Tonality is an exceptionally complete B&W conversion program with lots of presets and sliders to play with. It also has some built-in capabilities you might not expect such as layers, gradients, and selective edits. These come in handy when you want to combine several conversions without going through layers in Photoshop. Silver Efex Pro’s control points provide some of the same selective edit capability, but for me, the Tonality controls are more flexible. Tonality also has lens blur and glow simulations and the ability to blend in texture patterns. Lots of presets, options, and control!
I noticed that the clarity control in Tonality sometimes resulted in halos that I has to tone down. But I found that overall I preferred the Tonality result over the Silver Efex version for these two photos. I don’t know if this will hold up long-term, since I’m pretty sure you can achieve very similar results with either one. I’m going to keep playing with it and see.
By the way, Tonality is Mac only, Silver Efex runs on both Mac and PC. There are free trial versions you can download, so check them out yourself and see what you think.
After the trip to Maine, I was looking forward to getting back out and photographing here in Florida. So it was up early (not as early as Cadillac Mountain!) and out the door to meet Tom M. at Orlando Wetlands before dawn last Saturday.
Nature foiled our sunrise plans and instead served up some semisolid, soupy fog for our photo enjoyment.
Misty morning 1
And we did enjoy it. It was interesting looking for compositions in the mist and trying to find foreground objects to add some definition to the photos. I like the one above but after looking at it on the computer, I wish I’d moved a bit to separate the near and far grass on the left. I didn’t see the overlap when I made the photo.
It took a while for the sun to burn through the fog. That gave us time to try several different places. I thought the south shore of Lake Searcy and the southwest corner of cell 16A were very photogenic. I especially liked the light on the close leaves in this scene.
Misty morning 2
Discovering beauty in unexpected places or situations is one of the addictive things about photography. Sunrises shouldn’t all be super saturated.
Lately, sunrise and I haven’t been getting along. I show up faithfully, but sunrise doesn’t. It’ll send its friend fog instead. Or it’ll come dressed in plain, clear sky attire instead of its fancy, colorful cloud costume. Or I’ll get frustrated and sleep in, and sunrise puts on a show without me. I don’t think it likes me anymore.
Marina reflections – Fog at the Titusville Marina. Panorama, looking east, just before sunrise.
Orlando Wetlands Pano – I slept in on this morning and showed up at the park after sunrise when this front was coming through. I bet it was really nice before I got there.
Well, seriously – I am a bit frustrated that I haven’t captured a good sunrise in a while. But I know the weather and my luck will change eventually. And I enjoy getting out and seeing different things even when the sunrise isn’t at its prettiest.
There are a few things I do to try to maximize my chances with the weather. Persistence is probably the best solution. The more I go out photographing, the better my chances are of catching a good scene. And software can help. My main weather site is Weather Underground. I usually look at their hourly forecast with precipitation probabilities and cloud cover predictions. On my phone, I use Mycast and Dark Sky. Mycast has pretty good forecasts and I can look at IR clouds on its Map tab to see cloud cover even when it’s dark. The Dark Sky app has excellent short-term predictions – especially about rain. I also sometimes use Clear Sky Chart. It’s mainly an astronomy site, but does offer very good cloud cover predictions.
So yes, my relationship with sunrise photography hasn’t been the greatest lately. But I’m working on it. I’m sure we’ll eventually get back together. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy being outdoors and seeing whatever develops.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
One of the great things about photography is that it gets you up and out there. You may not see anything if you go – but if you don’t go you definitely won’t ever see anything. Here are a few photos of what I saw around Central Florida this week.
I made this first one about a half hour before dawn along Gator Creek Road in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. The low tide had uncovered these rocks, so I used my ultra wide-angle, rectilinear lens and lowered my tripod to emphasize them. This is a single exposure, processed in Lightroom and Photoshop. I also tried out the new Topaz Clarity filter. It seems to do a good job enhancing contrast without introducing halos.
The word “parhelion” comes from the Greek for “beside the sun”. They’re also called sundogs and are always 22 degrees away from and at the same elevation as the sun. They’re most visible when the sun is low and the sky is darker – dawn or dusk. I like to watch for them and I thought it was nice of this kayaker to pose with one for me. I was lucky that I’d already shifted to my long lens to make bird photos. I needed the reach for this composition.
Early start – Kayak fisherman paddling underneath a sundog.
There were several dolphins also fishing in this area. I could see the fish jumping and the dolphins seemed to catch a lot of them.
I stopped by Orlando Wetlands Park briefly and it was very scenic despite the cloud cover. I liked the pathways the birds made through the vegetation in this scene.
Morning marsh – A cloudy morning in Orlando Wetlands, just after dawn
This time of year, there’s not as much bird activity as in the spring. Orlando Wetlands was pretty quiet and so was MINWR. But there are still some regulars around and it’s nice to watch their antics.
Killdeer nest on the ground. When a predator gets close, they pretend to have a broken wing and try to draw the predator away from the nest. I watched this one perform and when it finished it turned around to peek back at me and check if it was working. It did – I didn’t bother its nest.
Killdeer checks me out
I don’t know how many times I’ve driven by the remains of this dock on the right side of the causeway leading into MINWR – but I never noticed it before. When I was leaving the other day, I finally saw it. It was a quick thing, almost subconscious. I actually drove on by before I processed what I saw and turned around. I’m very glad I stopped – it doesn’t look like it will last much longer. By the time I made this photo, the light was pretty bright. I used a neutral density filter to slow down my shutter speed and tried several focal lengths / compositions. I like this one the best. A B&W conversion using Nik Silver Effects seemed to fit the scene. In the future, I need to be more observant. What else is out there I’ve missed?
Orlando Wetlands Park is closed from November 15th through January 31st each year. Now that it’s open again, Keith H., Tom M. and I went by this week to see how things are at one of our favorite locations.
Sunrise was nice, although I was late getting there and missed some pre-dawn color. Note to self: Always arrive at least a half hour before sunrise.
Lake Searcy Sunrise 1 – Lake Searcy is on the right as you walk in from the parking area. It’s scenic and usually very calm, with lots of cypress and palms. I liked the way the sun glow came around the palm trees.
Since I had my IR camera with me and the clouds were so awesome, I made this panorama to get as wide a capture as possible.
Lake Searcy Sunrise 2 – This is a Black and White, Infrared, Panorama. Sometimes IR can really bring out the detail in clouds.
We saw many of the normal birds including Coots, Snowy and Great Egrets, Little Blue and Great Blue Herons, Blue-winged Teals, Anhingas, Red-shouldered Hawks, and others. I also saw what I’m pretty sure were several Common or Wilson’s Snipes, although these birds are extremely wary and fly off at the first sign you’re looking at them (worse even than Belted Kingfishers!) so I didn’t get a positive ID. There’s been two Vermillion Flycatchers reported again this year on the far end of the park and one seems to come closer than usual. If you haven’t seen this bird, it’s worth a visit all by itself.
We also saw either a small bobcat or large house cat on the walk in, but it was too dim to be sure.
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Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
What I use depends on the subject, composition and capture technique. Since the sun was in this scene, I captured it as a 7 shot bracket. In Lightroom, I set the camera profile to neutral, color balance to daylight, enabled lens corrections, and copied those settings to all 7 photos. Then I exported to Nik HDR Efex 2, chose a pre-set, and tweaked it to more or less match how I remembered the scene. I brought the result into Photoshop CS6 and used Nik Color Efex Pro 4 to neutralize the whites and add detail, followed by Topaz Star Effects on the sun. I usually apply these in layers or as smart objects in Photoshop so I can vary the transparency and control the strength of each one, or even brush it out on parts of the image. I then finished in Lightroom with some exposure, sharpening, and Hue / Saturation / Luminosity tweaks to get this result.
So basically I try things and adjust to taste. There’s more than one way to do this. That’s part of the fun. You’ll have to build up some experience with the capabilities of each piece of your software so you can adjust to your tastes.
2. With the new capabilities available in cameras and raw conversion software, do we still need to use High Dynamic Range imaging techniques?
The latest versions of Lightroom 4 and Adobe Camera Raw software provide enormous adjustment ranges for exposure, highlight and shadow recovery, even for older cameras. This improves your ability to get more out of your RAW images. By the way, you might want to re-process some of your favorites to see how much better they can look. You have been capturing in RAW format and saving your originals, haven’t you?
Other techniques such as graduated neutral density filters or fill flash can cut the dynamic range the camera sees – although depending on the scene, their use can be problematic. In this photo the horizon isn’t flat, and I didn’t want to overwhelm the morning light on the flower with flash.
My opinion: In some situations, we don’t need to use HDR anymore. I may have been able to get this output with one exposure, but it’s probably on the edge of what’s possible with just a single image. I chose to shoot a 5 image bracket and I’m glad I did. The bright sky combined with the lighting on the flower (with part in shade) made me very glad I had the bracket. Could I have come close with a single image? Maybe. Was it easier with a 5 shot bracket? Oh yeah.
For now, I’ll continue to bracket when I see a broad dynamic range / high contrast scene. Better safe than sorry. And I’m also going to save my RAW files – who knows what software advances are coming next? Now, where can I get a bigger hard disk?
What do you think? How do you get your sky to look the way it does? Do you shoot HDR?
You can click on the images above to get to larger versions on Flickr. You can also see more of my OWP photos here on Flickr.