Macphun Intensify

It’s interesting to compare images processed in Adobe Camera Raw then enhanced with Nik Color Efex Pro 4 versus Macphun Intensify.  I’ve done pretty simple processing on each of the photos you see below.  Each was processed in a minute or so — if that much.

Atlantic Ocean, crashing waves, Essaouira; Morocco
This image was processed in Adobe Camera Raw.  Clarify — 40, Vibrance — 20, Saturation — 20, Exposure — +1.05, Shadow — +52.  
Atlantic Ocean KAC5129Nik
The same image as above.  Opened in Photoshop and then opened in Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4.  A bit of tweaking with the detail extractor  slider.
Atlantic Ocean, crashing waves, Essaouira; Morocco
Same basic processing as photo #1 in Adobe Camera Raw.  Then opened in Photoshop and then opened in Macphun Intensify.  I used a bit of Architectural Details and then some Balanced Tones.  

Once again, simple processing on each image.  Nothing complicated.  No dodging, burning, layers, etc.  Just some basic processing.

I was impressed with Nik but I’m really impressed with Macphun.

Use Promo code Adams to get a discount when buying Macphun Luminar or Aurora HDR.

Photographing the Solar Eclipse

Solar Eclipse Sequence KAC1blog
Total eclipse of the sun photographed in Iceland in 2015.  This sequence was photographed with a 300mm lens fitted with a 10-stop ND filter to block the light to the sun.

August 21, 2017 there will be a total eclipse of the sun.  Most people in the United States will be able to see this event.  Several million lucky people will be right under the eclipse as it moves diagonally across the US from Oregon to Georgia.

Photographing the eclipse is going to be a challenge.  I photographed the total eclipse of the sun that passed over Iceland in March 2015.  Now is a good chance to share my experience from that event.

Repost from March 2015:

A few years ago I read a news report about a total eclipse of the sun on March 20, 2015.  I’ve never had the opportunity to photograph solar eclipse.  Why not build a photo tour around the eclipse?

Strabo Photo Tour Collection has coordinated my photo tours for years so I contacted the owner, Jacque Steedle, with the idea.  The eclipse would go pretty close to Iceland, one of Strabo’s premiere destinations.  We both liked the idea and thought it would be fun to also offer opportunities to photograph the northern lights as well as landscapes of Iceland in the winter.

Our group arrived in Iceland on March 13th and the weather leading up to March 20th was been horrible.  Our flight to Iceland was cancelled due to high winds.  Then we had rain, sleet, snow, and more high winds.  Clouds covered the skies most of the time.

On the evening of March 19th we had clear skies for a bit.  We briefly saw the aurora borealis but then the clouds moved back in.  The weather forecast for the morning looked good as we headed off to bed.

March 20th dawned clear, crisp, and cold.  There was not a cloud in the sky when I opened the curtains in my hotel room.  The wind was still.  Could the photo gods really have given us such a treasure?

The group ate breakfast and then we grouped together to review all our camera settings.  Einar Matthiasson, our guide in Iceland, agreed with me that we stay on the hotel grounds and shoot from the small hill in a hay field.  That hill gave us a view of Hekla, one of the most famous volcanoes in Iceland.

Einar had researched the angle of the eclipse and placed two large sticks on the ground in front of our group.  Those of us shooting time lapse with wide-angle lenses used the sticks to make sure we had the entire arch of the sun in our frames.

At around 8:30 a.m. it was time to get into position.  We put our eclipse glasses and started photographing.

Details and Equipment:

  • Planning is essential.  We had all the equipment assembled and ready to go an hour before the eclipse began.
  • Focus on infinity and turn off auto focus.
  • Turn off image stabilization.
  • Manual exposure at f/4.5 during totality worked well.  When the sun was brighter f/16 helped cut some the light.
  • Spot meter with a focus point on the sun gave an accurate reading most of the time.
  • Shutter speed stayed between 1/5000 and 1/8000 for most of the eclipse.
  • Exposure compensation was needed when the sun was big.
  • A sturdy tripod is a must.
  • A programmable shutter release like the Vello Shutterboss II or the Canon TC80N3 was perfect for the time lapse.

Lessons Learning the Hard Way:

  • Buy a 10-stop ND filter for all the cameras.  I didn’t have one for my small camera shooting the time lapse or for my telephoto lens.  (Stupid me!!)   I had to hold the 10-stop ND in front of my telephoto lens for most of the shoot.
  • Don’t kick the tripod if you’re planning to layer a sequence of images.
  • Use a programmable shutter release to get a precise sequence of images.  Shooting here and there is okay but the precision of a regular interval is better.
  • The sun is big in the frame if you use a telephoto lens.  The sun is small in the frame if you use a wide-angle lens.
  • Two heads are better than one.  Have a buddy who knows what they are doing.  Work as a team.  Temporary moments of insanity are possible during the eclipse.
Solar Eclipse Sequence KAC2blog
Total eclipse of the sun photographed in Iceland in 2015.  This sequence was photographed with a 300mm lens and 10-stop ND filter to block the light to the sun.


Here’s a time lapse of the eclipse.  I did not use a 10-stop ND filter on this camera so the sun is not totally in darkness.  This is a good example of what you will see with your “eclipse” glasses on.

Totality, by the way, is when the airplane circles the sun.  Yes, an airplane full of people circled around the sun at totality so they were in all our photos.

Porteengear Camera Bag

Screen Shot 2017-07-14 at 7.27.36 PMPorteengear Camera Bags have me so excited.  I can’t wait for my new bag to arrive.

For years I’ve used a LowePro Passport to carry my cameras and lenses when I’m out photographing the streets or  an amusement park or traveling light with my equipment.  My LowePro Passport carries a camera, two lenses, and flash plus wallet, cellphone, and bottle of water.

But things have changed and Porteengear is in my life.  Well almost — my bag will be here in two weeks.

Porteengear offers camera bags that you design yourself.  On the Porteengear website you enter the custom design page.

Screen Shot 2017-07-14 at 7.12.24 PM

You choose the size of your camera bag from tiny bag to one that will hold your laptop.

  1.   You select the flap design.  Options include a bit of accent color or fabric to a uniform color.
  2.    Then the fun beings.
    1. You can select  the overall bag covering including tooled leather, snake skin, aged leather, or even Damask.  There’s a Vegan fake leather option.
    2. Then you select your second leather color.  For example, black with tooled leather.   Maybe teal leather with a some subtle brocade.    Maybe distressed leather with a nice tartan plaid for a more masculine look.
    3. Next you select the color of the outer shell of the bag.
    4. Then you can select the interior color of the camera bag.  All my camera equipment is black so the last thing I want is a black-colored interior.  Select a bright color or a dark color.  The interior color of your camera bag is your choice.
    5. We get to choose the color of the strap.
    6. We get to choose antique hardware or traditional.
    7. Then there’s an option to add a dust flap and/or luggage sleeve.

Screen Shot 2017-07-14 at 7.22.37 PM

All those options are live on the screen.  That means you can design several bags and then make a final decision in a couple of days — or maybe after consulting your friends.


Need help designing your bag?  Head to Porteengear’s Etsy page to see bags designed by the pros.  Click the Shop option on the Porteengear page and see bags already designed for you.  Order one of those or use the design as a starting point.

My new Porteengear camera bag!?  I’ll show you in a couple of weeks when it arrives.


Macphun Free Launch of Beta Luminar for Windows

 I’ve been working with Macphun’s Luminar on my Mac and love it.  PC users can now get a beta version of Luminar for Windows.  Free!

Here’s the Press Release from Macphun:

Macphun makes free public beta of Luminar for Windows available for download 


San Diego, CA – July 13, 2017Macphun, the California-based developer known for delivering award-winning products for Mac, today launched the free public beta of its award-winning photo editor Luminar for Windows. To download the beta, please visit

Luminar is a powerful photo editor designed to tackle anyone’s photography needs, from correcting challenging image problems to artful stylizing. Users can choose between levels of image processing complexity based on their experience, and adapt the workspace controls to their skill level, moving up to more advanced modes as they learn. Luminar works in non-destructive fashion and aims to take “work” from photo editing “workflow” for photographers worldwide.

In April, only 5 months after its launch, Luminar for Mac won the prestigious TIPA award for Best Imaging Software 2017. This all-in-one photo editor is a cutting-edge solution for creating fascinating images without extra hassle. Luminar includes over 300 robust tools that make fixing, editing and perfecting a photo as easy as moving a slider.

“We are thrilled to release our first PC product today and give photography enthusiasts around the world the first taste of our best-selling Mac product,” said Kevin La Rue, Vice-President at Macphun. “By test-driving Luminar for Windows, beta testers can help shape our software and make the final release a perfect fit for everyone,” concluded La Rue.

 The public beta is free of charge and already matches some of the most important features of Luminar, such as the newest and most advanced tool developed by Macphun’s Research and Development Lab – the Accent AI Filter, powered by artificial intelligence technology. The filter allows anyone to create stunning images with a single slider, substituting for dozens of traditional controls like shadows, highlights, contrast, tone, saturation, exposure, details and many others.

Admittedly, several features from the Mac version of Luminar remain in development for the Windows platform, among them workspaces, plug-in integration, object removal, noise reduction, and more. As these are completed, the public beta will be updated regularly leading to a full cross-platform release late in 2017.

Key features of the Luminar for Windows public beta:

  • Adaptive user interface – Exactly matching the Mac version, the software adapts to the skill level and preferences of the photographer.
  • One-click presets – Over 50 pre-defined styles for every photography style.
  • Photo Editing Filters – Over 40 custom filters, each with built-in visual tips and a unique set of easy-to-use controls for correcting, enhancing and stylizing images.
  • RAW file conversion – Support for the latest RAW file libraries.
  • Non-destructive workflow – Edit without fear.
  • Recommended System Requirements – Windows 10, Core i5 2.2 or better, 8GB RAM, 1GB GPU RAM, SSD with 20+GB free space.

Macphun Intensify

I’m having fun exploring Macphun’s Intensify.  This is a plug-in that works with Photoshop or Lightroom

Watch what happens to this image that I took in Venice two years ago.

Screen Shot 2017-07-12 at 9.15.15 PM
This is my photo of a magnificent storm over Venice.  I’ve processed the image in Adobe Camera Raw and then opened it into Photoshop.  

With the image open in Photoshop, I click Filters and open Macphun Intensify.  A screen capture is above.

Screen Shot 2017-07-12 at 9.15.23 PM
The first slider I  selected was Architectural Details.  Notice the details in the clouds.  
Screen Shot 2017-07-12 at 9.15.40 PM
The second  slider that I used was the Balanced Tool slider.   Notice how this slider brings out the gold on the edge of the clouds on the right side.   It was too much at 100% so I moved the slider to 49%.
Screen Shot 2017-07-12 at 9.17.17 PM
Then I selected the Strong Indoor Details slider.  The change is pretty subtle but there’s a bit more detail in the buildings.
Venice Macphun before and after Intensify
Here’s the before and after.  Macphun Intensify is pretty amazing.  

Fireworks Season — Relook at Cropping Plus Content Aware

Photoshop CC 2017 gives us an amazing feature under the crop tool.  Normally we think of using the crop tool to reduce an image or take away something we don’t want in an image.

(This tool was added in version 2015.5, by the way, so you might have it.)

With Crop we can ADD a bit to an image.  This is useful if we cut something off or something spills out of the frame.

Notice in the photo on the left that the burst of light exceeded the size of the frame.

In the photo on the right, you’ll see that the top of burst has been captured — or recreated.

I did that with Content Aware in the crop tool in  Photoshop 2017.

Here’s how it works:

  • Open the image in Photoshop CC.
  • Click on the crop tool
  • Click on the tiny box next to the words Content Aware in the ribbon above the photo. (I’ve circled it below)
  • Then pull the crop box up about 1/4 inch.
  • Press return and Photoshop works magic and the small area above the photo is filled in.
  • Do that again with another 1/4 inch and a bit more area is created.
  • Flatten the layers when finished.
  • Click Filter>Camera Raw Filter or open into Lightroom for minor tweaking to the cloned area.

Pretty amazing tool, Adobe.  Give it a try as you process your fireworks photos.

Fireworks — Layers Can Be Your Friend

Fireworks in The Woodlands, Texas, on the 4th of July.  Fourth of July
This is a layer blend of several photos.

Not every photo you take at the fireworks display will be perfect.  The burst will be too small, the burst will be a bit to the left, the other too far to the right, etc.

Let Layers in Photoshop come to the rescue.

This only works, by the way, if you don’t move your tripod during the display.

Highlight each image that you want to blend in Photoshop Bridge.  Clicked on Tools >Photoshop> Load Files Into Photoshop Layers.  Photoshop opens the images in a layer stack on the right side.  (Lightroom users will highlight all the images, click Edit>Photo>Load Files Into Photoshop Layers.)

Highlight each image, then clicked on Lighten in the blend mode.  Then click Layer>Flatten.   Click on Filter>Camera Raw Filter to open the image in Adobe Camera Raw so you can tweek it a bit.

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Photograph Fireworks

Fireworks, crowd, Kemah Boardwalk, Kemah, Texas.
You didn’t get to the display in time.  You’re not in your desired location.  Make it work!

Don’t stress it if things aren’t going well at the fireworks display.

Put the camera on the tripod.  Frame the scene in front of you.  Set the camera’s mode to Aperture Priority.  Dial the f/stop to 5.6.  Raise the ISO to around 400.

Take a couple of shots.  Look at them on the back of the camera.  Too bright, then drop the ISO to 200 or 100.  Not bright enough, raise the ISO to 800 — though this is usually not the case.  Take a couple of shots and repeat.

The key is to not get flustered.  You can do it!


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