Recently the people over at Sleeklens gave me their Landscape Essentials workflow bundle to check out. The bundle was offered to me free of charge in an exchange for a review of the product. This bundle includes dozens of preconfigured Lightroom presets that are intended to cut down on image processing time. After downloading, installation only took a few minutes and their instructions were simple. All images seen below were shot on the Canon 5D mark 3. It's also worth noting that these were all shot in RAW. Jpegs will not be as forgiving to adjustments in post as the RAW images are. Here are some of the results:
This image was processed by stacking the "Deep Blue Skies" and "Color Pop" presets. Additionally I brushed out some of the highlights and scaled back the "Color Pop" attributes just a tad. Nice results, processing time approx 30 seconds.
On this next one I just applied the "Autumn Color" preset. No further editing was required. I noticed this preset works way better on bringing out more subtle tones. I tried it on an actual photo of fall foliage and the result was way over the top.
Next we have the "Shine into Sunset" preset. This one wasn't perfect out of the gate but with some minor additional tweaking I had a finished image in under a minute. I pulled down the shadows, blacks, and sharpness manually after applying the preset.
For this next example, I picked a drab photo to see what I could do with it. The "Punchy" preset seemed promising. It's application proved slightly too punchy, but I very easily tweaked it back. I also stacked "Deep Blue Skies" again which is probably my favorite preset thus far. As you can see, it rescued some sky for me. Nice results.
Huge difference in the next one. Just stacked "Brighten Shadows" and "Cinematic". I really wanted the cinematic filter to work, but wasn't having much luck until I applied it to this one. Very quick editing job, yet very effective.
My findings below...
This Landscape essentials package came with a ton of presets and brushes. I really only scratched the surface of them after playing with them for a couple of days. There are certainly some fun and effective options in here for reducing editing time. Installing and using these are very easy.
Some of these presets look great until you actually view the photo at 100%. If you're printing or posting high-res images, you need to really pay attention to the details. Occasionally a preset will be very heavy handed with the shadows or saturation and you will end up with a ton of noise or color aberration. These issues can be mitigated by further tweaking of the regular lightroom tools, but it will cost you more editing time. I personally did not like some of the more extreme presets. There are a few that try to emulate film stocks by putting washes over your image, I think these look way too unnatural but some people might like them for the very reasons I didn't.
It's hard to have any universal expectations of how some of these are going to work. A preset that works great for a particular photo may not work well for a similar photo. Not really an issue as you can just undo any application in no time. Some presets will utilize "Lens Corrections" to transform the shape of the photo. If this produces an undesirable effect, simply go to lens corrections, basic, and uncheck "Enable Profile Corrections".
I think if you like working with presets and don't enjoy doing everything from scratch, you'll probably have fun with these. If you're cranking out a lot of stylized images, these could potentially save you some time. Also, if you're new to lightroom and perhaps a little intimidated, these may provide some added comfort because they do a lot of work for you, and you're still able to fine tune from there. That said, I still very much enjoy taking my time to craft an image manually. I'll leave you with one more example below and thank you to Sleeklens for letting me try these out!
I was recently out with a good group from Cape Ann Divers and it warranted an annual "blog" post! We dove BFW and Landy's Ledge, both spectacular wall dives. Before leaving the dock, we noticed an unusual abundance of salps congregating around the slips. Every few years we see a bloom of these planktonic tunicates.
I shot the salps photo above from the dock, just dunked my camera in and started shooting. The water was thick with them. Below, Robert Landy is holding one. They are surprisingly weighty, gelatinous and mostly translucent. They do not sting.
However, the photography sweet spot for BFW is not necessarily the wall itself, but the band of terrain just below the seaweed at the rolling cusp of the slope down to the wall. Here is a stretch of vibrant pink granite accented by palmate sponges. It looks like the landscape from a science fiction movie.
On the ride home, we were treated to this spectacular view. You can book a trip to either of these locations with Cape Ann Divers. Happy Diving!
Last weekend was my first trip to the Poling in 2014. Originally I had hoped to create some compositions from a series of photos taken along the deck. In water, I ultimately ditched those plans because of some logistical issues. First being that there were 13 divers in the water and visibility was not great. Also, I was working much harder than I like to underwater, possibly due to the amount of donuts I ate earlier in the week. I made the decision to hang by the stern (stern of the stern) and work on some natural light photos.
I was very pleased to recreate Dave Stillman's iconic stern photo, almost 20 years later (shown above). Surface interval be damned, Chuck and I jumped in for a second dive before the rest of the gang arrived. I had a a few minutes to set up this shot. With some Lightroom magic I was able to buy myself a bit more visibility than there was in real life. I've been trying to get this shot for a while now.
No matter how many times I see the poling, I can always seem to entertain myself. And for the photo buffs... black and white is almost essential to capture the depth and contrast of the wrecks in New England. These were shot with a 15mm prime lens, f2.8, 1/100, ISO 4000ish. As always, a million thanks to the Cape Ann Divers crew, I could not get these shots without their help!
Just minutes after arriving at the dock, I remember commenting about how clear the harbor water was to Robert Landy. Just minutes after that, my dry-bag fell in the harbor all on it's own. A brave young lady, Angie, grabbed it from the harbor before I lost everything. It wasn't long until I realized that my gopro and lights were resting comfortably somewhere below the dock... I reluctantly put on my saturated undergarments and donned my drysuit, I was going in. I instantly regretted my choice not to wear gloves as I started to brush the crabs off my sunken items. With the help of the fine crew on the Cape Ann boat, I was in and out of the water in the matter of a moment or 2. And yes, I swallowed my pride as Dave Shumway was hosing me down after the ordeal. In any case, I've yet to grow any spare parts from the filthy harbor water, but there's still time for that.
Later, on the dive to the Poling I decided to treat myself and not bring in my big camera rig. It was the first time in 4 years I haven't brought 15 pounds of camera with me. Conditions were fine and it was so relaxing to not be wielding a big camera. I still had the gopro as I poked in and out of the wreck looking for treasure.
Next was Pickett's Ledge, a submerged pinnacle with lots of nice grooves, overhangs, and trenches. Visibility was lousy on the bottom, but decent near 30' I hung out near the anchor shooting anemones.
Perhaps the best part of the day (other than getting hosed off) was the sky. There was an amazing and dynamic display of light and color from the cloud coverage. You could tell the seasons are changing. Enjoy.
Helgoland was an underwater laboratory where saturation divers lived and worked for weeks at a time. Sized only at 14 meters long, 7 meters wide and 7 meters high, you can imagine the living conditions down there. I suspect it was very cold, damp, dark and claustrophobic. The lab operated for a brief period of time in the mid seventies close to Jeffery's Ledge, several miles east of Rockport MA in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. In addition to studying herring, the scientists on board also researched saturation diving techniques. The lab is now retired to Germany (its home country) as a museum piece.
Diving this historical site has been a priority for me even though the lab itself is no longer there. There are old mooring blocks, anchors and several other artifacts left behind from the experiments. This past weekend, a handful of divers finally got to dive the site. Capt. Steve Smith of Cape Ann Divers was able to anchor us somewhere within the site. I say "somewhere" as I'm not yet even remotely familiar with the area. At 115 FSW, there is no time to mess around. On the preliminary checkout dive, current was strong but manageable. Unfortunately, it never tapered off in the deeper water, so we were working fairly hard throughout the dive.concrete mooring stone
As evident in the photo, visibility easily exceeded 40'. I recall seeing the bottom far below me during my descent. The bottom composition is beach-ball sized granite cobble. There was an incredible assortment of badge stars and northern red anemones growing on the rocks. In the very small area that we covered, we were able to find a mooring stone left over from the experiments. However, we burned through our bottom time in minutes and it was time to head back up. Ocean conditions prevented us from making a second dive. This is not the easiest location, but a very intriguing site and I can't wait to return. Next time we will know a little more of what to expect and hopefully we can help document more of the history of the ambitious Helgoland project.
I recently had the pleasure of riding on Easy Diver again, and it was a beautiful day. Easy Diver always chooses spots that are sheltered, shallow, and you guessed it, easy. I really like the occasional stress-free dive because it gives me an opportunity to shed about 40 pounds worth of gear. I can easily get 2 dives out of my tiny 70 cubic ft tank, and as a bonus the Captain lets me use his force fins which are the best fins that were ever created.
On this trip I was relentlessly pursued by this juvenile black sea bass that was madly in love with his reflection in my camera. This was a rare photo opportunity as I'm usually the one chasing fish, not the other way around.
Chester Poling dropcam mostly a success! A few modifications are in order, but we were able to make this video from only 2 dives.
Chuck arrives at the wreck
Today was a Poling run, a first for me this year. Having been there so many times, we tried to find ways to make things a bit more interesting. I really wanted to get some wide, desaturated photos of the wreck. I also wanted to get some video of the inside of the ship. The wide shots were a non-issue. I was able to get some nice, contrasty photos by doing some shooting in shutter priority and jacking up the ISO (no sunshine today). Chuck Marrone was both my partner in crime as well as my unwitting photographic subject. Below are some shots.
Getting footage of the inside of the wreck would prove more difficult. This was only feasible through 2 options: Penetrating the wreck, or sending a camera in without a person. I was not entirely comfortable with extensive exploration inside the wreck for obvious reasons (depth, hazards, low vis, unfamiliarity, large camera arms, etc.) But there are several hatch openings where one can drop in vertically and exit through the same opening with minimal overhead obstacles. This was by far the best option. We planned exactly where we would enter and for how long. I was inside about a minute, just long enough to snag some footage and get out with 12 minutes of time to spare before I needed to ascend. The inside was extremely silty, large flakes of rust sloughed off the walls if they were touched. It is really spooky in there.
On the next dive we decided to send a camera into the midsection of the wreck where the interior catwalk is located. To do this I built a small Gopro rig, the 'dropcam'. It's basically a chariot complete with lights that can be lowered into spaces as small as 6" in diameter. Today was the premiere flight of the dropcam. It worked OK, but I will be making some more modifications to the rig. The footage is mediocre as the gopro sensor really falls apart in low light conditions. I will post some video soon. Lastly, I do NOT endorse penetrating this wreck without proper training/experience, and even at that, it's probably a bad idea given the condition of the wreck.
That's all for today, happy diving. Thanks to Cape Ann Divers for getting us there and back and accommodating such a small group!
The ocean is freaking huge. Even in well known areas (like around Cape Ann), there's no way it's been comprehensively explored underwater. Thus, Mark Potter of Mass Diving and Cape Ann Divers organized an exploratory trip. The idea was to see something new, potentially that nobody has ever seen before. Even if it's just a hunk of rock with predictable stuff growing on it, the thought that we were the first to see something, SCUBA geeks live for this.
We stayed a bit east of halfway rock and the only real objective was to look for steep drop-offs, or underwater cliffs/hills. Diving these areas offers some excitement and a variety of wildlife and bottom topography. The first site we visited (Landy's Ledge?) was a large slab of granite that started around 60FSW and tumbled down to about 100'. I hung by the anchor line as I was by myself. I was also shooting macro so I wanted to be where the light was, and it doesn't really matter where you are when you're shooting critters that are less than an inch. I spent a good amount of time flirting with a sculpin that was playing coy. Eventually I earned its trust. Lobster, anemones and other invertebrates covered the granite, also thousands of cunner were schooling in the surge. This was a nice dive.
After our surface interval and PB&Js, Captain took us to site near Newcomb Ledge. Calm, no current, relatively shallow, easy, nice. There was a small wall here loaded with bizarre spider crabs that were covered with the same sponges and tunicates that the wall was covered with. I was hanging on the wall by myself thinking that it had been a while since I saw the anchor line. Suddenly, out of my periphery, I see Robert Landy come out of the darkness, I can't say I was relieved... Then Millhouser, nope, he was lost too. Then I was thrilled to see Elyssa and Caslyn. After nonchalantly swimming back and forth with those two, we all glanced at each other and shrugged. Yup, lost. It wasn't a ghastly swim back to the boat, probably Millhouser's fault anyway. Below are some of the camo-crabs and other goodies I shot. See if you can spot the crabs.
Alex Shure: SCUBA enthusiast, fish nerd, camera guy.