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
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.
Fran and I have been taking a portable lighting kit on various walks recently and using a modified lighting-stand that I had hacked using a Manfrotto Tripod and part of an old light-stand and although we have had some success with the hacked light-stand, I have concluded that as I intend to do more remote location lighting, I should purchase a light-stand designed for the job.
This weekend we decided to venture to the far end of Nidderdale and explore the magnificent Sypeland Crags which are located on Fountains Earth Moor between Sypeland Beck and Lul Beck. We hiked up from Lofthouse via Thrope Farm, it’s a steep incline, just shy of 400 meters and taking photography kit certainly increases the heart rate, so I thought it would be a good test for the recently acquired Manfrotto Nano Pole Plus, together with one Godox AD200 and the extension head.
As C Stand would be impossible to carry on a seven-mile hike, I have opted for the Nano Stand Plus, it can take more weight than the original Nano stand and it’s just a tad higher. The adjustable leg on the Nano Stand, allows vertical alignment on uneven ground, so for locations like Sypeland its’ ideal and makes such a difference. By the time we had walked past Jenny Twigg, the wind had really picked up and the sky was fast becoming stormy, so if the light-stand worked, we would be able to take some dramatic images, well that was the plan.
On reflection, the Manfrotto Nano Stand Plus did very well in the wind, so it will obviously be able to cope with less demanding conditions and locations. We were lucky to have the time to walk along the crag face and try a few ideas, before the storm finally rolled in with a heavy down poor of rain which ended the photography. The kit worked well for this type of shoot and Nano Stand Plus is far better suited to these kinds of environments than my hacked light-stand and is in my opinion worth the cost
We are planning on doing more remote lighting projects over the next few months, trying out ideas and will try using the Godox AD360 next time, I think the extra half a stop of light will come in handy when I need more distance.
Lighting Kit used:
Godox AD200 with EC-20 Head, with five-inch reflector (bare bulb)
Manfrotto Nano Stand Plus. Godox TT600 flash. Godox trigger
The Coronavirus is having an effect on everyone and everything so lots of people are finding themselves with more time on their hands, which could be a good or bad thing depending on one’s financial circumstances. Before the Covid19 crisis, distance and travel were not an issue, it is perhaps only now that we are missing the ability to where and when we desire. I personally am trying to keep my photographic brain active even if we are confined to our local area, although this has led to Fran & I discovering some beautiful local Green Lanes and making the most of our one form of exercise a day.
I don’t always take a camera with me on these little escapes from the house, but I decided to revisit one of Green Lane we have discovered and take a flash, a Magbounce and a very small and portable light stand on the walk and take a few images whilst out walking keeping kit lighting kit as portable and light as possible.
As my main focus of photography work is equestrian and lifestyle photography, I mainly use C Stands for my lighting, so keeping kit light and ultra-portable is not so important. I think the last wedding we photographed was about three years ago and used to bounce flash and or use a reflector. We had a wedding booked for July, but since the lockdown, this has now been cancelled. However, I had planned on using some very portable lighting kit during the wedding (Magbounce & Magsphere) as wedding are fast paced small and light becomes a priority. I have had some Magmod kit for a few years now and to be honest it rarely gets used, but I have never owned or used the Magbounce, so decided to give it a try prior to the wedding we did have booked before it was cancelled.
I purchased the Magbounce just before the Coronavirus pandemic, as my intention was to spend the spring and early summer playing around with it and see what was possible with it, yes you can bounce light off of walls and ceilings, but I was curious as to what the Magbounce could do where there were no wall or ceilings, it was the portability that really appealed to me.
As far a testing out the Magbounce out fully, it’s still early days, but for a really small portable lighting mod, so far, it’s growing on me. Will the Magbounce replace the lighting mods I use for equine and lifestyle off camera flash? No, it won’t, but I do intend on trying out some new ideas and for locations where there are no walls or ceilings and I want ultra-portability, this little lighting mod does have a lot of potential.
My favourite time to take Horse Portraits is in the Autumn, I just think that the natural hues and tones are at their best, but I also think that creating dark & dramatic horse portraits can also be very rewarding visually.
As I use flash for all of my equine portrait photography, I have decided to write a blog about the equipment I use and share some of the reasons why I choose different equipment in relation to the equine images I enjoy creating.
I will start with a barn or large stable, as these are both locations that often work very well in relation to lighting. The ambient lighting in these environments is usually darker than outside, so the advantage you have is that flashes don’t have to work as hard in terms of competing with ambient light, it’s also far easier to kill the ambient light as it is already low and just light the areas you want to light with flash mainly the horse and owner
An example of a three-light setup in a barn. Two Godox AD200’s via AD-B1 in medium Octabox camera left. One boomed Godox AD200 with round head.
Depending on the time of day and location it is possible to kill the ambient light outside and create dark and dramatic horse portraits, but the two issues that are often challenging are having enough flash power and controlling the cameras sync speed. The image below was taken in the winter on a very grey day and the background behind the girl and horse were a tall hedge row of conifers, so I was able to start with a natural dark background, but I did have to use the equipment I had at full power. When I took this image, I had a Godox 360 and two Godox AD200’s, certainly not enough power for a full-length dark horse portrait, but enough power to create this image.
Although many flashes now have HSS High Speed Sync (shoot with flash above your cameras sync speed) you lose a lot of power and the flash have to work really hard, so although you may be able to shoot at 1/500th instead of 1/200th the amount of light loss may be too great to provide the amount of light you require for the image you are trying to create.
You can use ND (neutral density filter) to reduce the ambient light, so that you can stay within your cameras sync speed, but you will lose flash power in relation the amount of stops of light the ND filter is reducing the ambient light by. HSS & ND use both have their places depending on your needs and conditions.
Hard Or Soft Light For Dark & Dramatic Horse Portraits?
If your amount of flash power is limited and you are struggling to kill the ambient light, you will benefit from using hard light and this is where reflectors and how you use them can really help, you will be surprised at how using different types of reflector can make your light more efficient.
Soft light has become the mainstay of most flash lit images these days, but if you are trying to kill the ambient using soft light, you are going to need a lot of power if the ambient light is challenging to control. Personally, I think both soft light and hard light can create stunning images, it’s really about your intention and the equipment you have or don’t have that can make the decision for you.
Once Coronavirus is no longer with us, I plan on making a video during my next Horse Portrait Shoot, showing the lighting modifier’s I use and the position in which I place the lights, so let’s hope I get the opportunity soon.
Why are Woodlands so Special For Horse Portrait Photography?
The natural ancient woodlands we see today have been shaped by human history for hundreds of years. However, today the only truly wild woodlands that remain are inaccessible pockets in steep ravines, on cliffs or on some wooded islands.
Only 1.2 % of semi-natural ancient woodland is accessible in the UK, which makes our woodlands very special places and a resource that we should take care of. Woodlands provide unique and aesthetic backdrops for horse portrait photography and depending on the seasons, they offer translucent greens, yellows, oranges and browns adding a rich splash of colour and texture to any photograph.
Over the last four years I have visited numerous woodlands looking at
there unique qualities and potential for horse portraits. Of the woodland areas I use, each have their own character and some provide great hacking opportunities. if you are considering a horse portrait and would like guidance on some of the most beautiful and photogenic woodland locations in Yorkshire, drop me an email and I will send you a guide and of maps of the locations I use.