Author Archives: Ruud

Sleeklens Prests & Brushes Review

In this post I will present a short review of the Sleeklens workflow bundle called ‘Through The Woods.’ Before proceeding I want you to know I got this bundle for free from the guys and girls at Sleeklens, in exchange for a review. They did not, in any way, influence what I wrote, but I thought you should know.

Sleeklens is a company that sells presets and brushes for Lightroom, actions and overlays for Photoshop and all sorts of templates. You can check their offer out here: https://sleeklens.com/product-category/lightroom-presets/.

The Through The Woods Workflow that I am reviewing here is a set of Lightroom presets and brushes created especially for the landscape photographer. You download them from their website and installation is pretty simple. They provide a link to a YouTube video that makes it easy, probably even for someone without much experience of using Lightroom. After installing the presets and brushes they will appear as part of Lightroom.

PRESETS

The presets, not surprisingly, appear in the presets section of the Develop module. One thing that might be improved is the way they are installed. They are in a folder called Sleeklens and all have the prefix “Through The Woods” and then a number and the name of the group of presets. All this increases length of the name to such an extent that you have increase the size of the pane to read it all, and this decreases the amount of space you have left over for the image. I know that you can get the pane to disappear automatically, but that is not everyone’s preferred way of working.

The presets come in 7 groups: All In One, Base, Exposure, Color, Tone/Tint, Polish and Vignette and the individual descriptions are pretty accurate, they do what it says on the tin! Of course you can all achieve similar results by working it out for yourself, but just think how much time you are spending! Using these presets, you can get good results at a fraction of the time it took you to achieve something similar. And if you have a an innate dislike of complete standardisation, you can always tinker with the image afterwards.

BRUSHES

After installation the brushes appear in the list of brushes that you can choose when you click on the Brush tool. In my Lightroom installation I now have a long list of custom brushes and this new set appears at the bottom, so every time I change brush I have to scroll down. This is more to do with Lightroom itself that the package that is under review. Maybe Sleeklens can draw this to Adobe’s attention.

Again the main advantage of using these custom brushes is saving time. Often you just don’t have time, or don’t want to invest it, to make the perfect subtle alterations to an image which you know would improve it. Using these custom brushes you can do it in much, much less time.

EXAMPLE

Here is an example of what I did with the presets and brushes. I think the only way to learn is to experiment and use the undo option a lot. A few weeks ago I was on Islay and came across this scene in Port Charlotte. This is the image as it came out of the camera.

Before

And this is the image after applying the Warm Shadows preset and various brushes the improve the water and cloud definitions, lighten the foreground shadow and a few other bits and bobs.

After

 

An added advantage of treating all your images in the same way is that it enables you to create an individual style, setting you apart from your competitors. The Through The Woods Workflow package can provide a good starting point for doing just that. Experiment with the presets and brushes, see which ones you like and adjust from there, if you want. All in all this is a worthwhile package for landscape photographers who want to speed up their workflow.

 

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Meeting Places On The Rocks

Yesterday was another gloriously sunny Spring day on Skye. We went to Waterloo, one of our favourite places near where we live. The beach is littered with ‘seaglass’ that Di uses to make her art. I helped her look for it and found some images as well. One part of the coast is a large shelf of rock. If I were a geologist I could explain exactly what the rock is and how long ago these shelves were created. You’ll have to make do without this information and just enjoy the images.

Colour did not add much to the image, in fact it detracted. So, I used Silver Efex Pro 2 to create the monochrome versions. I have been using this Lightroom Plugin for years and recently the company that owned it was taken over by Google and they made it available for free. I would recommend all photographers that produce Black & White images to download it.

I enjoyed the geometric patterns in the rock. The straight lines seemed unnatural, but they were definitely produced by natural forces, maybe the cooling down of the lava when it poured into the cold water? The title is both a literal description: it is where the fissures and plates of rock come together, but it also refers to these places as opportunities for both people and birds to meet.

Meeting Place #1

Meeting Place #1

 

Meeting Place #2

Meeting Place #2

 

Meeting Place #3

Meeting Place #3

 

Meeting Place #4

Meeting Place #4

 

Meeting Place #5

Meeting Place #5

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Rent Our Stylish Cottage in Spring Or Summer

We are making An Doras Dearg, our Skye home, available to rent for selected weeks throughout the year. For more information about the house, the location, availability, booking and prices, please visit http://www.dorasdearg.com. Please feel free to share this post with your friends.

An Doras Dearg

An Doras Dearg

 

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Oronsay

Oronsay From Ullinish Point

Oronsay From Ullinish Point

Yesterday’s walk took me to Oronsay, an island in Loch Bracadale in the northwest of Skye. The weather was dull grey, but it was dry at least. The overcast and threatening sky is best reflected with the above HDR treatment of the landscape. Oronsay actually means ‘tidal island’ so it is not surprising that there are dozens of places of that name in Scotland and at least two of them are on Skye. It was a bit of a spur of the moment thing so I had not looked up what time the tide would be out and the island accessible across the pebbly dam. After a short, boggy walk and startling some rabbits and sheep. I got to Ullinish Point and saw that I was lucky. I could walk across and the sea was receding (I did wait a while to observe which way the tide was going.)

Path Through Rock

Path Through Rock

In the picture above you can see the path cutting through the rock cliff. It seemed man made, but I cannot imagine why someone would go to all that trouble.

Cuillins In The Distance

There are some good cliffs and spectacular views on the island. Looking back south, the Cuillin ridge was visible above the houses of Fiskavaig. I wonder whether at one time there was a hill fort on the island as there was a sort of dike, clearly man made, that could have served as a protective wall in front of the higher part of the island.

Rubha Nan Clach

Rubha Nan Clach

After a look at the views from the top it was time to go back, long before being cut off and stuck on Oronsay for 6 hours or more.

Ullinish Point From Oronsay

Ullinish Point From Oronsay

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B&B + Photography Tuition

One of the reasons for moving to Skye was to enjoy the fantastic opportunities for photography that are to be found here. The great variety of landscapes, the wildlife, the sea and lochs, the magical qualities of light, the friendly and welcoming people, the fresh seafood, the colours and the weather all drew me here. Now that we are settled we want to share the delights of Skye and Sleat with you.

We have a very comfortable room available for B&B guests. It has a lovely view of the Sound of Sleat and the mountains of Knoydart beyond. It can be made up with two singles, or with one super kingsize bed. In preparing your breakfast we use fresh, local produce. We have good mobile phone reception and a good broadband connection (for Skye.) For your evening meals there are excellent pubs restaurants nearby. Alternatively, we can also offer you a delicious evening meal if you let us know in advance.

Bedroom

The photography tuition will be tailored around your level of experience and your particular interests. We can concentrate on one particular kind of photography, or you can pursue a range of subjects. I can teach you how to improve your processing skills with Lightroom and Photoshop. We can also explore how to use the settings available on your camera. I will present you with various options that you can choose from. They may involve easy strolls along a mountain stream, or a challenging a hike to a remote location. It’s all up to you, and, to some extent, the weather!

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We offer a package that includes two nights bed & breakfast and one day of photography tuition at your own level and pace for the low season price of £175 for one person, or £225 for two. It also includes transport to some of the fantastic locations on Skye where the tuition will take place. If you don’t want to bring your own car we can pick you up from the Armadale ferry, or the Kyle of Lochalsh train station. Longer stays with or without more photography tuition can be arranged.

Please have a look at my other blog posts about Skye for ideas about what and where you would like to explore on Skye.

Email ruud@ruudseye.com for more information, availability and booking.

IMG_1081

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Skye Is The Limit

There has been a distinct lack of activity on my website for a while, but there was a good reason for this silence. My mind was elsewhere and I exchanged the mouse for a paintbrush and screwdriver for a while. As some of you will know we have long dreamed about a move to Scotland. Over the last few years the dream morphed into a plan and a few months ago the plan became reality. We are now the proud owner/occupiers of An Doras Dearg, a former crofters cottage on Skye.

An Doras Dearg

An Doras Dearg is Gealic for The Red Door

Painting the door red was one of the first things we did (thanks Fred!) and we are very pleased with the result. We have lived here now for a few months and have enjoyed every minute of it. As a photographer I cannot think of a better place to be. I knew the island pretty well before the move, but exploring it in detail and sharing the beauty I encounter is a joy. We have been blessed with a bit of an Indian summer, with bright sunny days and temperatures of 18 Celcius at the end of October. That was a great introduction to Skye weather, but I know it won’t last forever. In fact, it is grey and raining this morning, but the good thing about Skye weather is that it can change very quickly and tomorrow promises to have some more sunshine.

I have been thinking about some of the business opportunities for photographers that exist on Skye and have some exiting news to share with you in my next post.

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A Mischief Of Magpies

One of the interesting and quirky things about the English language is the phenomenon of collective nouns for groups of animals. The tradition of using terms of venery, or hunting, stems from the English hunting tradition of the late Middle Ages. The whole hunting tradition was originally adopted from the French and gave rise to an extensive specialist vocabulary. In the course of the 14th century, it became a courtly fashion to extend the vocabulary, and by the 15th century, this tendency had reached exaggerated proportions. For instance, The Venerie of Twiti, a book from the early 14th century, distinguished three types of droppings of animals, and three different terms for herds of animals. The focus on collective terms for groups of animals emerges in the later 15th century. A list of collective nouns in a manuscript dated to c. 1452 extends to 70 items under the heading of termis of venery &c. The list in the Book of Saint Albans (1486) contains 165 items, many of which relate to groups of people and are clearly humorous: (a Doctryne of doctoris, a Sentence of Juges, a Fightyng of beggers, an uncredibilite of Cocoldis, a Melody of harpers, a Gagle of women, a Disworship of Scottis etc.)

Many of the collective nouns we know today are made up and usage, other than in compiled lists, is difficult to find. Sometimes a collective noun may have been invented as a joke, but as it referred to something of the essence of the animal it gained popularity and was accepted as a proper term. I fancy that a ‘murder’ of crows is an example. The book A Conspiracy of Ravens is a list of collective nouns for birds. It was compiled by Samuel Fanous, with illustrations from the English engraver and natural historian Thomas Bewick (1753-1828).

 A Murder Of Crows

 

Our cats would be in complete agreement with the collective noun for a group of Magpies that features in this book. Some years ago one of them caught and killed a fledgling Magpie. Ever since then there are a couple of Magpies that wage a war on them in spring and summer. The cats get screeched at and dive bombed by them when they go out into the garden. Even when they are inside, on the back of the sofa, looking out, they are attacked. The magpies sit on the satellite dish and screech at them. Even Harris, who is a fine specimen of a cat, a bruiser that seems to be able to take on any other animal, is cowed by them.

A Mischief Of Magpies


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The Lamplighter

“Public lighting … is so well executed in the cities of London and Westminster, as to excite the admiration of all foreigners, on their arrival at the British metropolis. Not only the streets, lanes, courts, and alleys of these great cities, but the roads in every direction leading thereto (and some for several miles), are lightes with lamps, rendering the approach safe and convenient. Before this wise regulation, murders, robberies, riots, and innumerable accidents occurred in the streets, during the obscurity of night.” from The Costume of Great Britain, published 1804.

Lamplighter

Lamplighter

Lights were lit each evening, generally by means of a wick on a long pole. At dawn, the lamplighter would return to put them out using a small hook on the same pole. Early street lights were sometimes candles, but the lamp in this drawing is an oil fired one. Another lamplighter duty, illustrated above, was to carry a ladder and renew the candles, oil, or gas mantles.

In some communities, lamplighters served in a role akin to a town Watchman; in others, it may have been seen as little more than a sinecure. Later in the 19th century, gas lights became the dominant form of street lighting. Early gas lights required lamplighters, but eventually systems were developed which allowed the lights to operate automatically.

Today a lamplighter is an extremely rare job. In Brest a lamplighter has been employed as a tourist attraction since 2009 to light up the kerosene lamps in the shopping street every day. There is also a lamp lighter in Wroclaw, Poland.


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The Fireman

In the seventeenth century, after large parts of London and other cities had been destroyed by fire, insurance companies started to offer policies to protect home owners against losing their property. What I had not realised until I read it in my newly acquired book The British Costume, was that an early version of the modern Fire Brigade originated when these insurance companies started to employ men to walk around town looking for fires. The guy in the illustration below was employed by The Sun, a fire insurance company set up in 1710. When you took out a policy you were given a badge, or fire mark, to affix to your building. If a fire started, the Fire Brigade was called. They looked for the fire mark and, provided it was the right one, the fire would be dealt with. Often buildings were left to burn until the right company attended!

Fireman

Fireman

 


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The Costume Of Great Britain

Last week I bought a book entitled The Costume Of Great Britain, with text and engravings by W.H. Pyne. There are 60 large format (35 x 26cm), beautifully hand coloured engravings, depicting the different professions and events. My copy is the first edition, published in 1804 in London. I bought it on a Dutch Internet auction site and that meant that it did not attract the same attention as it would have done on an UK or US based site. I was therefore lucky enough to be able to secure it at the reserve price, which was an absolute steal! The book is sometimes broken up and the plates sold individually for between £25 and £150.

The plate below is entitled Woman Selling Salop and attracted my attention, because I had no idea what ‘salop’ was. From the engraving I could see it was a drink of sorts and after some googling I found out more. It is an infusion of ground herbs and ground orchid root, a beverage for fashionable townspeople in the 18th century. It became popular with the increase in trade from the East Indies. In most countries of the East , drinks were prepared from the dried and powdered roots of various species of orchids, and they were widely regarded as aphrodisiacs. English merchants would have encountered a sugar-sweetened version in the East Indies.

Salop powder was stirred into water until it thickened, then the liquid was sweetened and seasoned with rosewater, orange-flower water or a similar fashion to the thin sago drink. The powder could also be made up with milk. “Drink it in china cups as chocolate; it is a great sweetener of the blood” advised one recipe. At the height of its popularity (in the 1720’s) salop was served in coffee houses as an alternative to coffee or chocolate. Salop vendors, like the one in the picture below, peddled the drink in the streets, or sold it from booths.

There are a few interesting details that tell us a bit more about the drink. In the background, leaning against his booth, we can see a night watchman with a rattle hanging from his belt. The rattle was used to attract attention if he saw something untoward during his round. His appearance in the picture seems to indicate that salop was consumed in the evening or night. It probably helped against the cold.

Another detail is the chimney sweep in the bottom left, enjoying a cup of salop. This tells us that it was a drink that everybody could afford and not restricted to fashionable society.

 

Woman Selling Salop

Woman Selling Salop

 


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