Old Macau and Color Efex Pro

I am the proud new owner of a full set of the NIK Collection of software filters. This was a free upgrade as a prior purchaser of Silver Efex Pro. Yesterday I watched a few of the tutorial videos online and then decided to give Color Efex a go. I selected a shot taken recently in Macau. A Chinese herbal medicine shop, taken from the street.

Firstly I applied the following settings to the original file. Its not quite a bell curve histogram but not too bad.

File Settings

File Settings

This is what it looked like: (click for larger image)


What I wanted was to see if Color Efex could bring out more using the filter called Detail Extractor. Without faffing about too much this is what it produced:

With Detail Extractor

With Detail Extractor

It seems to have muted the tones somewhat and boosted the clarity. Of course you can change the opacity of the filter and you can superimpose other filters or tinker with the file again after going back into CS6. The filter is in a new layer and you can easily delete it if you don’t like it in retrospect. To me it is bordering on a slightly grungy look that you get from badly executed HDR processing.

Here is an alternative process, using Alien Skin Exposure 4 and the Kodachrome 25 (sharp) filter. This is currently my favourite for natural history shots – the flower I photographed on Yim Tin Tsai was put through this one.

Kodachrome 25 (Sharp) Filter. Alien Skin Exposure 4

Kodachrome 25 (Sharp) Filter. Alien Skin Exposure 4

The easiest place to see the impact is the wooden panelling above the door way. Here the differences are most marked. Elsewhere they are more subtle. The Color Efex has dragged more out of the shadows than K25, which is nice but I could have rectified that with a simple curves adjustment on the K25 layer.

It is really a matter of personal preference. These layers however do make the files much bigger. My original file is 29mb. The Color Efex file is 235mb. You can flatten the file but then you can’t go back and play with it again later. I flattened the K25 file down to 727kb. Quite a space saving even on a 1 terabyte external drive.

I can see uses for the NIK  filters and lots of opportunities for experimentation but I suspect it will be Silver Efex Pro 2 that will remain my favourite filter, for B&W conversions. Any thoughts appreciated and apologies to those who are bored by the technical stuff.

More Macau Moments

We did not know that Macau had Giant Pandas  but when we learned this we toddled off to the Macao Giant Panda Pavilion (sic.). You may take it that it was the pandas that were Giant rather than the Pavilion. To be honest it wasn’t bad but I suspect if I were a GP I’d want rather more space to roam. Mr. & Mrs. GP were in separate enclosures when we visited. Mrs. GP was snoozing gently whilst Mr. GP was dragged out of his deep slumber for a mid-morning bamboo snack.



The rest of the Parque de Seac Pai Van de Coloane was rather squalid in my view and I am afraid I ushered Mrs. Ha around fairly rapidly. I had no urge to linger. I think the panda above is shouting “I’m a celebrity, get me out of here”.

Much more to my taste was this Hummingbird Hawkmoth



I add a few more images from our old town walk to show that there is much of interest beyond casino-land. Although Macau is far more low rise than Hong Kong it does differ to the extent that more old buildings seem to have survived. Many are in poor repair but peeping through the odd door gives a glimpse into the traditional home environment. I hope Macau has a better sense of heritage preservation than HK.



A few years ago, in the days when I was gainfully employed and Mrs. Ha’s sole responsibility was to spend, we were invited by one of the large accountancy firms to visit Macau to watch a couple of old boys play tennis. Sampras and Agassi they were. Andre looked as if he had added a little avoirdupois thanks possibly to Steffi’s German cooking. Easy on the Spiegelei und Bratkartoffeln, Liebling! Mit Altbier. Shortly afterwards he confessed to having been a bit of a sniffer in his time and I can only say that if this is where he got his rackets then I suspect he would have needed artificial assistance.



At least they were tightly strung and well air-conditioned.

We also happened across a sign that made me stop dead in my tracks and wonder whether Sir Les Patterson might be at home.



As usual I couldn’t resist a call of nature. And in this instance the call was made by a tree. Take my picture it yelled. And so I did.



Natural colours and textures. Lovely. I think this was just the sort of place the pandas would like. So if you do happen to visit them can I suggest leaving the door off the latch when you leave and then we can have a proper panda safari. Bring your own bamboo shoots.

A jolly weekend to you all.