Adobe Photoshop 2021 New Features

Adobe Photoshop 2021 New Features

Adobe has released the latest version of Photoshop 2021. Photoshop has always been a very powerful piece of software, but the new tech and artificial intelligence take Photoshop to a whole new level with the following:

 

  • Sky Replacement– we knew that it was coming (see the sneak peek for this here) but now we can actually play with it (we already gave it a go) and it seems to work very well. Yes, you can do a lot of crazy replacements but you can also do some very minimalistic fixes that look very authentic, it’s all up to you. You can find it under “edit>sky replacement” in Photoshop 2021.
  • Neural Filters– these filters (under “filders>neural filters) are very powerful AI (actually cloud AI) based filters. Some are still in development or not even up yet but what you have is still plenty to play around with. You can do all sorts of crazy things including making a person look happier, angry, or surprised, change the look of the eyes (the gaze), but also smooth skin and add blur and so much more (you really need to test some of these things for yourself). You might need to download some extra bits if you want to try everything here and this will only keep evolving.
  • Intelligent Refine Hair – This is yet another improvement to Adobe’s AI subject selection tool and this focuses on hair. From what we tried so far it does improve the hair selection but it is still not 100% accurate (but every improvement is welcome as these things can save time).
  • Pattern Preview – this is more for graphic designers but you can create some interesting repeated patterns with this new tool under “view>pattern preview”.
  • Live shapes– this is another designer addition but it might actually be useful when creating titles and you want to spice things up with simple but cool graphics. In essence, this makes Photoshop a little closer to illustrator especially when it comes to shapes (and you now have a triangle and merge shapes and do all sorts of useful things).
  • Plugins– Adobe really pushed a new and more streamlined plugin ecosystem in Photoshop 2021 and you can easily download new plugins (and browse for more which is actually really nice as you don’t always know what you are looking for) from the marketplace (just go to “plugins>plugin’s panel and click brose plugins”).
  • Extras – There are a lot of smaller changes and bug fixes in Photoshop 2021. Two things worth mentioning are the “Search discover” option which lets you find lots of interesting tutorials and “windows>version history” which will let you see older versions of your cloud sync files.

An example of the Sky Replacement feature in Adobe Photoshop 2021: Original image on the feft & image on the right with Photoshop Sky Replacement Edit. The Sky Replacement creates layers for each edit process, so you then have total control over the end result

Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

Tucked away in the Brecon Beacons lies a waterway known as the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal that meanders along the contours of the Usk valley. The canal is navigable for 35 miles and provides some stunning vistas along the way. 

Prior to our little adventure on the Mon & Brec, I had tried to find out which parts of the canal might be the most photogenic, but I was unable to find any information that was useful to me from a photographic point of view, so this blog is my personal opinion of the locations on the Mon & Brec canal that I personally think were some of the best parts of our trip, together with the photography kit I took and used along the way.

We hired a 57-foot Narrow boat from Beacon Park Boats who have their base near Crickhowell. https://beaconparkboats.com Crickhowell is roughly half way between the Brecon end of the canal and Pontypool end. We decided to head along Brecon stretch of the canal first as it offered locks, swing bridges and the Brynich Aquaduct.

By the time we had received our narrow boat induction and had loaded our kit on to Heron, our narrow boat, we had roughly two to three hours cruising time before we would need to moor up for the night and as this was our first narrow boat trip with a 57 foot boat, getting used to how it handled meant ensuring we headed for a suitable place to dock for the night.

On our second day we headed for Talybont On Usk passing through Ashford Tunnel and the series of Coombes locks which provide good photographic opportunities and some great vistas too. We moored up just before the last lock on our return journey as this was a great location for photographs.

Talybont On Usk has good mooring access with two water points to fill up your tank and there are various walks you can do from  Talybont On Usk. We decided to walk up to the reservoir via the old tram road (Bryn Oer) There are some spectacular views in the Talybont On Usk area even when it’s raining, which it did intermittently during our stay here, but photographically it’s a good location and serves as a great base for a day or two.

On Day three we decided to head for Brecon. Heading towards Pencelli, the canal feels like you are leaving the 21 century behind you, as you stop to wind up the swing bridges and pass through small stone arched bridges,  whilst navigating the tight turns and try to stay in the middle of the canal so that you have enough water to proceed. In my opinion the stretch of Canal from Pencelli to Bryinch Bridge provides some of the most interesting scenery along the canal and we stopped a few times to take pictures and have a cup of tea.

Some of the tree lined sections of the canal between Pencelli to Bryinch Bridge provide various good photography opportunities, but if you want to take images of anything moving in these locations, you will need to either increase your ISO, or use flash. I tend to favour using flash, so I took a Godox AD200, Fresnel head and bare bulb head, a high-performance silver reflector (it acts like a long throw reflector at a fraction of the size) A Manfrotto Nano Plus Stand and a Godox S2 bracket, together with some CTS and CTO gels. I used a 24mm-70mm lens which worked well for my needs. 

We moored in Brecon for the night and stocked up on a few items we needed at the local Morrisons and then retraced our journey  back towards Crickhowell, so that we could venture along the other section of canal towards Govilon where we planned to turn the boat around and then return the boat on our last day.

Personally, I did not find the stretch of canal from Crickhowell to Govilon as interesting as the first stretch to Brecon, but it is still pretty in places, it just seems to start to get more built up and does not seem as rural or have the same character as the upper stretch of the canal.

 Canal Photography Frustrations

One of the frustrations I encountered trying to photograph our canal journey was that the best morning light was from around 6.40am until about 7.40am. We were informed that for insurance purposes we could not use the boat to cruise until after 8am and not cruise in the dark, so taking any images of our narrow boat moving during these times was not possible.

Although I like to use flash in my photography, I do like to mix it with the ambient light. Some of the most photogenic tree lined parts of the canal restricted faster shutter speeds and without the use of flash or using a high ISO, the images would have been to dark, so it was all a balancing act light levels wise with moving subjects.

The Nano Stand Plus was a great piece of kit for a narrow boat as it packs down so well and combined with the Godox AD200 and the reflector I used. On reflection, I am really glad I took the above kit on the trip, the only frustration were finding suitable places to hop off and on the boat, together with  trying to dial things in as the narrowboat approached as the sun would then either blast through the trees onto the boat, or the clouds would decide to cover what little light there was, but these little frustrations provided some good learning opportunities too.

Landscape Photography Opportunities

Fran and I did three walks during our trip along the Brecon & Monmoth Canal and the best of these three was the walk up to the disused Llangatwg Quarries along the Chwar Mawr edge towards Coedcae Uchaf Farm back to the canal. The vistas on this walk are stunning and the steep walk up is worth the effort and reward you will find for landscape photography opportunities.

The Long Mynd Ponies

The Long Mynd Ponies

The Long Mynd is a heath and moorland plateau that forms part of the Shropshire Hills in Shropshire with the high ground designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The AONB area lies between the Stiperstones range to the west and the Stretton Hills and Wenlock Edge to the east.

Fran and I decided to base ourselves at a campsite called Small Batch in Little Stretton as we could then access the Long Mynd via various routes that would provide plenty of walking and photography opportunities.

The open expanse of the Long Mynd has a unique wild beauty, with areas of heather and bilberries scattered across the sculpted valleys in virtually every direction you look. Although I knew there were wild ponies on the Long Mynd, I was unsure how many there are or the locations where you might see them.  

Although there are plenty of images of the Long Mynd Ponies to be found online, I personally found little information about them in relation to how many there are and some of the areas where you are most likely to find them.

The only information I did find stated “The Ponies have grazed on the Long Mynd at Church Stretton, Shropshire, for centuries, with Historical grazing rights held by the Long Mynd Commoners allowing 48 ponies on the land”

Fran and I hiked via The Owlets to Carding Mill Valley and then forked left along Light Spout Hollow towards Pole Bank before joining Jack Mytton Way to return via Minton Batch. The route was just over seven miles and the vistas are spectacular.

We first came across some ponies along Light Spout Hollow, just below the small waterfall (Lightspout). Our next encounter with a different group of ponies was towards the junction of Jack Mytton Way and Minton Batch. We stopped for lunch here and the ponies came and found us, one in particular was very inquisitive and came right up to me.

The Long Mynd is an area of stunning beauty, so whichever ever method of transport you take to see the landscape, you certainly won’t be disappointed. You can drive up to the top of the Long Mynd in a car although the road is very steep and narrow and certainly not advisable for people with a fear of heights.

Fran and I spent four days in the Little Stretton area walking and taking photographs and will be returning again as there are lots of other walks and wild ponies still to see.

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