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Screencast: Natural clouds in your HDR images

 

Natural Clouds in your HDR Landscapes from Mike Olbinski on Vimeo.

(Before you start watching the screencast here, you may just want to watch it over on Vimeo because the quality of the embedded version appears to be a lot lower than what you get to see on their website. So I’d suggest going there, choosing Full Screen and then turn Scaling off to get the best experience.)

For awhile now I’ve been wanting to put together a screencast of my processing methods when it comes to HDR. The way I use Photomatix, Photoshop and the Perfect Photo Suite in conjunction with each other, plus how I use them all to get natural results in my landscape and storm imagery.

It’s not like I’m pelted with questions on a daily basis, but when I do get them, many of them are on the topic of how I get natural looking clouds despite using HDR. Late last year I slowly started changing the way I processed clouds and my HDR images as a whole. I owe a lot of that to onOne Software’s Perfect Photo Suite and their webinars that dove into how to use it properly. And then I was inspired by a few photographers that are really brilliant when it comes to storms and weather images, and it caused me to evolve my style even more.

And I’m always changing, doing things differently, learning something new…just going with the flow. That’s what I love about photography…nothing ever stays the same. I can be in a certain mood for a few weeks where I just want to process in B&W and then I go back to color. You just never know how you are going to be influenced or inspired to do something new.

I hope the screencast is worth your time and perhaps helps people looking to do their HDRs a bit more naturally. If you are intrigued by Phototools and the onOne PerfectPhotoSuite, there is a huge sale running RIGHT now for $150 off the entire thing…just click here to check it out.

By the way…you guys never really see me pimp anything else on this site. That’s how good this software package is to me. It can do soooo much…and it’s such an important part of my workflow. I don’t pimp this stuff just because I’m an affiliate…I wanted to be an affiliate because I love it so much. Hopefully that makes sense.

If you have any questions about the screencast, or ideas for other ones you’d like to see me do…just let me know in the comments below.

Finally, here is the before and after of the image used in the screencast. Thank you for watching!

Subscribe to the onOne University Podcast

I don’t always talk about my processing  methods because I’d rather go into more detail about the image itself, why I took it, where I took it and what I may have learned from being out that day. But when I do share a bit of my post-processing work, I talk a lot about the Perfect PhotoSuite from onOne Software.

There are quite a few amazing reasons why this software package is a valuable part of my workflow. Almost beyond valuable. It gives you the power to do simple, minute enhances to your images but also allows you to use filters to create sweet effects. Plus it will help you with hundreds of textures, album templates, add framing, increase your image sizes for printing and a ton more. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without it.

But on top of the abilities of the software itself, the team behind it are even more awesome. Almost daily you can watch LIVE webinars on their website where one of their software experts guides you through that days lessons on the best ways to use their tools. My buddy Brian Matiash started working there awhile ago and he’s been such a valuable asset for them. He has the incredible gift of wanting to help people be better. Without asking for anything in return. And he took that quality to onOne Software and the amount of teaching and education pouring out of their website every week is remarkable.

You can watch these webinars live or taped. And NOW…just launched recently…you can subscribe to their onOne University Webinars PODCAST on iTunes. Already in just a few weeks, it’s gone from a brand new channel almost 18,000+ podcasts to #27! That’s astounding!

So a few links for you today:

The information for the Podcast can be found right here, but you need to subscribe on iTunes. Just search for “onOne University.”

And if you want to check out their software or buy it, you can get $100 off the Perfect PhotoSuite for the entire month of February. Smoking deal, check it out right here.

Holey Windows: Before and After

Yet another awesome external wall to an abandoned or barely used building in downtown Phoenix. Loved the sort of monotone colors on this wall, something I don’t always look for. I tend to like scenes like the Blue Door I posted a few days ago where there is some color that pops out at you. But this just had a very post-apocalyptic feel to it…almost a Matrix-like color to the thing.

I used PhotoTools on this image as I have been doing a lot lately, and I have to say, I absolutely love the amazing flexibility and range that the software package has. And I’m not blowing smoke. There is so much versatility in how you want to present your image…so many tools that allow for a serious amount of creativity.

I’ve never really done a “Before and After” before and in some ways I almost hesitate to do it…but I’m also kind of excited. I mean, you don’t necessarily want everyone knowing the full extent of how you process an image, but on the other hand, it’s so much fun to show people what you do and perhaps even help them learn how to do it themselves. There are some friends of mine out there that are incredibly humble and sacrificial in the way they help other photographers, the way they freely give away their secrets and tricks…and I have to believe that’s the right way to be.

So the above image was composed of six bracketed photos, the one below being the “Zero (0)” bracket.  Depending on the brightness of scenes, I tend to go from -3 to +2 most of the time, or if I want more, I’ll just go up to +3. Occasionally I do the whole -4 to +4, but since I’m still without a Promote Tool, I tend to stick to six brackets right now. I find they give me what I want, but I’m sure someday shooting nine or more will be something I want to give a shot.

Plus when I shoot weather and fast moving clouds…six is about all I can do without a ton of movement. Someday I’ll pick up the Promote Tool, but it’s pricey for me right now.

So this is the RAW zero bracket right out of the camera:

The image below is the intermediate, tonemapped image right out of Photomatix. What I’ve been trying very hard to do lately is to keep my tonemapping simple. I only want to make sure I see the entire dynamic range of the image. I used to overprocess and over-tonemap in Photomatix, which led to a lot of noisy images and stuff that I’m just not as fond of anymore.

Now I stick to doing the processing in Photoshop and instead use Photomatix to give me a starting point. It’s amazing how much I’ve seen my noise go down in my images because of changing this up. Even late evening sunset photos with just six brackets yield hardly any noise at all.

So you can see the tonemapped image above kind of looks like the middle ground between my original raw and the final product.

Now here is the part where I can’t remember what I did in Phototools to polish off the image. I didn’t do much, just a few filters…more than likely one of the new HDR presets in their latest package. I did apply my own vignette to the image to give it some darker edging and more internal focus.

That’s it…the behind the scenes look at how I process an image, or at least, the major steps I go through. I plan on doing a little video tutorial soon on what I do and I also have some plans to do HDR Workshops in downtown Phoenix this coming new year. If you are interested learning this amazing way of processing photographs, let me know.

Oh, and if you like what you see with Phototools, you can learn more by visiting there website. I have my own coupon code now and if you use “OLBINSKI” when you check-out, you’ll get 15% off.

If you have any questions or comments on anything I talked about, please don’t hesitate!

Shop 525

I may have written about it already, but last week I dragged my wife and kid out to explore downtown Phoenix with me right before the sun went down. As we drove around, we suddenly saw this old brick warehouse with the doors wide open, and there was a restaurant and a vintage clothing store inside with globe lights hanging everywhere. It was amazing because there really was nothing around it that was like it. No stores, no malls…it sits a few blocks south of US Airways and is called The Duce.

We checked out the inside, which is a collection of the most crazy stuff you’ll see…bleachers with a big screen TV, a bar, a clothing store, an old kitchen from a trailer, a BOXING RING and a bunch of crap I’m forgetting. It was the strangest, coolest place I’d seen since moving down here.

When we left, I stopped on the west side of the building and took a few shots. They have the words “Shop” “Eat” “Drink” on the outside walls and I wanted to capture them if I could. I liked this specific spot because of the dual lights kind of illuminating the “shop” text.

For those interested, I polished off this image using the onOne Perfect Photo Suite. I don’t have a tilt-shift lens nor will likely get one anytime soon, so I tried out FocalPoint on this and it was awesome to use. I wanted to keep the words sharp, but push the out-of-focus a bit on the outskirts of the wall. So a combination of PhotoTools and FocalPoint helped arrive at this finished product.

I have to say, I’m loving the software. I’m using it for urbex shots now of course, but I’ve also created some presets for my portrait photography as well and love the results. If you are interested in checking this software out, you can now use my awesome coupon code “OLBINSKI” to get 15% off. Just visit their site to get an overview.