“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”
– Lewis Carroll
A couple of days ago I posted a shot I had edited using a Photoshop plug-in, Topaz Simplify. Several people seemed to want to know more about this plug-in so here’s a post sharing my experience. The top image was processed using Simplify. Below is the unsimplified version.
You can see that the colours in the processed version are more saturated and the light seems more ethereal, less contrasty. More particularly, the trees have taken on what I call a stained glass effect, seen more clearly in this zoomed in detail:
Thus, Topaz Simplify has the effect of making images more painterly. I found that it was particularly effective in images of trees, simplifying the detail in foliage and branches to create an overall impression that can sometimes be lost in the clutter of a more realistic image. In other words, it helps the viewer see the wood for the trees.
As you can see in this image from Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, Simplify boosts the saturation without introducing digital artefacts. In fact, I found it to be an effective way to achieve a seamless high-saturation effect even in images where I didn’t require the painterly look, simply by selecting ‘saturation’ blending mode for the Topaz layer in the layers panel, as demonstrated in the image of Bryce Canyon below:
Once uploaded from the website, Topaz Simplify is very easy to use from Photoshop. There are many video tutorials available but I didn’t need them. If I can do it, anyone can! Everything works with sliders and you can see the effects on previews of the image as you work. You can use just a touch of the plug-in or go all out, or any degree in between.
Unfortunately, Adobe Bridge kept crashing while I was using Topaz Simplify but I have not heard of anyone else having this problem. Certainly, the surreal effects you can achieve with this plug-in are not for everyone, or every image. But it is a lot of fun.
Topaz Simplify, and all other Topaz plug-ins can be downloaded for a free month’s trial. So you can experiment to your heart’s content without risk.
I HAD for my winter evening walk
No one at all with whom to talk,
But I had the cottages in a row
Up to their shining eyes in snow.
And I thought I had the folk within:
I had the sound of a violin;
I had a glimpse through curtain laces
Of youthful forms and youthful faces.
I had such company outward bound.
I went till there were no cottages found.
I turned and repented, but coming back
I saw no window but that was black.
Over the snow my creaking feet
Disturbed the slumbering village street
Like profanation, by your leave,
At ten o’clock of a winter eve.
Some shots from September found languishing on my hard drive. I chose to use a high key look for these images, to capture a sense of the delicacy of the ladybird’s acrobatics on dry grass stems in my garden.
This beetle is a harlequin ladybird, or harmonia axyridis. The harlequin was brought from Asia into America and Europe as a form of biological control and it spread quickly, arriving in the UK in 2004. It has since caused a rapid decline in indigenous species of ladybird.
My own observations, for what they’re worth, bear this out; I rarely see anything but harlequins in my garden now. Pesky things. That doesn’t stop me photographing them though…
When winter closes in and the bare bones of trees are revealed, I like to create abstract images using ‘intentional camera movement’, or ‘panning’.
This technique is very easy. Simply select a slowish shutter speed and move the camera while the shutter is open. It helps to start the movement before pressing the shutter and to finish just after the exposure, to avoid jerky shapes in the image, unless that is what you’re after, of course! I also find the results generally much more pleasing if you move the camera in the direction of the dominant shape in your view, so vertically for trees.
Trees are not the only subject for this sort of technique. I have also panned landscapes, although there I move the camera horizontally rather than vertically. But winter forests do seem to be particularly suitable subjects.
I couldn’t resist including a mysterious figure in the last two images. The final one is for my son’s horror film project.
Do you ever play around with this technique? Please feel free to share your panned/camera movement images or other winter abstracts in the comments below; I would love to see them!
Winter arrived this morning with a dusting of snow. Really, we had no more than the merest of sugar frostings (not even as much as in these shots from 2009-10) but it was enough to freeze the train network. Commuter chaos ensued. Oh dear.