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Topaz Clean is a small, but potentially very useful plugin for cleaning up images.

Below is the Topaz Clean Version 3 screen that appears after you invoke the plugin from Lightroom, Photoshop or other host image editing program (click on the image to display it in full resolution).

Topaz Clean 3 Screen

The screen will be familiar to existing Topaz users, with several standard, easy-to-use presets on the left panel and detailed adjustable settings in the right panel.

TOPAZ CLEAN PRESETS

TOPAZ CLEAN SETTINGS

In most cases, using one of the standard presets will be all you’ll need. It takes just two clicks – one to select the appropriate collection, and a second to choose the desired preset. There are seven different presets, each creating a distinct filter.
Depending on your image, you can try one of the standard presets and if needed, fine-tune it in the right Settings panel.

The Detail tab is the most important group of controls, allowing you to adjust with a great precision the three levels of details within the image. You can adjust the small, medium, and large details in three specific tonal regions (Overall, Shadows, and Highlights). This provides an unprecedented amount of customizing options.

The Tone tab allows you to increase or decrease the brightness and contrast. You can change brightness globally or selectively for specific color ranges.

The Color tab gives you the option to change the saturation, as well as the temperature and tint. Personally, I don’t use this tab, as I prefer to set the color adjustments non-destructively in Lightroom which is the first step in my workflow.

EXAMPLE 1:

Original image

Skin Even preset

DeGrunge preset

Stylize preset

Crisp preset

 

EXAMPLE 2:

Original image

Cartooned preset

DeGrunge preset

Stylize preset

 

EXAMPLE 3:

Original image

Cartooned preset

Crisp preset

Stylize preset

The Stylize preset accentuates the structure, but as you can see, it also introduces strong haloes around all edges, so you may want to tone down this preset in the settings or your layers.

Topaz Clean 3 works with both 32 bit and 64 bit versions of Photoshop CS5-CS6 and CS CC on Mac and Windows systems.

 

To download the latest Topaz Clean version, use the following link to enter the Topaz Labs website.

Topaz Clean

 

You can use this link and a discount code “lespalenik” also for other Topaz single plugins or a complete bundle at anytime for 15% discount

 

 

Topaz Detail 3.1.0

Topaz Detail, an image detail sharpening and enhancement program, is one of the most used plugins, made by Topaz Labs.
Below is the Topaz Detail Version 3.1.0 screen that appears after you invoke the plugin from Lightroom, Photoshop or other host image editing program (click on the image to display it in full resolution).

Topaz Detail 3 Screen

Topaz Split Screen Example 1 – Before and After

Topaz Split Screen Example 2 – Before and After

The screen will be familiar to existing Topaz users, with several standard, easy-to-use presets on the left panel and detailed adjustable settings in the right panel.

TOPAZ DETAIL COLLECTIONS AND PRESETS

TOPAZ DETAIL SETTINGS

SETTINGS PANEL with expanded Detail and Tone tabs

The right panel also includes a handy magnifying switch that allows you to view the noise reduction effects at 100-400%.

In most cases, using one of the standard presets will be all you’ll need. It takes just two clicks – one to select the appropriate collection, and a second to choose the desired preset. The main advantage of the Topaz Detail, when compared to Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom sharpening is that you can specify different sharpening values for the small, medium, or large elements in your image. The nature and structure of the image will also call for a different treatment. For example, a landscape image with trees and rocks will require different sharpening approach than a glamour portrait or a close-up of a flower.

Depending on your image, you can start with the Light or Medium option in the Creative Detail Collection preset and if needed, fine-tune it in the right Settings panel.

The Detail tab is the most important group of controls, allowing you to adjust with a great precision the three levels of details within the image. You can adjust the small, medium, and large details in three specific tonal regions (Overall, Shadows, and Highlights). This provides an unprecedented amount of customizing options.

The Tone tab allows you to increase or decrease the brightness and contrast. You can change brightness globally or selectively for specific color ranges.

The Color tab gives you the option to change the saturation, as well as the temperature and tint. Personally, I don’t use this tab, as I prefer to set the color adjustments non-destructively in Lightroom which is the first step in my workflow.

The Deblur tab allows you to reduce the blur in the image and to suppress color artifacts.

Finally, the Effects tab option gives you the option to mask in or out the specific parts of the image by painting with an advanced edge-aware brush.

EXAMPLE 1:

Original, unsharpened image

Creative Collection, Light I preset

Creative Collection, Medium II preset

 

EXAMPLE 2:

Original, unsharpened image

Creative Collection, Medium II preset

Stylized Collection, HDR II preset

In this last example (click on the image below to see it at 100%), we used Creative Collection, Medium II preset, and as you can see, not only the fine details such as the sail cables and metal railings have been sharpened, but also the texture in the wooden panels has been enhanced and brought out more fully.

Topaz Split Screen Example 3 – Before and After

 

I find that for most images, the standard presets work just fine, but it’s useful to have access to all the customizing options above, especially to the painting mode by brush in the Effects tab.

Topaz Detail V3 works with both 32 bit and 64 bit versions of Photoshop CS5-CS6 and CS CC on Mac and Windows systems.

Topaz Detail

 

You can use this link and a discount code “lespalenik” also for other Topaz single plugins or a complete bundle at anytime for 15% discount

Topaz DeNoise 5

Topaz DeNoise 5 from Topaz Labs is the latest version 5 of the noise reduction program. Among other improvements Topaz Labs introduced two innovative noise reduction tools – a Dual-directional Debanding technology that tackles banding noise, and a Correct Black Level parameter that helps to restore shadow tones. Topaz claims that while other competing noise reduction tools utilize a range of subtle blurring techniques that often removes detail as well as noise, Topaz DeNoise 5 is the only software of its kind that is able to recover crisp detail while simultaneously removing up to four stops of noise with the utmost quality.

Below is the DeNoise screen that appears after you invoke the plugin from Lightroom, Photoshop or other host image editing program (click on the image to display it in full resolution).

Topaz DeNoise 5 Screen

The screen will be familiar to existing Topaz users, with several standard, easy-to-use presets on the left panel and detailed adjustable settings in the right panel.

Topaz DeNoise Presets

The right panel also includes a handy magnifying switch that allows you to view the noise reduction effects at 100-400%.

Topaz DeNoise Presets

In most cases, using one of the standard presets will be fully adequate. For images with a low amount of noise, use the Light or Moderate presets, and for really low-ISO images with a lot of noise and color contamination use one of the Strong presets (Strong, Stronger, Strongest, Strongest with Debanding).

If your image requires a more advanced treatment, start with the Moderate or Strong preset and then switch to the right Settings panel.

Typically, you’ll start with the luminance noise reduction. The Luma channel preview masks out the color information and makes it easier to see the luminance noise as you use the Strength, Adjust Shadows, and Adjust Highlights sliders to reduce the visible noise in Midtones, Shadows, and Highlights to an acceptable level. After making the luminance noise adjustments, use the Detail Adjustment controls to recover any details lost in the noise reduction process.

If your image contains color noise problems, switch from Luma to RGB mode or specific Red and Blue color modes and use the Red, Blue or Clean Color Adjustment sliders to neutralize the color spots. The Correct black slider is one of the new additions and it helps to eliminate haze from the black areas and make them darker.

Finally, if you see any banding noise, you can experiment with the horizontal or vertical sliders in the Debanding panel to clean it up. In my testing, I found that when debanding eliminated some abnormalities, sometimes it introduced new random patterns, but that might be what the designers intended.

Topaz DeNoise 5 is the most advanced noise reduction tool I used, yet it is very logical, easy-to-learn, and easy-to-use. Compared to Lightroom and NIK Dfine, the ability to restore fine edges, other fine details, and black levels is very good. DeNoise 5 works with both 32 bit and 64 bit versions of Photoshop CS5-CS6 and CS CC on Mac and Windows systems.

EXAMPLE 1:

Owl – Untreated Image – minimal noise, ISO 2500, D600

Owl – LR NR with Luminosity value 25

Owl – NIK Dfine Automatic

Owl – Topaz Denoise 5 – Moderate Preset

Owl – Topaz Denoise 5 – Strong Preset

Although this image didn’t require too much noise reduction, from the last two Topaz images it can be seen that the detail in eyes and feathers has been preserved better than in the LR and NIK treatments.

EXAMPLE 2:

Fruit – Untreated Image – heavy noise, H1.0/ISO 6400, D300

LR NR with Luminosity Value of 60

NIK Dfine – Automatic

Topaz DeNoise 5 – Moderate preset

Since this image started with a heavy noise, it required a more aggressive treatment. All three programs handled competently the large areas, but if you look at the end of the pepper stem, you can see significantly more detail in the Topaz result than in the other treatments.

EXAMPLE 3:

LR NR with Luminosity of 60

NIK Dfine, Automatic

Topaz Denoise 5 Strongest Preset with Debanding

In the last example, we applied the strongest possible Denoise preset that almost eliminated the really heavy noise, and although the image is much cleaner than the ones processed by LR

and NIK, the details are not preserved quite as well as with a slightly less aggressive treatment.

 

To download the latest Topaz Denoise version, use the following link to enter the Topaz Labs website to get a discount

http://www.topazlabs.com/861.html

You can use this link and a discount code “lespalenik” at anytime, also for other Topaz single plugins or a complete bundle at 15% off

Topaz Simplify

With Topaz Simplify, you can transform your photos instantly with one click into oil or watercolor paintings, monochrome sketches / line drawings or bold cartoons. I like best the oil painting modes, especially for vibrant and colorful images, but each image may benefit from a different filter, so it’s best to experiment with several filters. Fortunately, the rendering is very fast, and you can quickly test various options before committing to one. Or you can apply multiple filters to an image, stacking them onto each other, or even mix them with some other effects from Topaz other plugins.

Cut Flowers

To illustrate some of the painting filters and the different looks, I used a colorful street image scene and ran it through various filters. Each filter supports also an extensive group of parameters with easy-to-use sliders to optimize your rendition, but for the purpose of this demonstration, I never touched any sliders and used just the provided default settings.

Street Scene – Original

Before applying an oil or watercolor painting filter, I ran the image through Topaz Adjust Boost to get a more vibrant starting image. If you don’t have Topaz Adjust, you could just saturate the colors slightly.

Street Scene – Topaz Adjust Boost

then I applied the Oil Painting Toned II filter (one out of about twenty oil filters)

Street Scene – Topaz Simplify Oil Painting Toned II

to get a more contrasty scene with very vibrant colors, I used another oil filter, called Oil Painting IV

Street Scene – Topaz Simplify Oil Painting IV

For softer, less contrasty rendition with more subdued colors, the watercolor filter works well.

Street Scene – Topaz Simplify Watercolor

Another street scene using the BuzSim filter

Street Scene – Topaz Simplify BuzSim filter

and a 100% crop of the same image to see the details

Street Scene – Topaz Simplify BuzSim filter magnified to 100%

Landscape scenes lend themselves very well to artistic interpretations

Lake Superior North Shore – Topaz Simplify BuzSim filter

The following image is an artistic interpretation of an image shown in my earlier post “Drive to Lake Superior”. You can compare the two images and see how Topaz Simplify reduced the details and smoothed out the rocks.

Canoe on a rocky beach – Topaz Simplify BuzSim filter

As stated on the top, in these examples I never changed the default settings that are located in the right control panel. For each preset, you can change all kinds of parameters, including saturation, contrast, simplify modes (the abstract rendering), handling of edges, vignette and other things. Once you start playing with those parameters you’ll have almost unlimited options as how to render the image. On top of it, you can make also your own presets, and configure them exactly to suit your specific needs.

One more example of a vintage car, processed in two different ways:

Vintage car – original look

Vintage car – used Cartoon preset

Vintage car – Used Buz Sim III preset

As stated on the top, in these examples I never changed the default settings that are located in the right control panel. For each preset, you can change all kinds of parameters, including saturation, contrast, simplify modes (the abstract rendering), handling of edges, vignette and other things. Once you start playing with those parameters you’ll have almost unlimited options as how to render the image. On top of it, you can make also your own presets, and configure them exactly to suit your specific needs.

To buy Topaz Simplify, use the following link:

http://www.topazlabs.com/861.html

By using the above referral link and a discount code “lespalenik” you’ll get at anytime any of Topaz single plugins or a complete bundle at 15% off

Just before the fall colours peaked in Central Ontario, I checked the weather forecast and decided to head up north, to the northeastern shore of Lake Superior. After a brief evening nap on Wednesday night, I packed up the camera gear, some clothing and food, and at 2:00am I left my home. The traffic at night was very light, the roads were dry, all moose were hiding safely in the woods and at the dawn I arrived in Espanola with just over 400km under the belt, a good spot to refuel and get some coffee. This was Thursday, and it was going to be a nice sunny day. As I was driving northwest on Hwy 17, I passed a small lake with mirror-like surface and beautiful reflections.

At The Dawn

Driving along the Spanish River, the colour changes in the trees were getting more noticeable, and I took a few shots along the river. The little tree clinging to the rocky islet, leaning in the direction of the current, was an interesting sight.

Lone Survivor on Rocky Islet

Now, the colours started to get really vibrant. So many trees, each section with a different color palette, it was hard to pick the best place.

Colorful Tree Along Spanish River

As I was taking in the colours and looking for a nice composition, suddenly I noticed a bald eagle perched on the top canopy (see the tiny black dot in the left third near the top). It was quite far on the other side of the river. Fortunately, I had a 70-300mm lens already mounted on my camera, so I managed to get a few shots of the eagle across the river before he took off.

Eagle between the reds and yellows

The sun stayed up all day, the temperatures continued to rise, I kept stopping to take more shots, and slowly I made my way towards the Lake Superior Park. In the summer, the road must be quite busy with many cars, RV’s, and even cyclists, but at this time of year the traffic was very light which made it easy and convenient for driving, frequent stops, and countless U-turns. I enjoyed the journey, and couldn’t help comparing it with the overcrowded roads at the Algonquin park at this time of year (for the benefit of international readers, Algonquin provincial park is about 3 hours northeast from Toronto, and Lake Superior park is almost 800km northwest from Algonquin Highlands).

Driving on Trans-Canada Highway

Finally, by mid afternoon, I arrived at my destination, and spent the rest of the day exploring the rocky beaches and cliffs just south of the Lake Superior Park.

Colorful Lake Superior Pebbles

On Friday, it was raining, so I caught up with sleep, and in the afternoon I ventured out towards the park. I stopped at several scenic spots and took some photographs in the rain.

Trans-Canada Highway is the main route for transport trucks

Small Island With Tall Trees

Red Leaves on a Maple Seedling at Agawa Bay Beach

On Saturday, I had a mix of sun and clouds, even some brief showers, so I was able to capture all kinds of weather conditions and light. I drove northbound through the park, and made it all the way to Wawa.

Pebble Beach and Rugged Cliffs

The famous 28ft tall, and now slightly rusty Wawa Goose

Last shot of the day at the Katherine’s Cove

Sunday was my last day at the Lake Superior. The day was sunny and unusually warm, and the big lake looked very calm. I was planning to take a short hike on the Lake Superior coastal trail, so this would be the highlight of my trip and the best day for photography.

The entire trail length is about 87km (54 miles) and the recommended hiking time is 5-7 days. The trail is quite demanding and the terrain varies from forested sections, sand and pebble beaches, boulder gardens, granite slabs to steep and exposed cliffs. In several  places, I had to lift or lower my camera bags first, before I could climb or descend using both hands to pull myself up and unencumbered without the heavy load. However, the scenery and wide views were absolutely breathtaking. Fresh lake air and fragrance of pine needles, plentiful mushrooms and fallen leaves added even more to the overall experience.

Clear waters and rocks

The coastal trail follows the coast, and where the cliffs become impassable, it veers off the coast and turns into the forest. This is indeed a rough trail, not an easy boardwalk. In places like shown below, if the wind blows from the lake, the waves could spill over the boulders and pull you in, or you could slip on wet rocks.

An easy section of the trail

Walking on the uneven terrain, especially when passing through the boulder gardens means you are constantly stepping up and down, and have to watch your every step.

Boulder garden with a hiking trail sign

Colorful rocks and boulders in every size and color

One wrong step and you could easily tumble into the deep and freezing water

By the end of my hike, the slight breeze changed into cold and intimidating gusts, calm water turned into white caps, and the lake looked quite ominous. The weather can change very quickly at Lake Superior.

Still, it was hard to leave this incredible place. I used every opportunity to make yet another stop, both on the coastal trail and then on my drive back along the lake. Finally, at the dusk, I took the last pictures at the eastern end of the lake, and headed back to Sault Ste Marie. Drawing on the day’s experience, overstimulation, and charged-up energy, I drove through, and by 3:00am Monday morning, after four splendid days in the north and two nights and 2000km on the road (and about as many images), I arrived safely home. I still haven’t finished processing all the pictures.

To see more pictures from the Lake Superior trip, please visit my (still evolving) stock image site at http://www.advantica.com/stockphotos/ (you may have to paste in this link into your browser)  or  at http://www.les-palenik.artistwebsites.com?tab=artwork (few pages down or search for “Lake Superior”)

This beautiful stretch of whitewater has been scheduled to be the venue for the whitewater events at the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Games. It is located just below the dam at Horseshoe Lake, where the Trent Severn Waterway holds back large amounts of water in order to prevent flooding of Minden. Unfortunately, this past spring the 100-year flood levels were just too much for the dam, and many areas in Minden have been flooded.

Usually suffering from low water volume in the summer, this year the water levels and volume are still at record levels. All the rain has kept the Horseshoe Lake water levels above the dam very high and the river continues to run strong. There were still sandbags on the concrete walls on both sides of the river, as the evidence of the recent flood.

Sand bags on the concrete walls above the dam

The spring flooding of the Gull River has damaged infrastructure at the Minden Wild Water Preserve. Just below the dam, you can see the toppled wall, part of the engineered whitewater course, built in 1972 from heavy concrete blocks. The heavy and long wall was installed to funnel water onto the side of the main channel. When the large blocks gave in, water rushed in and opened another river arm on the left side, creating an island. The problem is that if left this way, the main channel wouldn’t get in the summer months enough water. In addition, the erosion in the left channel might continue, altering significantly the entire course.

Damaged concrete block wall below the dam

Kayaker coming down from the upper part of the river

 

There was a kayak race in the morning, which I regrettably missed, so the following photos are from the afternoon after the slalom gates have been taken down.

On the top of the chute

Coming Through, one way or another!

Nothing will stop this fellow

Looking ahead to the next set of rapids.

Planning the next step

If you don’t feel like paddling, you can enjoy the spray of the whitewater in a more leisurely way. Not recommended for people who tend to roll in their sleep.

Woman On The Rocks

The bottom portion of the course is very popular, especially at high water levels. The last few rapids are not dangerous, but still fun to play in.

Perfectly synchronized team in an inflatable kayak.

Two men in a tandem kayak

In the calm water below the course

 

In closing, it was the strongest summer flow I’ve seen on this river in thirty years. A few years back, I used to run it in my Mad River Explorer canoe myself, but having seen that recent power of the river, from now on, I think, I’ll stick just to photographing others.

 

For more pictures from the whitewater course, you can visit my FAA Gallery at http://les-palenik.artistwebsites.com/art/all/whitewater2013-07-13/all

The worst flood in hundred years
Most towns around Lake Muskoka were hit extremely hard by this year’s flood which reached the peak by the weekend, although water levels remain high. Many roads, particularly in Bracebridge were under water and impassable. There was extensive damage to the roads and many properties around Lake Muskoka and Muskoka river.

View from Kelvin Grove Park towards the Hydro Falls in Bracebridge, Ontario

The photo above and all other pictures that follow were taken in Muskoka on April 28, 2013, the day after the Muskoka river has crested.

Muskoka River spilling over the pedestrian walkway at the Hydro Station

The catwalk on the top of the Hydro Falls dam was overflowing and closed to the traffic.

Maintenance worker at the bottom of the Hydro Falls

Wharf Road on the west side of the Muskoka River at the Bracebridge Bay Park

Accumulated driftwood shows the extent of the flood

There was a lot of great looking driftwood and construction lumber including pieces of wooden docks alongside the river. The boards shown above were left on the grassy banks of Muskoka River about one meter higher and ten meters from the Sunday’s river edge.

Chairs in the lake

This group of chairs was situated on low-lying bank on eastern side of Lake Muskoka (that is, low-lying ground before the flood), and being in calm water and weighed down, it didn’t float away.

All kinds of items got away and are enroute to Georgian Bay

The water levels on Muskoka River rose higher than on the surrounding lakes, and proportionally there was more damage along the river. Many boathouses filled with water, hydro lines got short-circuited, boats came out of their slings or were pushed against the ceilings, shelves and furniture sank, and some canoes stored outside floated away.

Lakeside cafe half-submerged in the historic Duke’s building in Port Carling

This waterfront cafe is located in the historic Duke’s building at the top end of Indian River in Port Carling, just a few steps from the highway 118 and the lock to Lake Joseph. Not a good way to start the season.

Submerged town dock on Severn River

The landscape was significantly altered (for the period of flooding time). Many fixed large dock structures on the rivers and lakes were completely submerged, some of them almost a half-meter deep and several meters away from the water’s edge.

Three teenagers on a dock

I wouldn’t attempt it myself, but these three kids were pretty good at balancing precariously at the edge of the submerged dock. To their right, the water was only a few inches deep, to their left, 6-8 feet deep. In both directions, the water temperature was just a few degrees over the freezing point.

Top portion of High Falls in the northern part of Bracebridge – Muskoka River spilling over the access road to the falls and bridge