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Beyond the Lens with Matt Suess – Photography Journal & Blog

 

 

MindShift Gear BackLight 18L Backpack from Think Tank Photo Preview

My friends from Think Tank Photo just sent me for review a MindShift Gear BackLight 18L Backpack just in time for a 10-day trip to Cody and Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming I am about ready to leave for. I’ll be sure to do a field review once I return, but in the meantime here are my first impressions.

First off, Think Tank Photo has been a favorite of mine for years. I already own four of their bags and I have a feeling my collection is about to grow. Built by photographers for photographers, I have always been impressed with their quality and attention to detail. Their bags perform great and are built to last.

Their MindShift Gear is designed for those who love to “Engage with Nature” and their BackLight series is especially geared for that. And one feature in particular that I am very interested in trying out in the field is their rear-panel compartment for photo gear, which allows you to access your gear without taking off the backpack!

While I don’t have any photos yet of that specific feature in-action, here’s a couple quick photos of just some of the gear I’m able to fit in the 18L version. (They also have 26L and 36L sizes too).

 

How much of that Olympus gear can I get inside of the BackLight 18L?

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Skylum Announces AI-Powered Portrait and Skin Enhancement Tools for Luminar 4

Today Skylum continues to unwrap new features for the upcoming Luminar 4 by announcing new AI-powered portrait and skin enhancement tools. Portrait photographers – and really anyone who photographs people – are sure to be excited about these new tools to quickly enhance the look of people in their photos.

While I have not yet been able to use this hands-on, I have watched a presentation on these new tools working on a beta version of Luminar 4 and I have to be honest, the presentation was quite impressive making quick work of portrait enhancements such as smoothing of the skin, blemish removal, along with eye & teeth & lip enhancements.

AI Skin Enhancer

Using AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology Luminar 4 can automatically detect faces & skin in your photos. The AI Skin Enhancer will allow for the automatic removal of various skin imperfections like acne, freckles, and moles all while smoothing the skin. It does this while also keeping small details like hair & eyelashes & skin pores preserved.

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Think Tank Photo releases Retrospective V2.0 Shoulder Camera Bags in Black

My friends at Think Tank Photo let me know that they just released their Retrospective V2.0 shoulder bag series in a brand new color – BLACK. And from the pictures I’ve seen it looks pretty stunning!

The original Retrospective series came out in 2016 featuring a classic “retro” minimalist & stylish look with a lightweight and form-fitting design. Since May of 2018 I’ve been carrying around the original Retrospective 10 shoulder bag and it immediately became my favorite lightweight shoulder bag for when I don’t need to take all my camera gear with me. The bag is extremely well made with a super comfortable strap and is just a joy to use out in the field. It’s no wonder that the Retrospective shoulder bag series has become one of their most popular lines.

My Original Retrospective 10 camera bag with some of the gear I often have in my bag

While the V2.0 bags have been out for a little while now, the new Black bag includes all the new features including lighter weight, greater security with a zippered opening under the main flap that tucks away when not in use, dedicated interior tablet or laptop pocket, luggage handle pass-through, and a compressible water bottle pocket (something sorely missing from my v1.0 bag).

The Retrospective V2.0 line consists of 5 different bag sizes (5, 7, 10, 20, 30) with a completely customizable divider system which includes extra dividers to further organize compartments for smaller lenses or equipment. A seam-sealed rain cover is also included.

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New Blog Post From Skylum Shows Their Excitement for AI – Are You Excited?

Skylum just posted a new blog article from the Chief Product Manager of Skylum talking a little bit more about the upcoming Luminar 4. No new features have been announced outside of the previously mentioned AI Sky Replacement filter, but the article does mention that Skylum is heavily invested in Artificial Intelligence to make our photos better.

No AI was used in the creation of this photo – rather a number of manual adjustments were made by myself, including a lot of dodging & burning.

Some interesting quotes from the article: “The secret sauce is how Luminar 4 uses Artificial Intelligence to give users professional quality results in a much simpler, quicker, and more natural way…So Pam (and others like her) can stop being shy about letting her art shine through. So you can use Luminar 4 to grow as a photography artist, not to get tripped up by the most tedious parts of photo editing…We are helping Pam become a photo artist and enjoy the entirety of that process. How cool is that?”

How cool is that? I have no idea, as Skylum hasn’t mentioned anything yet besides the AI Sky Replacement filter, which from what I understand might not allow us to use our own sky photos.

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Green Grass and Montana Skies

Ahh Montana you continue to to both surprise me and impress me. And how can you not be impressed with the crazy light we can get here at times!

It seems like almost every afternoon we have a storm roll through, which has been keeping the grass here just outside of Bozeman very green. This was photographed last week just before sunset with yet another storm rolling by.

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Montana Sunset and Storm Clouds

Last night I had the opportunity to do some photography with fellow Olympus shooter Eric Rock exploring some areas new to both of us just outside of Bozeman, Montana, and we were treated to some great light!


Finding this particular spot at just the right moment, there was no time for tripods and even if we had remembered to bring our split neutral density filters, there would have been no time to get those set up either. We barely had enough time to jump out of my car and scramble down a small hill and start firing away.

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Hollyhock Flower with Olympus Focus Stacking II

Here is another shot of some Hollyhock flowers and buds I photographed in my backyard the other night here in Bozeman, Montana with my Olympus OM-D E-M1X camera using the M.Zuiko 300mm f4 Pro lens.

 

 

I used the Focus Stacking feature of the camera set up for 15 shots with a focus differential of 2, with my camera mounted onto my Benro tripod with settings of ISO 200 at 1/400s at f/11.

I really wanted to give ON1 RAW 2019.5 a shot at processing this but ran into two issues: 1) It doesn’t look like ON1 does more than 14-image focus stacks, and 2) the results from focus-stacking 14 of the 15 images were not good at all and was going to take way too much cleanup 😢

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Hollyhock Flower with Olympus Focus Stacking

Last night I had the chance to experiment some more with the Focus Stacking feature of my Olympus OM-D E-M1X camera using the M.Zuiko 300mm f4 Pro lens. Here is a shot of a hollyhock flower in my backyard here in Bozeman, Montana.

By using focus stacking I was able to get everything I wanted & needed in-focus in this closeup shot, and the detail in it is just amazing!!

Camera Settings and Post Processing

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Skylum Today Announces Luminar 4 – What Now Happens to Luminar 3?

Today Skylum has announced Luminar 4, a paid upgrade to Luminar 3, shipping this fall. Details however are still vague as to what new features Luminar 4 will have outside of the one new feature being mentioned at today’s announcement, even though Luminar 4 is now available for pre-order.

What is that new feature, and what now happens with Luminar 3? Let’s take a look.

New Luminar 4 with Sky Replacement

As I just mentioned, outside of the new Sky Replacement feature I will discuss, Skylum is not mentioning any other new features coming to Luminar 4 at this time. This is a real curious marketing strategy for a number of reasons, but first I’ll talk about this new feature.

For years I as well as many other photographers have been requesting and waiting for Skylum to give us a content-aware smart brush for those of us who need to to cutouts or to do sky replacement. Something like what ON1 Photo RAW has as well as other programs.

Well for those looking for such a brush, it isn’t looking like this is it.

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Goodbye Sony! It wasn’t you, it was Olympus. Why I Switched, Part 1

This is Part 1 of a multi-part series. I will add links for new additions here when they become available.

Part 1 – an Introduction


It is official – on July 9, 2019 I broke-up with Sony after 5 years and went back to my first love from way back in the 1980’s, Olympus. It wasn’t you Sony, but it was definitely me, and it was definitely Olympus.

Goodbye Sony full-frame, hello (again) Olympus!

Woah – What Brought This About – How Did All of This Start?

My History with Olympus, and My Long History with Digital Cameras

The very first camera I ever bought with my own money – not the very first camera I used, but first one I purchased – was a 35mm film camera from Olympus – the OM-G (also known as the OM-20 overseas).

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