Jun 022014
 

I recently upgraded my Mac OSX to the 10.9 Mavericks version. About time, I hear you say but my guiding principle tends to be: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

I still vividly remember an update to Mac OSX Panther that crashed my system and that of many other Mac users worldwide. My days of being an early adopter ceased from that time on. I now prefer to wait a few months to let the initial bugs get ironed out.

Keith Cooper, who runs the Northlight Images website — a valuable source of photography information and excellent reviews – happened to mention he had experienced a problem with the Google Nik Collection after he had upgraded to Mavericks. I checked out the Google Nik Collection website to see if Keith’s problem was widespread. I discovered it wasn’t and also became aware of the existence of Analog Efex Pro 2.

The original Analog Efex Pro had appeared as an icon in the folder when I downloaded the Google Nik Collection in March 2013 but the actual plug-in failed to materialize. Bearing in mind that Google at that time had offered me the entire collection as a free download, I wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth and let the absence of Analog Efex Pro ride.

Analog Efex Pro 2 was a different matter. I now felt like I was missing out on something and so duly downloaded the Nik Collection again and the plug-in arrived in full working order.

I watched the Analog Efex Pro 2 tutorials and put the software to work. The software offers an array of filters to recreate vintage cameras, classic cameras, black & white, toy lenses to name but a few. Within those filters it is possible to control parameters such as bokeh, vignetting, dirt and scratches, and light leaks. And, of course, Nik Software’s control points are available to fine tune the effects.

I find a certain irony in this age of digital photography that we now wish to recreate photographic technology from as far back as the late 19th century, with the Wet Plate option, but such is the human condition. In the age of digital sound — CDs and mp3s – some people still prefer the sound obtained from vinyl. It is not hard to see the origins of the English expression: There’s nowt so queer as folk!

Here is my first attempt using Analog Efex Pro 2 with a vintage camera filter on a color shot.

HSC Mananna heads for Liverpool past Crosby Beach, Merseyside.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L. ©Calvin Palmer 2014. All Rights Reserved.

The same shot with my usual color workflow of Viveza 2 and Color Efex Pro 4.

HSC Mananna heads for Liverpool past Crosby Beach, Merseyside, England.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L. ©Calvin Palmer 2014. All Rights Reserved.

I enjoyed playing about with Analog Efex Pro 2 and without a doubt it does tend to provide a dramatic impact to color photographs. I must confess to mixed feelings, as part of me cannot help preferring the greater integrity of my usual color workflow using Viveza 2 and Color Efex Pro 4. I use “integrity” in a loose sense since any image is manipulated if subjected to Viveza 2 and Color Efex Pro 4.

I found my “integrity” was not so compromised using the Wet Plate option to convert a color shot to B&W.

Couple on Crosby Beach, Merseyside, England.

My usual processing (left) using Viveza 2 and Silver Efex Pro 2, with the Analog Efex Pro 2 version (right). Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L. ©Calvin Palmer 2014. All Rights Reserved.

It may be that I overstepped the mark a little with my attempts on color images. Subtlety is often the key when it comes to applying effects to images. Sadly, I am not renowned for my subtlety.

I would be interested to hear which versions of these shots readers prefer.

Here is a final shot I processed straight from the RAW dng file in Analog Efex Pro 2, completely bypassing my normal workflow just to see how it fares as a standalone.

New Brighton Beach and Perch Rock Lighthouse, New Brighton, Merseyside, England.

Ricoh GR ©Calvin Palmer 2014. All Rights Reserved.

I am undecided whether Analog Efex Pro 2 will become a regular feature of my workflow. The jury is still out at the moment. I think it is more likely to be applied to certain shots when the mood takes me. Your feedback could well change my mind.

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Apr 012013
 

Unexpected surprises often help to kick-start one’s enthusiasm and motivation and such a surprise came to me last week when I received an e-mail announcing that I was eligible for the entire collection of Nik Software absolutely free. I qualified for this generous offer by virtue of being an existing customer.

My first Nik Software purchase was Silver Efex Pro and I quickly became a convert to the U Point® technology employed. It became a no-brainer to upgrade to Silver Efex Pro 2. Subsequently, I bought Viveza 2 to enhance my colour images.

Four or five months ago, I contemplated the purchase of Define 2, Nik Software’s noise reduction software, as well as Sharpener Pro 3 but was put off by the fact that they were no longer available as hard disks and the two plug-ins would have set me back $210.

The opportunity to obtain these two Nik plug-ins for free made the offer good; it became even better when I was also set to receive Color Efex Pro 4 and HDR Efex Pro 2.

Given my usual skepticism, my first thought was, what is the catch? Why would Nik Software by Google want to give away $499 of plug-ins?  But it doesn’t always do to look a gift horse in the mouth and I have since accepted my good fortune along with this excellent collection of software.

The only downside is learning how to use the new plug-ins. To this end I have been helped by the free video tutorials on the Nik Software site and also found Keith Cooper’s reviews on his Northlight Images web site a good starting point.

I am still in the process of ascending the steep learning curve but have made my first tentative steps in applying Define 2 and Color Efex Pro 4 to my workflow. Below is one of my first attempts employing these two plug-ins.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

I have also experimented using Color Efex Pro 4 on images that I ultimately wanted to present as black & white photographs. In the photograph below, I used the Brilliance/ Warm, Detail Extractor, Graduated Neutral Density and Pro Contrast filters before converting to black & white with Silver Efex Pro 2.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

The acquisition of new software always raises a conundrum. Do I go back and apply the new software/plug-ins to images processed previously or do I let them stand as a testament to the level of processing available to me at that time?  I guess selectivity is the key here, unless I wish to remain stuck in front of my computer screen for the next four months.

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Jul 192012
 

My photographic productivity tends to ebb when the temperature soars above 90 degrees (32 degrees C) in Northeast Florida, as it has done for the past three weeks. Extreme heat has the same effect on me as extreme cold – I want to stay indoors.

In the absence of any indoor photographic projects or a studio setup, I eventually have to get out and brave the hot and humid conditions. I usually wait until after 4:00 pm and limit myself to an hour, 90 minutes at most, shooting time.

I recently went across the St Johns River and explored the South Riverwalk of Jacksonville. One of the main attractions on the south side of the river is the renovated Friendship Fountain.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

As an indication of how hot I get, when it came to having a cigarette before heading home, my cigarette packet, which is carried in my shirt pocket, was damp to the touch. Luckily, the cigarettes remained dry.

Nik Software’s Viveza 2 has become the latest addition to my photographic software and it brings to my colour photographs the same degree of control and enhancement achieved by Silver Efex Pro 2 in my B&W shots. It doesn’t have quite all the bells and whistles of Silver Efex Pro 2 and I would imagine Viveza 3 is in the pipeline.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

I have been extremely pleased with Viveza 2 and have no hesitation in recommending it. I know the Photoshop purists will say similar results can be achieved in Photoshop but not with the same kind of ease and convenience.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

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