I found myself by the Apollo bridge today, and while wanting to take some sunset shots in the area, the sunset just wasn’t so interesting. So I decided to go under the bridge. I just really like that spot :)

While taking this photos, I thought about the aperture. I tend to use a quite low one when shooting night cityscapes. It’s mostly a custom from before I used magic lantern, as there the longest shot had to be under 30 seconds, and partially lack of patience, as I hate to wait few minutes for a single shot. But here I bumped up the aperture to F11 and decided to wait for how long it takes. And I really like the result, the overall sharpness, and the beautiful softness of the water. Looks like I will use a smaller aperture more often :)

Star light
Technique: Oloneo Photoengine, Number of exposures: 5, Camera Model: Canon EOS 5D mark II, Lens: Canon 16-35mm F2.8, Focal length: 16mm, Aperture: 11, Middle exposure time: 49s, ISO: 200, Tripod used: yes, Location: 48.135918, 17.128131

For todays process post, I decided to show you a photo that is not a HDR, but where I was forced to use focus blending, and I had to deal with not enough shots taken. So let’s get started.

This is a view of the SNP bridge in Bratislava, as seen from the Bratislava castle.

Framed bridgeFinished photo
Framed bridgeOriginal photo

I took two series for this, just to be sure, one focused on the bars, one on the bridge in the background. When looking at them in Lightroom, I found out that I need just one from booth, and one brighter fore few tweaks, so I just cropped the image, corrected the horizon, white balance and opened the two images in Photoshop.

Framed bridgeAll exposures
Framed bridgeUsed exposures corrected in Lightroom

I don’t know what I was thinking while taking this shot, as of course just focusing twice here is not enough. The problem is, hat if you try to blend two shots like this, the foreground element will get bigger when its out of focus, and that will not allow for a nice blend. You can see it in the first screen-shot from Photoshop here. The blend produces an ugly soft border around everything. So I needed to do something more, and this is what I did.

1. The shot focused on the background
2. Copy of layer 1, as I needed to experiment with edits, and I didn’t want to open the layer over and over again (I will explain the edits in a moment :))
3. The shot focused on the foreground. Using layers, I painted out all the content one can see through the bars
4+5. Here I used the brighter exposure, to brighten the bars, and then used a second layer mask on the group, so the effect is not inside the bars
6. Color efex Pro contrast, to get more local contrast and detail in the photo.
7. Color efex Tonal contrast on the borders and the background, as it still was very low contrast, due to it snowing at that moment.
8. A little overall contrast using curves.

Framed bridgeBlending problem
Framed bridgeAll edits in Photoshop

Now this take care of all the detail and contrast, but there is still the problem with the bad blending. So what I did, on the second layer, I selected one by one the openings in the bars and made the image inside bigger. Like this the border disappeared behind the bars, and I got a nice blend. I had to be careful so the bridge and the road line up after the resize.

Here you can see the second and third layers, to better show this.

Framed bridgeSecond layer after resizing
Framed bridgeThird layer after masking

Btw. if I did this correctly, I would take more shots, with different focus, or I would use a smaller aperture.

And that’s all I did with this image. To find out more on how I edit, check out the guides and before after categories on this blog, or check out my video tutorial series here:
Master exposure blending


Another one from my archives today. I so can’t wait for a better weather to start and get some nice new shots again :)

This is a HDR from 7 exposures, created in Oloneo Photoengine, finished in Photoshop.

Castle on the hill
Technique: Oloneo Photoengine, Number of exposures: 7, Camera Model: Canon EOS 5D mark II, Lens: Canon 24-70mm F2.8, Focal length: 45mm, Aperture: 2.8, Middle exposure time: 2s, ISO: 100, Tripod used: yes, Location: 48.136873, 17.104699

Video tutorials

You know that I offer video tutorials for sale on this blog, but I also watch a lot of them from many other photographers. Right now I’m watching the Trey Ratcliff’s Complete HDR Tutorial, The Ultimate Landscape Photography Course by Jay and Varina Patel and the Cityscape tutorial by Beboy. I like to switch from one to another, as sometimes watching one in a row is hard, as they are quite long. Especially the one from Beboy is a little problematic for me, as it’s in French, and I don’t speak any French :). But since I have quite a lot of knowledge of Photoshop already, I can watch it and get almost everything he is showing there. It just take a little longer.

There is always something more to learn. In taking and in editing photos. What are you currently learning? Or what video series are you watching? Feel free to share in the comments.

Moon over Bratislava

Still haven’t done many new photos this year. The weather in Bratislava is nothing spectacular right now, and my travels for this year will start a little later. So for now, another one from my library, taken around 2 years ago :)

Btw. this was really taken at f2.8. It was quite late after sunset, and it was really dark.

Moon over Bratislava
Technique: Oloneo Photoengine, Number of exposures: 6, Camera Model: Canon EOS 5D mark II, Lens: Canon 24-70mm F2.8, Focal length: 42mm, Aperture: 2.8, Middle exposure time: 4s, ISO: 400, Tripod used: yes, Location: 48.136873, 17.104699

I know you all want a post about the blue/black dress (or white/gold?) today, but no, not from me :)

Today’s post is about a question I got few days ago. A question if I knew about any free Photoshop alternative. This is quite an interesting question, and to tell the truth, I knew about none that was really suitable. I’ve been using Photoshop for the last 15 years, and I never thought about looking for something else. So I started searching. For me a Photoshop alternative would have to be a local program that works solidly with layers. I’m not a big fan of online editors that work in a browser, as the stability of browsers is horrible as it is, and I don’t trust them with my work.


Over and over again I seen Gimp to be suggested as the best alternative. There are two alternative there, the Gimp and Gimpshop, which is a version that tries to emulate Photoshop more, with more Photoshop like interface. So I decided to give it a try. First I went for the Gimpshop, as that would probably be easier. My experiment ended already by the installer, when it tried to install some strange additional software onto my system and the installation dialog didn’t even had any cancel button. Sorry, that’s not what I want to have on my PC. So I switched to the normal Gimp, at least there I got only what I wanted.

I actually tried Gimp some 10 years ago, and first look at the latest version, it looked exactly as before. So I tried to go and edit a photo. The first big problem was that Gimp does not support 16-bit files (I found an announcement from 2012 that this should be implemented, but not in the current version). Thats already a deal breaker for me, but I thought I try and blend an image. The layers work fine, so the basic blending is possible. While trying to do luminance masking I was not so successful. First I could not find the RGB channel, so I could only work on R, G or B and then the intersection of selection worked strangely, so I could not create more specific selection.


And there where my experiments with Gimp stopped. It is just so far away from my workflow, that I can’t use it. Maybe I just missed something, but the UI just didn’t fit my style.

But if I should suggest you a free Photoshop alternative, this is still the best one you can get. You can use layers, you can do basic blending, you can do image edits. But if you want to edit photos every day, I would still go with Photoshop. Even just the support from third party plug-ins is worth the investments.

Affinity photo

There is also a new alternative, that is currently in beta. It’s called Affinity photo, and it looks very modern and capable. For me the problem here is that it’s mac only, so I have no way to try it out. But I think you should give it a try :)

Photoshop alternative?

So to tell the truth, I could not find a free alternative to Photoshop that I could suggest. Maybe some of you have some tips? If yes, feel free to share.