Monday, January 23, 2017

A visit by Aliens

Yes it has been awhile since my last post, well actually about a year. One of the reasons has been my health which is back on track to wellness and the other has been a frustration with software. If you look at my Fine art web site you will see my style of landscape photography @ Silver Streams Galleria  My technique has evolved to a point of consistency in this style. Previous post have shown how I came about this look. No mysteries or secrets here. Never being a Photoshop user I have been on a trip through software to help me evolve this style. Well why not just use Photoshop? First, for me is its just too big and complex. Second, for whatever reason, my brain just can not figure out Adobe products. It just does not click for me. My son uses it for his graphic design but I just can't get it. Lightroom was fine but did not do what I needed to create this type of art.
So my artwork has been on a journey of discovery through every photo software application in the industry. Name it and I have probably tried the 30 day trial. I use a PC so there are a few that are only MAC specific. Sorry not going back to Apple products just to try software.

If you have read some of my older post I was using Capture One for a lot of my creations. It is still great software and I still have it for five more months. And herein lays the problem for me with some of these companies. I do not want to rent software. Paying a monthly fee rubs me wrong. Since I have signed up you can not just cancel without penalty. So 5 more months of paying for something not being used.

Another issue that I have been having problems with is database catalogs. I work off an external drive setup as a Raid 1 drive and a USB 3 connection. On this drive is over 95,000 images. Both Lightroom and Capture One were having problems with cataloging my drives. Maybe the size or number of images. Not sure. What I did discover is some software developers are developing their product that does not create a catalog in the traditional sense. This intrigued me as to how it would work for me. And that's when I was visited by Aliens.

It was late at night and drinking a good Bourbon when there was a bright flash and there before me appeared three little gray aliens. I was frozen in front of my 27" screen with glass of Bourbon in hand.  I asked are you from Mar? Who appears to be their leader spoke up and said..."No we are from Raleigh, North Carolina. "Is that close to Mars?", I ask. No was the reply.."Just South of Canada" he says. The leader goes on to say "We have been watching from afar and noticed you have been frustrated with software. Go to this site www.alienskin.com download the software and give it a try. We will be back in 30 days to see what you think. If you don't like it we will destroy all of planet earth with our ray gun." Cool!

So now being forced to try Alien Skin Exposure X2 OR face the destruction of the planet. I downloaded it and here are the results.

In my trips to the Smoky Mountains I had captured this image this past Fall and waited knowing what I wanted to create, but could not get software to work the way I wanted. I loved the way the roots of these trees grew on top of the rocks. There is no soil here for the roots to dig in. I could see the light and what I wanted to do with it. The lighting was perfect that afternoon. It was very soft and non-directional.



So what do I think? I like it! Alien Skin Exposure X2 is a very nice, streamlined and quick bit of software. I will not get into a few review of the software but I will talk about their adjustment layers and cataloging. First with the catalog. They do not do it like Lightroom. There is no catalog per say. It appears what they do is scan your folder structure and add a sidecar folder with all the information. My folder structure is straight up year/month/day with over 95,000 images and man did their software scan and catalog FAST. It was impressive. Now the adjustment layer is very powerful allowing all kinds of adjustments and film presets. I was told the amount of layers is not limited. Looking at the image screenshot below you can see the selected layers by the dots. Each dot is a layer selection individually brushed in, using my Wacum, to create the look.

What I like to do is take the image and reduce the overall exposure then paint the light back in with individual adjustments for each area of the image. Pretty simple stuff really. It gives me complete control to create the mood and light direction.




So what you see below is the final image with all layers complete. The light was created to highlight the trees and roots with some falloff into the back. As Bob Ross would say "You need darkness to show the light". This is what I had envisioned when first capturing the image.




Exposure X2 has been easy to learn and a pleasure to use. So far it seems to be bug free not having any crashes on my PC. Over this 30 day trial period I have been in contact with one of the Aliens named Nate (strange name for an alien I thought). This alien has been very responsive to my questions and future suggestions.

So the world owes me a big thank you. I have gone ahead and purchased the full suite thereby saving the planet from certain destruction by the ray gun. You are all welcome. So far the Aliens have not returned. Safe travels.