I’m a fan of the Topaz Labs family of Photoshop plug-ins. Perhaps the most outrageous Topaz filter is Spicify, in their Adjust package. It boosts color, saturation, and fine detail. We previously showed the filter applied to a marine landscape. I recently tried the filter on a lifeless beach scene, with good results. The filter most often takes an image to bizarre over-the-top colors, but I think it often works for beach scenes.
Daffodil Hill is a private ranch in the California mountains near the town of Volcano, roughly two-and-half hours drive from the San Francisco area. (No, there is no volcano.) The McLaughlin family that’s owned the ranch since the 1880’s likes daffodils. They have about 300,000 bulbs, which is how I know they like daffodils, and they open the ranch to the public from late March through mid-April. If you want to photograph daffodils, this place is it.
Point Lobos is a photographers garden of images: surf, coastal bluffs, tide pools, mysterious trees, sea life, wild flowers, and people soaking in the sights. We’ve featured Point Lobos in past QSA blog posts. One stretch of ocean front has rock strata sculpted by the sea. I find the sculpted patterns fascinating. There are a few concerns with lighting, texture, and composition.
Even in California there is some dead time in winter. After the long dry season it takes time for winter rains to spur new greenery. A compulsive photographer must make do with the equivalent of dried flower arrangements. On one day recently, a patch of dried fennel stems presented itself, with interesting patterns. I ended up making a faux charcoal sketch from the photo. The larger version shows the charcoal effect to better advantage. The tiny dots are not blurred out to gray.
Autumn foliage peaks on the central coast of California in early December. The upscale town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, where Clint Eastwood was once mayor, is always photogenic and the fall colors and strong light make it even more so. Carmel is a good place to get coffee, since that is about all that the average person can afford in that town, but that suffices to walk around and take in the scenery. Capturing good photos is then an exercise in composition and lighting.
Sometimes pictures seem to have potential, but they are missing something. Then the hope is that a Photoshop™ adjustment of contrast or saturation will summon up the spirit missing from the photo. When simple adjustments fail, the next step is to use filter plug-ins to apply a heavy had to the scene. I’m a fan of the Topaz Labs plug-ins, and among the most extreme of those is Adjust > Spicify. The results can be, well, awesome.
I have quite a few pictures of parking lots. They are are an overlooked resource for photographers. Perhaps someday I’ll convince a publisher to put them out as a coffee table book, America’s Most Scenic Parking Lots. I shall be the Ansel Adams of parking lots. Yes, for sure. For now, however, I’m still building inventory, and the other day I took one in a parking lot in Coyote Hills Regional Park near San Francisco Bay. It had the potential for high drama, at least as parking lots go.
Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America. It spans the border between California and Nevada, southwest of Reno. One of the streams feeding the Lake forms Eagle Falls as it cascades into Emerald Bay on the California side. The top of the falls is only a few feet from the road, but I had driven by several times in the past without noticing it; waterfalls are not so exciting from the back. On a cold day in mid-May I took a two-frame panorama, looking towards Emerald Bay. The scene had interesting elements, but lacked punch. That is, until I unleashed the Topaz Labs Spicify Photoshop plug-in filter.
Sometimes the world does not give you much to work with. It’s a good principle in travel sequences to include photos that show what it was like to be at the location. However, while large waves out in the ocean may be integral to the site, photos of distant waves lack drama … and just about every other aspect of photo appeal. One trick is to show tourists reacting to the attraction, rather than just the attraction itself.
Photoshop™ has a number of built-in filters that attempt to convert photo images into artistic renditions. Previously I discussed posterization, sometimes followed by the palette knife filter, to punch up weak scenes. Recently I obtained some Photoshop filters from Topaz Labs, including the Topaz Simplify 2 filter set that includes a Painting option. My test cases were some photos of flowers that seemed to me to have potential, but needed punching up. I have come away a fan of the Topaz paint options.
Portions of posts may be quoted provided attribution is given.