 4 was doing it made perfect sense. Whilst moving over to HDR Projects you aren’t asked to save the photo, but going backwards you have to save the project you are working on so unfortunately the changes are permanent, but fortunately the changes don’t overwrite what you were originally doing in Lightroom in the first place. Once you get this the importing of photos is extremely quick and efficient. The same functionality is built in for other programs as well.

Overall I can see myself using this HDR software regularly and I’m currently experimenting with using less extreme ranges and optimizing the outputs. As you can see from one of the attached screenshots it fits onto lightroom like a glove which really makes it a treat to use.

By Willem, Dec 3 2013 01:31PM

Hey All,

So, it’s that time of the year, and there are probably a lot of gifts on your list. And if you run your own business (even if it’s just you and your blog), you have even more gifts to give. You know, gifts for clients, business partners, vendors, customers. That gets expensive.

An ecard is a popular choice, but let’s be honest—it’s not much of a gift. Instead, consider giving an ebook made with Blurb for something truly memorable (and economical). Whether it’s your writing, your images, your designs, a selection of your favorite blog posts—or some representation of whatever it is you and your business do—it’s an e-gift that’s all you.

Blurb’s ebooks run right on the iPad or in the iBooks app that’s part of Mac OS X Mavericks. For the Apple-free folks on your receiving list, you can create an Instant PDF that’s readable on pretty much every device.

Blurb’s fixed-format ebooks can include text, imagery, links, audio, and video. So you could even include a little office Christmas caroling as an added bonus. Or not; that depends on your singing voice. But a link to your website? That’s a no-brainer.

Ebooks are extremely inexpensive. For just £5.99 you can create an ebook of any size and then give away as many copies as you like simply by sending the download link to your customers, clients, and friends. The Instant PDF is just £2.49 to create.

And for those really special clients, you can still make a gift they can physically open—a printed book.

So, why not get started?

By Willem, Nov 26 2013 08:05AM

Hey All,

If you're looking for a little inspiration for your own book, or even want to find a gift for christmas, have you sorted.

People love getting really creative, one-of-a-kind books for Christmas. Books that elicit a “where did you find this?” response. As the leading indie- and self-publishing platform, Blurb has an entire online bookstore full of unique books by an incredible array of undiscovered, self-published authors, artists, and photographers. And while these books probably aren’t in your recipient’s bookshelf, many of them should be.

So, if you’re thinking of giving unique gifts this year, consider these titles. Each costs around £40 or less:

Cookie Cravings by Maria Lichty and Heidi Larsen

We all have cookie cravings. Popular food blogger Maria Lichter decided to put them into something deliciously original: A baking book featuring 30 recipes you won’t find anywhere else.

Dog by My Side by Adam Schnitzer

This charming collection of original, vintage photos shows us that as long as there have been cameras, we’ve wanted to photograph our canine best friends. As a special bonus, there’s a glossary of the early photographic methods used in the original images.

Around the World with a Toy Camera by Giorgio Giussani

Perfect for the photography or graffiti-art fan on your list. This book is an explosion of gritty color that explores the wonders of street art and analog photography.

Food Stories by Elena Scott

A short, wonderfully illustrated collection of recipes (and food stories) that will inspire you to pick up the knife and spatula—or just pen and paper.

Things I Love by Carol Nehls and Jessica Rose

Illustrated and written¾many years apart¾by a mother and daughter, this sweet rhyming story told by a fox is pure joy for all ages.

Patent Pending by Jordan Natyshen

Chicken goggles, air-conditioned rocking chairs, monkey jockeys for greyhounds… humankind has invented and sought to patent some amazing and crazy things. Illustrator Jordan Natyshen illustrates some of the strangest in this history of odd inventions.

Tiny Horses are Everywhere by Thea Lux

The perfect stocking-stuffer for fans of off-beat humor, this undeniably nutty book is based on a Tumblr blog and combines simple photo collages of small horses in human environments with incredibly funny captions.

Rouleaux by Anastassia Elias

What can you do with an empty roll of toilet paper? If you’re French artist Anastassia Elias, you create tiny dioramas inside of the discarded tubes. Inspired by art and movies, these pieces are beautifully crafted, fun, and unbelievably detailed.

Low Fidelity by Bobby Grossman

If you, or someone you love, listened to New York punk and new wave in the 70s, chances are your favorite artist can be found in this book. Bobby Grossman photographed Iggy Pop, David Byrne, The Ramones, Debbie Harry, Andy Warhol and many more. This book is a time capsule of—and a love letter to—a legendary time, place, and sound.

And remember if you want to visit blurb, click the link under "deals" on the menu. There's even a discount code to go with it!


By Willem, Nov 17 2013 11:26AM

Hi All,

If you have a digital camera—whether it’s your smart phone or your DSLR—chances are you have a lot of wonderful photos of the people you love. And there’s a pretty big chance that if you do, those photos haven’t seen the light of day since you first took them, posted them to Facebook, or picked that new wallpaper for your smart phone or computer.

Now, imagine those photos in a book, given as a gift. Wouldn’t you look like the best most thoughtful person ever? Yeah, you pretty much would. And with Blurb’s easy, custom books, you can make a photo gift book that’s both personal and extremely polished.

You can use your Facebook photos, Instagram photos, or photos on your computer. You can design your own book, or have it automagically created with Blurb’s Designer Collection templates. All these tools are designed to run right in your web browser, letting you make a book in as little as ten minutes, and they start at just £12.99.

A real book. One you can hold, share, and pass on. Plus it’s so easily customised that you can create different versions for different people. Just swap in a few new photos, change the text, and re-order. Looking to make something a little bigger, like a family history book? Yeah, Blurb has ways to do that too.

Of course, this is a custom gift, so you don’t want to be last minute about it. Even though you can order up until December 19, ordering early is always better (and a bit cheaper too).

So, get started on making a beautiful gift book now.

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