An Elephant photo, treated using Topaz Detail 3

Last year, I posted ‘Elephants 3 – Another White Elephant, with Zebra (Mono)‘.  That image was shot back in 2006, when I was using a Sony DSC-H1 Bridge Camera.  I really liked the image, but the small sensor in that camera made it difficult to obtain much ‘selective focus’ and the image was too sharp from front to back.

Because I liked the image, particularly when presented in B&W, I decided to use a variation of it in a recent B&W Camera Club competition.  I’ve often said that I am not much good at using Photoshop, but regardless of this limitation, I felt that I needed to try to simulate some ‘selective focus’ in this image if I was going to use it in a Club competition.  I spent ages selecting different parts of the image and using layers to apply different levels of blur.  I wish that I hadn’t bothered.  The Judge didn’t like it, easily picking out those parts of the image that I had ‘worked on’.  I just wasn’t clever enough! 😦

Last year, I purchased the Topaz Suite, but didn’t have the time of patience to learn how to use the various parts of it properly.  This week, I thought that I would have a bit of a look at Topaz Detail 3, an application intended for selective sharpening of images.  I’ve still got a lot to learn, and I still lack patience, but I have been very impressed at how this software can produce excellent results.

I thought that I would apply it to the original ‘jpeg’ file of that Elephant photo.

In this post, I have presented a series of efforts to improve this image.  I hope that the differences are clear enough to show just what a ‘pigs ear’ I made of it before moving on to Topaz Detail 3.  Here goes.

The first image is the jpeg straight out of my Sony DSC-H1

Original jpeg from camera.

Original jpeg from camera.

The next image was a B&W conversion using one of the Lightroom presets.  I can’t remember which, but I was going for a fairly high contrast result.

Initial B&W conversion.

Initial B&W conversion.

The next image is where things really started to go wrong.  I attempted to use my pathetic Photoshop skills to simulate some ‘selective focus’ in the image by using a number of layers with differing levels of Gaussian blur.  It took a long time to select the elephant layer and the result wasn’t great.

Attempt to simulate 'differential focus' using Photoshop layers.

Attempt to simulate ‘differential focus’ using Photoshop layers.

It must be remembered that these last two B&W images were produced because I thought that the image lent itself to use in a Club B&W competition.

Some time later, after investigating Topaz Detail a little, I thought that the selective sharpening (and softening) available in this program might be useful for simulating ‘selective focus’.  I gave it a try, and these next two images took only a few minutes to produce.  Maybe there is scope for improvement, but I quite like them as they are.

After a few minutes work in Topaz Detail 3.

After a few minutes work in Topaz Detail 3.

B&W conversion after a few minutes work in Topaz Detail 3.

B&W conversion after a few minutes work in Topaz Detail 3.

Here they are again in a carousel so they can be displayed at a larger size where the differences are more evident.  Click on the first one to display the slide show.  Esc to end it.

I think the attempt to simulate ‘selective focus’ in the Topaz worked images is more subtle and was certainly achieved much more quickly.  Please feel free to comment as I know that I still have a very long way to go in improving my PP skills.  In particular, I always have trouble deciding just how much of an adjustment to make.

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Elephants 4 – Watched by an Oryx (Mono)

This is the fourth post in this elephant series and again, I have gone straight for the monochrome treatment.  I may post the colour version if anybody asks for it, but at the moment I feel drawn into presenting B&W elephants because I think this treatment really works for them.

I think that the elephant framed between the watching Oryx and the Zebra herd seems to work quite well but it is a pity about the Zebra back growing out of the Elephants neck.  Should I have cloned it out?  I couldn’t do anything about it when shooting, since I couldn’t move the vehicle that we were in.  This photo was also taken at the same nearly dried up water hole in the Etosha National Park, Namibia and is another example of the Etosha White Elephant.  Perhaps that might have been clearer in a colour image.

White Elephant, Kudu and Zebra (mono)I haven’t mentioned it in the other elephant posts so far but, by today’s standards, these are a bit ‘pixel limited’ by the Sony DSC-H1 and its 5 MP resolution.  I don’t think it shows too much though.  More elephants will follow, but if you haven’t seen the earlier ones they are easy to find from the list of recent posts.

Elephants 2 – A dusting of White Elephants (Mono)

As promised in a previous post, here is an experiment in mono conversion of a photo of an elephant family dusting itself in the Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Elephants 'Dusting' (mono)I think that the process of dusting is not as clear as it is in the colour version.  What do you think?

For anyone who loves elephants as I do, there will be more to follow.  Please came back and take a look.

Elephants 1 – A dusting of White Elephants

Elephants have always been a favourite wild animal for both my wife and myself.  Recently, two of my favourite bloggers, Helen and Adrian have produced posts featuring elephants, which can be found by following their links.  Since I love elephants, their posts have prompted me to start a series of posts of my own, which may be ongoing for some time.  This is the first.

We have all heard of ‘pink elephants’, though perhaps not expected to see them unless in a drunken stupor.  We may also have experienced ‘white elephants’ at some time in our lives, almost certainly wishing that we had not.

Real elephants can come in a range of colours, though of course most people expect them to be a ‘greyish/brownish’ colour.  Their apparent colour actually depends on the environment in which they live and the lifestyle that they like to adopt.  They love bathing in water, which I guess is good for turning them their natural ‘greyish/brownish’ colour.  They also like to use the natural ‘cosmetics’ of the wild by wallowing in mud and/or ‘dusting’ their wet bodies after bathing with whatever powders they can find.  The reasons seem to be mainly to do with protection from the sun and parasites.

This first post in my elephant series features the elephants of the Etosha National Park in Namibia.  These are real, wild, white elephants, created as a result of their behaviour.

The photo shows a family of elephants coating themselves in dust on the Etosha Pan.

Elephants 'Dusting'

When I saw in Adrian’s post, how well elephants could come out when given a monochrome treatment, I thought that it would be good to experiment a little.  Please keep a look out for some B&W ‘white elephants’ in future posts.

Zambia – Elephant Back Safari

This is the final post from Zambia before we set off for Botswana.

Dee and I had the opportunity to go on an Elephant Back Safari.  The decision to go was not made lightly.  Firstly, I always thought that African Elephants were big, dangerous, wild animals, and although baby elephants were rather sweet, their mums and dads would probably kill you if you went anywhere near them.  I knew that Indian Elephants were often domesticated working animals, and that they could be ridden, but I wasn’t so sure about the african animals. Continue reading