Luminar – Action Sequence Tutorial.

One of my Youtube Channel follower asked me to create an action sequence video for Luminar.  It is possible to work with layers and therefore create some complicated photos.  Take a look at this video and see how to create an action sequence image.  This tutorial was created on Luminar 2017 but the concept should stay the same no matter which version you are using. 

Canon Speedlite 580 EXII – Review and Tutorial.

This is 6 parts series on the Canon Speedlite EXII.  Every video covers a different topic.  I should also mention that I created these videos a few years ago.  The content is still relevant to the other and newer Canon Speedlite.

 

Manfrotto 055 + XPro 3 Way Head Review

Here is one of my favorite tripods.  I have traveled around with this setup and taken many images with it.  This setup is on the heavier side but it is sturdy.  I had the tripod in the ocean, streams and rivers, windy conditions and stable environments.  It has handled all situations so far.  Hope you enjoy this review!

Tamron Tap In Console

I purchased the Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 G2 version late last year and I have been super impressed with the build quality and how sharp the lens is.  Unfortunately the lens needed some AF adjustments when I first got it.  So I went ahead and spent $80 to purchase the Tap In Console.  I created this video to help anyone out there trying to figure out how to adjust their Tamron lens.

Photolemur 3 – Review and Tests

Photolemur 3 is a great all in one AI software that can easily create stunning images in seconds.  It works as a stand alone or plugin in most of your favorite editing software.  Edit a single image at the time or with batches, this software is a time savor.  I created a video were I tested several RAW images ranging from landscape, portrait, city, and interior.  The result were very solid and I am sure the algorithm will continue to evolve in the near future. 

Nik Collection 2018 By DxO. The wait is over.

The Nik Collection 2018 by DxO is out for grabs.  The suit is offered at $49.99US for a limited time, regular $69.  You may ask, why pay for this suite when it have been free for a few years?  Well the Nik Collection was free when Google took over a few years back.  They did not invest time or too much energy developing the collection.  DxO on the other hand have upgraded the apps to work better and be compatible with today’s editing world.  The collection offers lot’s in term of editing possibilities and works as plugin with Adobe and DxO products.  Here is a list of the apps offered:

  • Analog Efex Pro
  • Color Efex Pro
  • Silver Efex Pro
  • Viveza
  • HDR Efex Pro
  • Sharpener Pro
  • Dfine

I have used the collection from time to time and felt that some apps were very useful and other not that great at all.  The HDR did not produce great images but Color Efex Pro and Analog Efex Pro had some fantastic filters to offer.  There is lot’s of competition out there and I am sure that DxO took that collection to the next level.  It looks like the Google version of the suit still works.  Unfortunately I can’t seems to find  upgrade or discount offers towards the new suite.  So here it is,  you can download the suit for a 30 days trial and decided if you want to invest the $$ or not.

Manny Photo Ideas: Downtown Seattle

Seattle is very scenic with it’s downtown core and the beautiful surrounding nature.  I recently spent a few days downtown Seattle and would like to share some of my favorite photography spots.  I should mention that I have been somewhat lucky with the Pacific North West spring weather as I managed to stay out of the rain for the most part!  Some spots I visited would be great for sunset or night photographs but unfortunately the rain made it impossible for me.  In any case I will give you destinations with visual reference.  Here are my favorite spots.

Dr. Jose Rival Park

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This Park gives you a great view of the Seattle Downtown core.  You can access the area by bus route 36.  Take the bus 36 from 3rd Ave. and get off at 14th and Judkins St.  Once you are there, walk next to the top of the edge of the hill and you’ll have a great view.  After you take some shots walk down to the bridge.  There is a spacious sidewalk where you could setup with your tripod.  Be aware that the bridge moves a little with traffic.

Smith Tower Observatory

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This historical building was Seattle’s first skyscraper.  You can buy a $17 US pass which includes a self guided tour of the tower and access to the 35th floor bar and observatory.  From there you can enjoy food and prohibition inspired drinks.  Then you can go outside and take photos from the balcony.  There are safety bars, but they are spacious enough to fit a DSLR lens through.  The bar and the observatory is open until midnight on most nights.  The museum closes at 1800.  I would recommend bringing a wide angle, 11-16/10-20mm as you are close and at lower level than the other skyscrapers around.  I would definitely recommend coming back at night time.

Sky View Observatory

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This is the highest point where you can photograph Seattle from land.  The Sky View Observatory is currently Seattle’s highest building and for $14.75 US you have access to the 73th floor.  There isn’t much to the viewing area at the moment when you get up there but the views are astonishing.  You will find yourself above everything!  It is a perfect place to capture the Seattle downtown and beyond in the same shot.  Depending on the season, it closes at 1600 or 2000, so you need to be there at the right time to capture a sunset photo.  It was closed too early for me to get a sunset photo but I can only imagine what type of shots I could capture from up there.  I captured several good close ups of some interesting buildings with my 24-70mm and lots of great all around shots with my 11-16mm.

The Public Market

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The market is super busy during day time.  There is lots to explore in and around from food, the very first Starbucks, craft breweries and more.  This is a great place to stop for a snack and snap a few shots.  Things quiet down around 1700 and it becomes a great area to explore and take photos of the neon signs or the Seattle Great Wheel at Pier 57 which is just a few steps away.  Also make sure to take a look at the famous gum wall…  I would recommend walking around with your camera and a tripod.

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Walk Around 5th and 6th

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There are some very interesting buildings downtown worth photographing.  The Amazon area on 6th has the Spheres and make sure to photograph the Public Library as well.

Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum

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Now I am not a big museum photographer but when it is pouring rain outside…  In all fairness this is an amazing display of art.  I am glad I spent the $24 US because every penny was worth it.  You can take photos of the exhibition as long as you don’t touch anything.  The light is perfect and the black glossy surfaces make every images amazing.  I am glad I took images just so I can look at the Chihuly blowing glass art later on!

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Kerry Park

I don’t have any images to show you as the weather didn’t cooperate and my stay was too short.  I saw some great images online of the downtown core that includes the Space Needle and Mount Baker.  This is a must see place if you have decent weather.  You can access the park on bus 13 from downtown on 3rd and Bell Street, and get off at Queen Anne Ave. N And Highland Drive.

Space Needle

The Space Needle was under renovation during my stay.  I can only imagine that the view is great from up there.  Plus you can save money by purchasin a combined ticket for Chihuly and the Space Needle which works well because they are located next to each other.

The Final Word

I am sure that there are other amazing places to photograph on the outskirts of Seattle, I only just scratched the surface.  There are a numbers of ferry, boat, helicopter, and sea plane tours available.  All in all, it was a blast and I hope to explore for a longer period of time next time I visit.

Manny Photo Ideas: Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is located inland in northern Thailand.  It’s a very touristic city that has a lot to offer from adventure tours, a National Park, culinary courses, markets, culture, and beautiful temples.  You’ll find different parks and destinations to explore within a day’s range.  Here are some of my favorite destinations for photography.

Chiang Mai Old City Temples

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There are many spectacular temples to visit in the old city.  You can walk around in any direction inside the old city walls and find a temple to visit.  Make sure to bring long pants and cover your shoulders so you don’t have to spend extra money to meet the proper dress code.  You should definitely visit the Wat Chedi Luang.  It’s the old temple known for it’s ruined chedi.

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Chiang Mai Saturday Night and Sunday Market

The Saturday night market is south of the old city wall on Wua Lai road.  It covers several blocks and you’ll be able to find a wide range of things to buy including delicious food.  The Sunday market is situated in the middle of the old city and also covers a few blocks.  I recommend visiting at least one or both if you have time.  There is so much to look at and you’ll find some great deals on unique pieces of art.  I loved the food and enjoyed capturing the food stands and the market in general.

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www.manuelmartelphotography.com

Trip to Chiang Rai. The Blue and White Temples and Baandam Museum.

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I highly recommend booking a tour to go visit the beautiful Blue and White temples near Chiang Rai.  You don’t need to have a tour guide to visit them but booking a tour will bring you there early enough to beat the crowd.  The Blue temple, Wat Rong Suea Ten, distinguished by its vivid blue coloring & elaborate carvings is a small site and it’s an absolutely stunning building.  The visit doesn’t take long as there isn’t much else than the temple to photograph.  Be sure to go around and look at all of the great details.

The White Temple,  Wat Rong Khun, is a contemporary, unconventional, privately-owned art exhibit in the style of a Buddhist temple.  It is absolutely stunning and has lots to offer.  The sad part is that you are not allowed to take photos inside the temple.  There are murals with super heroes painted on the walls making this temple unique.  The rest of the site is also very interesting with the wishing well and wishing trees,  beautiful buildings, and super heroe’s heads hanging from some of the trees.

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The Baandam Museum, also known as the Black House, is the former residence of the famous Thai artist Thawan Duchanee.  He liked black because all colours mixed create black.  So you guessed it, this is why every building is black.  Also, there are lots of great artifacts, furniture and carvings to photograph.  Make sure to take your time during your visit. A good tip is to ask how much time you’ll spend at each stop when booking tours.

Doi Inthanon National Park

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Doi Inthanon National Park nicknamed “the roof of Thailand” is the tallest peak in the country.  There is a lot to visit including the King’s and Queen’s Pagodas near the summit, great waterfalls, the Karen village, and a varied climatic ecosystem.  Some of the villages are very interesting to visit and you can find some nice handmade scarfs or clothing to buy.  Make sure to take your time when visiting the park.  I booked a tour and was rushed at every stop.  Renting a car/bike or hiring a driver might be a better alternative.  Bring your tripod, telephoto and wide angle lens to the park.

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www.manuelmartelphotography.com

The Elephant Nature Park

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There is no better way to responsibly photograph elephants than visiting the Elephant Nature Park.  The park take elephants that were in the tourism industry, logging industry, or were abandoned and or wounded.  Each elephant is paired with a local Mahout, a worker that is assigned to a specific elephant and who remains with them for life in most cases.  I stayed over night at the park and was able to enjoy my time with these magnificent animals.  It was a feel good visit and I left with tons of very great photographs.  There is a number of these types of parks around Chiang Mai- just make sure to do your research before booking a tour to make sure they are truly about conservation and what is best for the animals.

 

The Final Word

Chiang Mai is a great city surrounded by mountains and rivers.  There is so much to do and for most of us, so little time.  I would suggest making Chiang Mai a hub for day or overnight trips.  It is an affordable place to stay and there is no shortage of tour companies.  You’ll want to take in some Thai cuisine lessons as well.  There is nothing like learning about the exotic ingredients and learning how to cook and get to eat some of the best Thai food you will ever have.  Chiang Mai is one of my favorite cities in the world and I will visit again one day for sure.

 

Manny Photo Ideas: Bangkok

Bangkok is a very vibrant and intimidating city.  It’s also very beautiful with the Grand Palace, many old temples, skyscrapers, a river, markets, and so much more.  There is lots to photograph and I’ll provide a few suggestions for places to visit depending on how many days you plan to spend in this city that never sleeps.

I’ll start by saying that I only spent 5 days in Bangkok during the rainy season.  The weather was good in the morning.  I usually had 4-6 hours of possible good weather before the heavy afternoon rain showers started.  At that point I had to hide inside my hotel room, a market, or restaurant for a few hours.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to shoot at night as I had other obligations.  I’ll pass on some ideas and notes that I took before I left.  Ok, let’s take a look at some sweet areas to photograph.

The Grand Palace and Wat Pho

The Grand Palace and Wat Pho have to be the busiest places I visited in Bangkok.  The Grand Palace was packed to the point that it was hard to move around the compound. Unfortunately you cannot use DSLR or any other type of cameras other than your phone.  It looked like they were enforcing this policy as well…  So if you can beat the crowd early in the morning and have a decent phone, you can probably photograph the Grand Palace in all of it’s glory.

Wat Pho on the other hand was a hundred times more pleasant.  I was allowed to take images with my Canon camera and there were way less people to dodge.  Wat Pho is a complex of beautiful temples and the home of the Reclining Buddha.  Take your time and enjoy this great place.

Be aware that there are some pick-pocketers around this area of town.  Be careful as you walk outside to and from the place.  I got told to hold my sling bag in front of me…

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The Chao Phraya River and Other River System

The Chao Phraya River is the river surrounding the area near the Grand Palace.  There is a ferry system that will take you to a variety of great destinations.  Some of the stops includes the Grand Palace, China Town, and others on both side of the river.  The trip is photogenic in itself.  There are temples, old Thai buildings and many Thai boats to photograph.

There are a lot of other branching waterways to explore from the Chao Phraya but you will need to take another type of boat to get there.  Lots of people are trying to sell you a trip on the river or to the market.  Make sure to choose a good one and don’t settle on the first offer.  Keep in mind that some of the floating markets are only open on certain days of the week.  Be sure to photograph and try the delicious food!

www.manuelmartelphotography.comLumphini Park

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The Lumphini Park is one of my favorite parks that I visited in the city.  It is easy to access by either the Silom MRT Sky Train Station or the Lumphini Metro Station.  It is a nice green park with a few trails and an artificial lake.  There are a number of monitor lizards to photograph.  It’s a great place to catch a few images of sky scrapers as well.

Benjakitti Park

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Benjakitti Park is designed around an oval lake.  There are a few walking trails going around the lake with sitting areas along the way.  The great thing about this park is that it’s location is near the financial district.  The park closes at 2100, so it is a great destination for anyone looking to shoot sky scrapers at night.  I should also mention the birds, butterflies, and flowers as there are plenty to photograph.  The park is a close walking distance from the Sky Walk BTS and Asoke MRT.

The Multiple Over Passes

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There is only one fast way to get around Bangkok and it’s by transiting either under or above ground.  The sky train and metro system are time savers and will bring you close to most destinations.  With that in mind, they designed overpasses for pedestrians who want to safely cross the busy streets to get to their MRT or BTS stations.  It is the perfect location to photograph overhead images of the city streets.  Take advantage of those overpasses at night and capture light trails, illuminated buildings, and shopping malls.

Sky Bars and Roof Tops

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There are a lot of sky bars and roof tops to visit.  I had a sky pool and bar at the hotel we stayed in the financial district.  Some of them have specific dress codes so expect to look out of place if you show up with a tripod…  Some establishments are photographer friendly.  Unfortunately I did not have time to explore the roof tops myself but these are some of the famous ones:  The Roof @ 38th Bar, Scarlett Wine Bar & Restaurant at Pullman Hotel G, Vertigo & Moon Bar, Red Sky, Centara Grand at CentralWorld, Baiyok Tower, Char Rooftop Bar.

The Final Word

Bangkok is a very busy city and most people only stay for a few days before heading to other destinations.  I would recommend writing down a few locations to photograph because you’ll more likely run out of time.  There is just too much to photograph…  Try the public sky train and metro, it will save you tons of time.  Be careful for pick-pocketers and expensive boat, touktouk, and cab rides.  Always ask at your hotel for an average rate and directions written in Thai to show your driver.  Other than that, enjoy your stay and I hope you get some great photos!

The Complete Picktorial Course Is Now Available For $30.

The Complete Picktorial Course by Manuel Martel Photography.  This $30, 3.5 hrs course will teach you the basics on how to use this great editing software to create stunning images.  You will first learn how to use every tool and understand what they do.  After, you will see how Manuel uses Picktorial to edit wildlife, landscape and lifestyle photos.   This is a great course for beginner to intermediate photographers.

Click on the box to purchase the course.

Picktorial Course

Here is a bonus video.  Manuel Martel Photography spent 18 days shooting images in Thailand for the course.  Learn a few tips and see the beauty of Bangkok and northern Thailand.

Bring on Cloudy Skies! Learn a Few Tips for Rainy Days.

Some people get discouraged taking photos outside when the weather isn’t that great.  Too many clouds or poor lighting tend to have a negative spin for some.  I say let’s get out and enjoy gloomy weather in all of it’s glory.

I personally like creating images with cloudy skies.  I think it can bring photos to the next level or even be the catalyst of a great project.  All you need to do is understand how to properly expose the image and learn a few quick editing tips.  Let’s take a look on how to take the image.

Histogram

First, compose your shot.  I suggest not shooting directly at the sun, but to take the image with the sun behind you.  I know that we are talking about cloudy conditions but keep in mind that the sun can penetrate through a thin layer of clouds and be somewhat problematic in some cases.  Next, take a look at your histogram on your camera.  A quick tip is to use the live view mode and display the histogram in it.  Then you can adjust the exposure using either the shutter speed,  Aperture or ISO.  Try to keep all of the information within the histogram.  The secret is not to over expose your sky by making your sky too bright, as you could lose important details.  The overall image might look too dark but we will correct this issue on the computer later.

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Secondly,  use the built in flash or an external flash to light a subject.  Keep in mind that we are trying to keep the image in an overall darker format than you would like for now.  This will include any people you are trying to photograph as well.  Try to use a flash to light the subject and be careful not to put too much light on them.  You want them to look good but not too bright.

To finish,  open your editing software of choice.  Most of the modern photo editing programs will have the features required to do the job.  Keep in mind that there are a lot of options out on the market, spending a few dollars could make the difference between great and ok results.

Ok that being said,  look for the Highlights slider.  This is by far the best tool to bring details and drama in a cloudy scene.  Make sure to play with the slider, move from side to side so you can see the difference and find the look you want.

Highlight

Then go to the Shadows slider.  This tool will bring back details that were too dark before.  Your image should look better now and have more balance.

Shadows

After that, a look at the Exposure slider.  You might want your photo to be a little brighter or darker at this point.  I only play ever so lightly with it mainly because it will affect the whole image versus targeted areas.

Exposure

The last slider I use is the Vignette.  I like to apply a mid to strong vignette to my cloudy image because it will direct the viewer to the middle of the image and will give
a little more drama to the edge of the image.

Vignette

That’s it!  No need to go too crazy on the editing part to create a great image.  So I encourage everyone to get out there and explore mother nature on stormy days…

Great editing software ideas for MAC users:  Adobe Lightroom,  Macphun Luminar,  Picktorial.

 

Picktorial 3. A new and fresh editing software.

Editing photos is an art form that requires skill and complicated software, right? Well you might want to rethink this idea. There is a new player in town and it’s name is Picktorial 3.

This new RAW editing software brings a fresh look to post processing in a very saturated market.  Picktorial 3 has lots of advanced features that are easy to use so no one will have any excuses not to use them.  Features like luminosity mask and colour mask are two examples of complicated techniques that until now has been reserved for advanced processing skills.  This software works as a stand alone product but also works in all of it’s glory in MAC Photos.  Let’s dig a little deeper into some of the details.

One great aspect of Picktorial is that it is a fast working software.  You can see the result of any changes without delays.  It is slick looking and there is no need to navigate between windows or search for tools as it is all-in-one nice and clean looking, single-space window.  It is very easy to import folders or photos when used as a stand alone application and also works seamlessly with MAC Photos.

There is a lot of great editing features from basic exposure to brushes and overlays.  Some features have a lot of depth that separate them from the competition.  Let’s start by talking about the crop & rotate tool.  There is an option to choose certain size ratios including Facebook cover and feed.  This alone will please a lot of people for sure.  Then there are features like the Sharpen tool that can be used with a brush or on the overall image.  It offers incredible flexibility and control over the look of every detail in the photo. Another great option is the Smooth tool.  It can be used in editing photos from a photo shoot with models for example, and you can smooth anybody’s face like a pro in 2 minutes.

Don’t think for two seconds that you’ll get bored with this app.  The deeper you look, more function you’ll find.  There is a whole world of blending modes you can use.  The standard blending menu is present, but what makes Picktorial that much better is the option to work with very easy-to-use Luminosity and Color Masks.  I haven’t used a more slick looking Luminosity Mask feature yet, and I will say that I primarily use Luminosity Mask over HDR 90% of the time.  Until finding Picktorial, I was creating my own masks and used panels in Photoshop, but I was only able to that after many hours of watching tutorials…  Now there is no more need to spend lots of time or money learning these techniques because the people at Picktorial just delivered the first friendly user Luminosity Mask slider.  The Colour Mask is equally impressive.  It is very easy to make adjustments to an area that has a certain color cast and preserve the rest of the image.  This will help a lot of people who shoot with different color tones like sunsets or interior shoots with a blue and orange light.

Picktorial won’t let you down when it comes to finishing and exporting the images.  There is a very interesting selection of vignettes and borders to choose from and no need to find another app for adding your watermark.  After the final touches, you just have to choose if you want to send it back to your MAC Photos, save it on your computer or sending it online to Facebook, Flickr or any of the other options available.

Here it is, a fun and easy way to edit photos at a very interesting price tag.  Take look at the Picktorial website.  I firmly believe that Picktorial is a great addition for anyone using MAC Photos and any body looking to have an all-in-one retouching software for MAC.

 

Luminar Neptune. The new version is now available!

Luminar Neptune 300x600

Luminar Neptune is Live!  This new version offer great features including a Accent AI filter, Macphun plug-in integration, new work space and more.

I had the chance to get my hand on a early version and did not waste time to try the look of Neptune.  First I would like to say that this version is performing well.  The improvement memory management really shows on my new MacBook Pro.  Then I was very curious about the AI filter, would it really works??  I made several tests on landscape, wildlife and portrait images.  Luminar was able to determine the lightening and type of images to edit improving the photos in a very natural and smooth way.  Definitely a quick and easy way to start editing an image.  The vignette and crop tool have changed offering more options.  I really enjoy the preset crop ratio for Facebook.

This version of Luminar include a quick plug-in link for the Creative Macphun Kit and Aurora HDR 2017.  It is now possible to seamlessly send images between Macphun products.  Keep in mind that Macphun have promotions where you can get your hands on some of their software at a huge discount.  I usually post any special offers on my journal and my Facebook page.

I would recommend Luminar to anyone looking for a versatile and easy to use all in one photo editor.  For our windows friends, Macphun is now available to PC users!  Take a look at this quick review video.