Luminar Neptune To The Rescue?

With Google abandoning it’s Nik Software Collection by Google, there are a lot of people trying to duplicate the things they did in Nik in other plugins suites.  On1 and MacPhun are two plugin developers that have the ability to do the same image manipulation that the Nik does with varying success.

I’ve purchased and  used both suites but have not found that there was much added value to what Nik and especially Color Effects Pro 4.0 did.  And if Nik were to continue to be supported (apparently it is already breaking on some hardware and software platforms) I would probably not be looking for a replacement.

As a long time KelbyOne member I just watched a 2 hour class on a new MacPhun product called Luminar Neptune which seems to do some things like the Nik software. This may be because the MacPhun people were involved with developing the original Nik Collection.

I’ve always had a hard time understanding why Nik, MacPhun and ON1 all had separate plugins for different jobs.  It gets really confusing when the current products all had different version numbers like Color Effects Pro 4 and Define 2 etc.

Luminar Neptune is a single plugin that combines features of multiple plugins in previous suites.  Luminar Neptune can also be run as a stand alone application for developing raw or jpeg images without having to go near Lightroom or Photoshop.

So armed with the recent KelbyOne class and a credit card I purchased Luminar Neptune 1.2.0.  If you are a KelbyOne member or a previous owner of other MacPhun software you may be able to get a discount over the current $69 (US) price.

I bought it because it seems like the right time to transition off of the Nik Suite and because the tie in between MacPhun and the Nik Suite before Google. I was hoping that I might be easy to flip over. And it was. Except I went about it in the wrong way.

What I was hoping to do was set up some presets that basically did the same things I was doing on an ongoing basis with Nik.  So I started out with a cloud image that I had processed very normally in Lightroom applying the Camera ACROS+R filter for conversion to black and white.

Structure – Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR 16mm 1/2400 sec F8.0 ISO 200. With Lightroom Processing only.

To apply any filters I always import the image into Photoshop as a Smart Object so I can re-manipulate whichever plugins I use if I feel the need (and I usually do). So first I used a action I created to launch Color Effects Pro 4.0 and apply a preset I created based on settings to Pro Contrast and Tonal Contrast that I picked up from a class by Moose Peterson which is also on KelbyOne.

Structure – Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR 16mm 1/2400 sec F8.0 ISO 200. Color Effects Pro 4.0 Pro and Tonal Contrast applied

I then made a virtual copy of the image and again passed to Photoshop as a smart object and this time launched the Luminar Neptune plugin. Now it would just be easy if MacPhun had created a filter called Pro Contrast and one called Tonal Contrast so I could just mimic the settings but 1) That might get a negative reaction out of Google. 2) been no fun at all. So the first thing I tried was to see if I could get Luminar to duplicate what I was doing in Nik. And that, in my opinion, is the wrong thing to do. Instead I went my own way using some suggested filters (thanks to Scott Kelby). I used the filters to make the image look like I wanted it to instead of making the image look like the Nik image. There is a lot more crunch in the image with the Luminar plugin than in the Nik one. In fact I was surprised at how soft the Nik processed image was. Look on the right side of the image at the small dark clouds about 1/3 of the way down. I really like what happens to them with the extra crunch.

Structure – Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR 16mm 1/2400 sec F8.0 ISO 200. Photoshop with the Luminar Neptune plugin

The Nik software needs to be replaced, it’s not going anywhere and will soon be no more than a boat anchor. If you are using image enhancing software you need to try the different Suites and settle on one that makes sense for you.  And don’t just try to duplicate things from the old dead plugin, experiment and see what you can do with the latest and greatest. Both MacPhun and ON1 have trial periods so you can test both of them.  I liked the Nik plugins and because of the link to MacPhun1 thru common developers I went that path. Your path may be different and don’t get bogged down in how to exactly duplicate old tech, it’s time to experiment and maybe get something a bit more you.

1I still have an issue with company names that are misspellings but that is again a personal issue.

Image shot with:

It’s Full of Stars – Night Shots With The Fujinon XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

Earlier this month the Moon and Jupiter were having a chariot race across the night sky. I got out my Fujifilm X-T2 and the XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR to see if I could capture both the Moon and Jupiter in the same image. I added the XF 1.4x TC WR teleconverter with the idea of capturing just the moon as large as I could. And then backed off a bit to see if I could get both objects into the same frame.

Moon Fujifilm X-T2 X-T2 XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR XF 1.4x TC WR F8 1/125sec ISO 400 560mm.

To shoot a full or nearly full moon you need to use manual mode as any exposure meter will more than likely try to over expose all that black space surrounding the Moon.  Getting the exposure right for the Moon, in this case F8 1/125sec ISO 400, means that any other objects are just too dim to be picked up.

Moon and Jupiter Fujifilm X-T2 X-T2 XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR XF 1.4x TC WR F8 1/125sec ISO 400 173.3mm.

Luckily for me Jupiter was bright enough to just be seen in the image if I backed off from full zoom. The distance between the Moon and Jupiter looked very close but as you zoom in the gap got pretty big. You may need to click on the image to make it larger enough to see Jupiter but it is there.

I was pretty happy that I was able to get both objects into the view but the image held a surprise.

Full of Stars Fujifilm X-T2 X-T2 XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR XF 1.4x TC WR F8 1/125sec ISO 400 173.3mm.

If you look at this image you will see that there are a lot of stars (and maybe a little noise) in the image. I moved the exposure up by 3.5 stops in lightroom and discovered that the image was full of stars. I did have to do an adjustment brush on the moon to bring down the exposure by the 3.5 stops so it wasn’t completely blown out.  The XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens picked up a lot of starlight!

Pushing my luck I took a shot just of Jupiter then with a crop to 1600×1600 and another overexposure by 3.5 stops brought in not only starlight but the light of three of Jupiter’s moons.

Jupiter (Last Night)

While most suggest using a wide angled lens at F2.8 with an 1600 ISO and a 30 second exposure for night photography, you sure can pick up a lot of stars with a telephoto lens and a short exposure time. Note: all images were shot hand held which is pretty impressive but with the 1/125 exposure with the VR turned on the images were sharp. The XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR is a spectacular lens.

Images shot with Fujifilm X-T2 and the Fujinon XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

Post Processing Tools And Fuji X-Trans

A recent update to Capture One Pro (10.1.1) has enhanced processing for Fujifilm X-Trans sensors. And if you are on Adobe Lightroom CC (15.10) image processing for the X-Trans sensor seems to be pretty stable.  Since I have both I thought it might be interesting to see if there is any difference or distinctions for using one over the other.

I choose the image “Basket (Details)” as a test of how each one works. The image was taken with the XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR on my Fujifilm X-T2. It was shot at 1/125 sec. at F5.6 with ISO at 1000 and auto white balance. In Lightroom I used the Camera Profile  Provia/Standard. I used an imported ICC Fujifilm Provia/Standard profile in Capture One.  So both images had the same starting point.

Basket (Details) Lightroom Processing
Basket Details Capture One Processing

The two end results were very similar. I think the Lightroom edit is a bit brighter but the Capture One noise processing is a bit nicer. I did do the processing for the Capture One version first and was pretty happy with the result. I then tried to match the Capture One output in Lightroom, it was hard to get the two images to match. Click on the images to see full size peep your pixels images. Really thing that Capture One did a better job on noise processing.

Transformations

The recent update of Lightroom CC includes a new development panel called Transform.  Among the options on this new panel is the Guided transform which lets you show Lightroom just how you want to straighten  your image.  It also includes an Auto transform which does a pretty good job on most images.

If a perfect world you might never need to align or crop any of your images. But in the real world there is times when having good tools to adjust your image makes life so much easier.  Take this image that I transformed using the Auto transform. The transformation is pretty spectacular in that not only gave me the image I saw in my head, it did it with out losing any resolution. The image is still a 24mp (6000×4000 pixel) file.

The original image needed some work. This was because it was taken at Epcot on a crowded day and anything close to a straight image would have showed a lot of the crowd. If i could have the place to myself with a tilt-shift lens for my Fujifilm X-T2 I might have been able to get it done in camera. But I am really happy with the way it came out and I have no bad feelings about how the image was made.

Images shot with Fujifilm X-T2 and XF 16-55mm F/2.8 R LM WR


3 Uses for Lightroom’s New Reference Photo Feature

This past week Adobe released Lightroom CC 2015.8. The new release has some fixes, new camera profiles, and a new feature that allows you to compare the image currently being processed in the Develop Module against a reference image. The reference image can be another image including another copy of the same image. The reference images is not modified by any changes to the active image. I’ve come up with three reasons (there are more) to use this reference feature.

  1. Compare image as processed with all the tweaks you need against the straight out of camera image or unprocessed raw image.
  2. Compare image as finished processing in Lightroom with an image that has been further processed in Photoshop or through a plug in.
  3. Compare image in color versus black and white.

Here are three images to further explain what I would use each reference photo for and other details.

Compare straight out of camera image.

Fujifilm X-T2 XF 50-140mm F2.8 ISO 200 F4.5 1/440 second 50mm

The active image is a raw file that has my normal camera profile, sharping, and vibrance adjustments. I then made a virtual copy of the image and clicked on the reset button to put the virtual copy to the default processing done when Lightroom imports my Fujifilm X-T2 raw file. This zeros all the sliders and sets the camera profile to Adobe Standard. I would use this one to verify how the eye moves thru the processed file that might not be evident in the unprocessed file. Does your Lightroom processing do enough to invite your viewer in?. You could also use this feature if you are shooting in Raw+JPG mode and see how close you can come to the image processed in camera to jpeg.

Compare image with Lightroom processing with image processed in Photoshop.

Fujifilm X-T2 XF 50-140mm F2.8 ISO 200 F2.8 1/300 second 50mm

I usually use Photoshop to apply any plugins to my images. I open the image in Photoshop as a Smart Object then apply any plugins. This work flow means I can go back and tweak the image any number of times as the Photoshopped image is added to the catalog as a psd or tif. In any case you can reference your Lightroom processed images against all the changes in Photoshop. Depending on the image I can sometimes overcook the plugins in Photoshop. Having the Lightroom processed image give me a chance to go back into the Photoshop image and fix any issues I had with the processing. Once again does the processed image succeed at moving the eye around the image as you intended?

Compare image in color versus black and white.

Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm F2.8 ISO 200 F8 1/640 second 31.1mm

Sometimes you need to look at both color and black and white to determine which is better for the story you are telling. Create a virtual copy of the processed color image then convert to black and white within Lightroom or a plugin. In this chase I applied the Fujifilm ACROS+R camera profile to the virtual copy. Of course because you made a virtual copy you can have the best of both worlds. In this image I like the black and white because it removes the distraction of the red shirted guy in the left of the image and the people a little further up the river also on the left.

 

Images shot with Fujifilm X-T2
 Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR
Fujinon XF50-140mm F2.i R LM OIS WR at Amazon

The Instagram Conundrum

I’m really conflicted by Instagram. Everyone says as a photographer you need to be on Instagram for the exposure and that is probably true. The problem is that Instagram doesn’t make it easy as a photographer to post pictures and once posted Instagram’s interface leaves a lot to be desired. If you are using Instagram as a portfolio you need to have absolute control of the image before it is posted.

First off is getting your images to Instagram. Unless you take your images directly on your phone and do all your post processing there you have to jump thru hoops to get you images published. If I have a choice between processing an image on a profiled 27″ monitor or a smart phone screen I will pick the monitor 100% of the time. My workflow for getting a image on to Instagram is as follows.

  1. Process image in Lightroom and (if necessary) Photoshop on 27″ iMac.
  2. Publish jpeg to a Google Drive Folder then wait for image to sync.
  3. Open Google Drive on  Nexus 7.
  4. Navigate to the same Google Drive Folder.
  5. Click on image to load it to device.
  6. Click on the three dots in upper right of image.
  7. Click on Send Copy To
  8. Choose Instagram.

This will bring up the image in  Instagram. You can then change the crop from square to correct aspect ratio for the image. You can also apply one of the Instagram filters although I can’t see any reason for changing the image that you have already processed. Then add your caption and post.

While this will get your images into Instagram there are a number of things about Instagram’s interface that still bug me. Like the fact there is no way to quickly get back to the top once you’ve scrolled down through the stream of images from the people you follow. On the web based Instagram you normally can click on the header of a page for a refresh but not with Instagram. You can not zoom into an image to get detailed look. On the iPad/Nexus 7 you can only view the images in portrait mode which means an iPad with a keyboard attached makes it very hard to enter text for captions as you have to sort of tilt your head to see what you’ve written or try to type accordion style with one hand on the keyboard. And on the  iPad you can look at the images at 1x, the same size as an iPhone, or at 2x which reduces the quality of the to fill the screen.

Instagram seems to make it much easier to post a badly lit over processed selfie then your good work.

Well I’m glad I got that off my chest. And BTW my here is link to my Instagram account.

For those of you wondering how I publish directly from Lightroom to the Google Drive here is how I’ve got things set up in Lightroom’s Publishing Manager.

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