Thursday, May 10, 2012

Alien Skin Exposure 4 Photographic Software Review

There is nothing more wonderful than exploring new tools or ways for something you are passionate about.

A B&W Infra-Red (IR) processing of a red barn and green fields

What is the Purpose of this Software?
Exposure is an add-on photo-editing application for Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom and Elements that provides almost a complete list of film types, both B&W and Color, for processing for the digital darkroom. I say almost as I didn't count the list of film types in this application and I don't even know all the films that have ever been made, but they sure seem to be all here.
'Sepia – blue Finish (modified)' setting with a layer set to 'Lighten' mode (31%) for an Expsure 4 ver. of 'Kodak HIE (Halation moderate)'

One test of software is to see how it feels right out of the box. A lot like taking a performance sports car for a test drive. You may not know everything about it but you know how to drive and turn corners.

I never read the manual first as I believe that a person with reasonable skills on the computer and with digital editing should know how to turn it on and drive around a little. 
Exposure 4 did not fail here. It was easy to install and when launched, the layout and buttons were intuitive. The only problem I had was that it was almost 2 hours later when I realized how much I had been playing with the different types of films.

How would I use this Photo-Editing Software?

Exposure 4 has a great repertoire of classic, vintage and just plain old films both in color and B&W. Combined with these types of film selections are the various processing adjustments you might make in a wet darkroom, such as contrast, toning, bleaching, cross-processing, calotype, platinum and much more.

Some of these are obvious as the IR and Platinum and High contrast B&W I have shown above. Even old color films with faded color can provide unique approaches to the photographic images.

Without having access to the original old photograph, an older reproduction could be re-made. This could be cast against another image to create a story of 'then and now' and subject of an interesting photographic book.

In the image above I took 2 photos and I applied old color film technique to the bordered version to create the effect of laying an old photo on a new photo to show a change over time.

How well does it Perform?
Having a 7 processors and 12TB of RAM there should be no speed issues with loading and applying application settings. It was just over a sec to load and less to applying any film setting. The window is originally set up with 3 panels. Large central being the photo being edited. The panel on the right is the main adjustment panel color. See composite below. There is enough functionality to do almost everything you want.

A minor problem with the numbers dialog boxes. When you enter a number it doesn't apply until you click the panel and if you use the Enter key it applies the Exposure 4 application. I would rather have that only happen when I click the OK button.

The panel on the left are all the pre-set film settings which are based on some combination of settings on the right panel. This is great because once you found a style that suits your needs you can then tweak it to best suit the photograph.

I did find that using the color filter produced better color (brighter) for me than using the same color on a layer in Photoshop. It might be the preserve luminosity check box.

With my sample photos the rendering of effects was clean with no noticeable distortions unless of course you cranked the saturation way up.

I like that both side panels can be minimized and it's easy to zoom into a section for better clarity. With a 24” monitor some apps don't allow full screen editing.
I also like how you can save your own presets.

The above image is from one I tested since I had created a B&W version previously. The software did produce versions that I liked as well and maybe even better than the original.

Who is this Software meant for?
For anyone how wants to experience the look of chemical film technology and its variant processes.
Definitely for commercial ad type photographic needs. Here with the press of a button, a vintage effect can be created without much time spent by the user.
For creative types who may want to create story-line or books where the type of photograph is integral to the story experience
For fine-art photographers that require a specific look, as with my image of the tree and bench, that is not easily achieved in Photoshop.
To create new layers that can be set to one of the blend modes. There is a practice to create a B&W version of your image that looks best and then set this to luminosity for your color photo. While I haven’t experimented that much with these I suspect I will find some of the film output useful as a blend mode.

This is a good solid product that provides a wealth of film types and genres. It is easy to use and intuitive.
I would give this software a 4 – 4 ½ rating. The limiting factor would be price for a new user at approx $249. but an upgrade is only $99.
As an investment, I view software the same as a lens. It's a tool to help you meet your needs or goals. Many people find the cost of software somewhat prohibitive and yet see no problem with spending more on a new lens. I love a lens also as there's something about that precision instrument you are holding. But I photo-edit every photo I show to the public. I always want to bring out the very best and convey the feelings and experience I had at the time I took the photograph. The straight out-of-the-camera version doesn’t give me this. It is a mechanical device and not a human.

Definitely do download a trial version and play with it.

Niels Henriksen

Disclaimer: Other than receiving a copy of the software to review, I did not or will not receive any remunerations, gifts or any considerations from this review from the company, its agents or any of its distributors

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Buildings of San Miguel

This is a story that evolves over time. Every year as I explore new parts of town or even revisit other parts at different times of the day, there are new buildings emerging. Not new in the sense of being just built but new in the sense of discovery. Especially when its not your town and even not your region, everything is so different.

Along the side of the Biblioteca on Relox

This is almost an abstract image with 3 main sections. I wanted the yellow to be dominant so I increased the contrast in this section and a bit in saturation. On some monitors if not calibrated it will display as very bright yellow, whereas it should be a bit soft. I darkened the blue and decreased saturation to make the yellow appear brighter. I didn't want to lighten the whole road so I increased the brightness in the highlights and strengthened the yellows.

Sometimes you get a 'batch perfect apples in the basket' so to speak. In the image below, the house was painted a blue to match the strong blue skies of San Miguel. The sky is also a darker blue here at approx. 7,000 ft. Strong blues ranging from this sky color to almost navy-blue can be found on several homes.

Near the corner of Aldama on a walk-only side street between Xichu and Oje de Agua
Google map reference (20.90370, -100.7432)

A very skinny house. Not sure what it's used for. I guess someone wanted to build a house in an alleyway. I seen places like this in Toronto where the house is 3 storeys high and 10' wide. This building in San Miguel may be actually skinnier.

Even with a 18mm lens I needed to stitch 2 vertical photos to get the whole building in one combined photo.

San Miguel, like most Mexican towns, is always undergoing some sort of building repainting. The standard building colors are yellow, rusty-orange, burnt-red, and some white. They may be repainted these same colors or even repainted a vibrant new color such as blue. That's why in Google Street View the photos of the buildings may not now be as shown in Google. Sometimes as in the photo below there has been some new painting with bolder colors.

This small section of buildings has all the colors of the rainbow and a few extra. Corner of Aldama and Terraplén

This colorful green building with just enough red to give it some accent caught my interest I. It wasn't until after I looked around that I realized that it was beside the entrance to the Bull Fighting Ring.

And sometimes with luck a car drives by, whose color enhances the photo of the building.

Next year I will be in San Miguel for six (6) months and I be conducting photo-walks again. If you are in the area then drop me a line and we can go out and photograph this lively town together.

Niels Henriksen


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