Sleeklens Product Review

I teach digital photo processing workshops to people because they find photo-editing programs such as Lightroom and Photoshop at first glance, overwhelming.  To complicate things, the same final images that come from using these two programs can be produced by using different workflows.  In other words, you can get the same effect by different processing methods.  Processing images can be very time consuming and time is something that most of us are short of.  A company named Sleeklens contacted me the other day to inform me that they had developed workflows for landscape photographers for both Lightroom and Photoshop.  These workflows were developed by a group of professional photographers who were looking to cut down their editing time and still get great results.  They asked me to review their product, so I spent some time testing it out, and found that I really liked the results that I achieved.

First, the instructions for downloading and installing the program could not have been simpler.  All you have to do is click on the link and hit download.  You find the file that you downloaded, then double-click the Photoshop Actions icon and it opens the actions up in Photoshop, installed.  They are ready to use.  If you have any questions about how to do it, Sleeklens has a Youtube video to show you how to install the program on both Mac and Windows.  Please see the installation video.  Once you install the actions, then they also have a workflow video to show you how to use their actions.

Sleeklens has an action set for both Lightroom and Photoshop.  I am only reviewing the actions for Photoshop.  Here are some screen shots of the actions that are available within the Photoshop action panel:

Screen Shot 2017-05-21 at 9.31.32 PM  Screen Shot 2017-05-21 at 9.32.28 PM Screen Shot 2017-05-21 at 9.33.00 PM Screen Shot 2017-05-21 at 9.33.17 PM

As you can see there are many different actions to choose from.  One of the greatest strengths of these actions is that you will get messages pop up that tell you what to do with them, such as using the white brush to paint in the action or using the opacity slider to reveal the action.  This helps viewers who are not as familiar with layers and masking in Photoshop to become more comfortable with them.  Below are two sets of images that I worked solely with the Sleeklens actions.  I have shown both the pre-processed and the post-processed images.

_MG_5088  MortonoverlookSleeklensweb

 

_MG_9045 . Coyote LIght Sleeklensweb

So you can see, the actions produced by Sleeklens can yield great results.  One of the actions that I really liked was the dark dreamy effect, sometimes referred to as the Orton Effect.  I applied it to both of these images.  Of course, you can choose how much of the action to use by using the opacity slider.  I also loved their one click web sharpening, which was used in both of the final images.  I had to convert the final images from ProRGB to sRGB so that the color would be correct for the web.  That was not in the action.  I would have liked to have seen the actions in an official Sleeklens action panel so that the actions would stand out against all the other actions within the Photoshop action panel.   Having so many actions makes them hard to find sometimes.  I also did not like how that when I went to apply the next actions, it sometimes flattens the other actions and you cannot go back and adjust them.    All in all, I found the Sleeklens actions helpful in my workflow and I would recommend them to photographers that are starting out with Photoshop.  Like anything in Photoshop and photography in general, the more you play and practice, the better you will get at it.

Here are some other links on the Sleeklens website that you might find of interest:

https://www.pinterest.com/sleeklens/lightroom-presets/

https://sleeklens.com/how-to-become-a-photographer-and-start-a-business/

I hope that you found this review helpful.  Please feel free to email me at keithbozemanimages@yahoo.com if you have any questions.

 

 

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Little Molas Lake Sunset

Little Molas lake Panoramic-Edit

One of my favorite images is this picture I took at Little Molas Lake, which is located near Silverton, Colorado.  It wasn’t hard to get there, in fact you could just drive right up to the lake.  I had already planned this shot way ahead of time using Google Earth and Photographer’s Ephemeris before I left Alabama.  I got to the lake earlier in the day to scout out where I wanted to take this image.  The reason for this is that once sunset comes, you usually don’t have enough time to decide what to do.  So picking out your spot well before time for the show is the best practice.  I decided that I wanted to do a panoramic shot.  In order to do a panoramic correctly the camera and tripod must be aligned perfectly.  I used a panoramic head called the Panosaurus.  The reason I bought this particular one is because it was about $200 cheaper than all the other brands.  Usually I find that you get what you pay for in photography, but I did not find that with the Panosaurus.  It is a well-built system that comes with very easy to following instructions.  So I set up my Canon 6D and 17-40mm L lens on the Panosaurus in the portrait orientation. I made sure that they were both level by looking at my bubble levels.   I set my camera on manual exposure.  You must use manual exposure on a panoramic, otherwise the exposure will change as you pan.  I usually find the area in the the scene with the brightest highlights and then I will base my exposure off that.  I chose f/11 for my aperture because I wanted the sharpest image that I could achieve.  I knew that f/11 would still not give me the depth of field that I needed, so I chose to focus-stack this panoramic.  This is why you must have a panoramic head.  It would be almost impossible to focus-stack a panoramic without it.  So with my camera at f/11, my correct shutter speed was 1/15 sec.  I checked my histogram to make sure that I did not blow out any of my highlights.   I focused on the grasses in the foreground using Live View.  Once I was confident in the exposure and focus, I began on the left side of the scene and shot six consecutive images from left to right.  I then went back and focused on the trees in the background and took six more consecutive images.  You might ask, “How did you line them up?”  The panosaurus has marks where you can keep track of your alignment.  It is really helpful.

The processing of this image was relatively easy.  The main problem was dealing with the focus-stacking.  I opened up the two series of images in Lightroom.   I adjusted the white balance and highlights in the scene in all the images at once using the “sync function.”  I then found the two left most images and then opened them up as a stack in Photoshop.  I used the autoalign and blend functions in Photoshop to focus-stack them.  When I was finished, I saved the file.  Next, I did the same for the rest of the images.  This part takes a while.  The last step was to take all the saved images and combine them as a panoramic in Photoshop.  This creates a massive file.  You must have a lot of RAM to do this.  I use a 27″ iMac that has 20GB of RAM.  It processes these kinds of images with no problem at all.  Once the panoramic was complete, I cropped the image.  I did some final adjustments for contrast and saturation.  I also added a little Orton Effect.  The final image could be enlarged to about 6 ft high and about 12 ft across with no loss in detail.  This was a fun image to capture and to process.  I hope that you enjoyed reading about it.

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Reflections from 2015

This is my first blog page that I have ever written.  I hope that you will find it informative and enjoyable.  My goals are to post an image a week and give a description of how I created that image.  I will also discuss equipment that I used as well as post-processing techniques.  I hope to have instructional videos linked to my website as well.

So I would first like to post on this blog my top 5 favorite images from 2015.  Here they are:

Bon Secour Bay, Alabama

Bon Secour Dock landscape1web

This image was taken at sunrise at a boat dock right next to my cousin’s house.  I got up early, well before sunrise, and positioned myself at the dock.   I used my primary lens, which is a Canon 17-40mm f/4 L, a Canon EOS 6D, a B+W polarizer, a Canon shutter cable, and a sturdy Gitzo carbon fiber tripod.  I used live view to get sharp focus on the boards just out in front of me.  I set my aperture at f/11, which is my sharpest aperture.  That gave me a shutter speed of 2.5 seconds.  I took one shot on the boards closest to me.  I then took another shot for the boards in the middle, and then took a final shot, focused on the end of the dock.  I did this because I wanted to create an image with the greatest depth of field but sharp all the way through.  This is sometimes called focus-stacking, which is a technique that I use quite often.  I also took one more exposure at f/16 to blur the water a little more so it would have smoother look.  When I processed the image, I merged the first three images together using the align/blending function in Photoshop CC.  I then took the merged image and combined it with the blurred water image (using masking) to get the final product.  I also did contrast adjustments and removed a couple of posts that were in the water using the clone tool.

Lower Caney Creek Falls, Bankhead National Forest, Alabama

 

Lower Caney Creek Swirl web

This image was a simple one to capture and process.  Nothing fancy was done here.  I used all the same equipment as above, but I also used a 4 stop neutral density filter.  This was taken in the fall.  I had brought a group of my biology students here the weekend before and even captured an image, but the light wasn’t right.  I came back the next weekend, fortunately it was a cloudy day.  The clouds acted as a giant lightbox, eliminating the harsh mid-day light.  I was standing out in the pool with my camera just above the water.  One element that must be present to capture the above phenomenon is a slow moving batch of leaves.  Luckily, there was a large batch that day.  You need a long exposure to really capture the motion of the leaves.  So what I did was use a 4-stop neutral density filter plus my polarizer.  This cut down the light about 6-stops.  That made my viewfinder pretty dark but not for live view.  I  focused on the background rocks since the foreground would be blurred anyways.  I set the aperture at f/16 to give me the depth of field and the slow motion I needed.  The final exposure was 30 seconds, which is usually pleasing for swirls.  One of the problems with using most neutral density filters is that they will have a color cast of some kind.  Mine usually gives a magenta cast.  I adjusted the white balance in Lightroom to fix this.  One of these days I am going to spend the money to get one without a color cast, but it isn’t that much of a problem right now for me.  Minor curves adjustments and color enhancement was done on the final image in Photoshop CC.  I also used a little Orton Effect, which I purchased an action for some time ago.

St. Joseph’s Bay, Florida

Port Saint Joe Sunset Saltmarsh

This was a rather difficult image to capture because the wind was blowing probably 30 mph.  There was no way that I could get the marsh grasses to be sharp without taking multiple images.  When I say no way, I mean no way without creating a low quality, horrible looking image.  I could have used a high ISO but that degrades the image quality significantly.  I used my 70-200mm f/4 L lens, Canon 6D, a shutter cable, and a sturdy Gitzo tripod to capture the image.  I hung my camera bag on a hook below my tripod to make it more stable and reduce vibrations.  I took several test shots to see what shutter speed I needed to freeze the marsh grasses.  Once I knew my shutter speed, that gave me an aperture of f/5.6.  At that aperture the depth of field would be very limited, so I shot a series of three images, one for the foreground, one for the middle, and one for the background.  I then left my focus on the background and one more exposure, this time an underexposure for the background, so that the final image will merge seamlessly.  This was done to account for the contrast range of the scene.  So not only shooting for focus, but also bracketing for exposure.  Now for the processing, I merged the first three exposures for depth of field using the align/blend function in Photoshop CC.  Then I took the merged image and combined it with the darkened exposure for the background (using masking techniques).   I then made contrast and color adjustments on the photo as well as added a little Orton Effect.  The final product is what you see.  The major obstacle was obviously getting the marsh grass sharp.  Sharpness is a deal breaker for me when I look at an image.  If it isn’t sharp I just throw it out.

Kelly Mill Falls, Bankhead National Forest, Alabama

Kelly Mill Falls Branch 1 web

This image was taken back in June.  We received a lot of rain, so I decided to go shoot some waterfalls.  This was a new place for me at the time and I look forward to going back there again someday.  I tried many compositions and found this one to be the most favorable.  I used my 17-40mm f/4 L lens, a B+W polarizer, Canon EOS 6D, shutter cable, and Gitzo tripod to capture this image.  This was again a focus-stacked image.  I took three shots for depth of field.  I focused on the branches closest to me, then the furthest branches on the foreground tree, and then the leaves just over the waterfall.  I set my aperture at f/16 for this one so I could get the exposure on the water correct.  Using this aperture gave me a shutter speed of 0.8 seconds.  For the processing, I merged all three images together for depth of field using the align/blend function in Photoshop CC.  I then made adjustments for color and contrast using curves and levels.  The final step was to add a little Orton Effect for a more painterly look.

Kayaking Flint Creek, Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, Alabama

Wheeler Kayak December 1web

This is literally the last image that I made in 2015.  I had several shots that I was happy with, but this was my favorite. The sky was amazing all evening.  The problem with shooting in this kind of condition is that you can’t use a tripod.  Therefore, I needed to find a balance between getting enough depth of field and getting the picture sharp.  Fortunately, this was shot several minutes before the actual sunset so there was enough light that I could shoot at f/11.  The depth of field was not perfect, but acceptable.  This gave me a shutter speed of 1/15 second.  This was still a fast enough shutter speed to get the image sharp.  To make sure the image is sharp while hand-holding I use the following rule:  your shutter speed should be 1/focal length that you are using.  This only applies for a stationary object.  So I was shooting at a focal length of 24mm so my shutter speed should have been 1/24 sec or faster to get the picture sharp.  Well, obviously 1/15 sec wasn’t fast enough for one shot, so I made up for this by firing off a series of shots, in hopes of one being sharp.  My Canon lens always does a good job with autofocus (though I rarely use it) and it captured this shot fairly well.  I forgot to mention that I rarely use any ISO higher than 100, except when I am in the kayak.  In this case, I used ISO 250.  The Canon 6D has pretty impressive noise control but I still don’t like pushing it past ISO 800 for large prints.  The image processing was pretty simple.  I made basic adjustments in Lightroom for white balance, vibrance, and contrast.  On this particular image I used a newly purchased software called Topaz Adjust.  It is a plug- in that works flawlessly with Photoshop CC.  From Lightroom, I opened up the image in Photoshop CC, duplicated the layer, and then opened up the image in Topaz Adjust.  I selected the “Brilliant Warm” layer to make the colors pop.  This is my favorite layer in the software so far.  I then brought the image back in Photoshop CC and made final contrast and luminosity adjustments.  The final image is what you see.

Thanks for taking the time to read the specifics.  I could have went into much more detail but I will save that for a later time.  If you have any questions, then please feel free to email me at keithbozemanphotography@yahoo.com.  To see more of my images, then please visit my website at www.keithbozemanphotography.com.