The Bean, Lightroom, Photoshop, and Topaz Plugins

Say I take a photo.

“I take a photo.”

No, I meant it as “what if”, not as a command. Say I take a photo. For instance, this one of The Bean.


By the way, all them people who are only interested in “real” photos, here’s your chance to leave. I’ll give you a few minutes to close this out and run away. 

For all you who are staying, here’s a musical interlude while the others pack up and leave.

OK, so I gots the above photo and I’ve already tweaked to fall on the right side of purty. Well, dang, what else can I do to pass a little time? Well, I can take it to the Topaz Impressions plugin and get me some sketches . . . 



I like sketches. In my younger days, I used to draw. I was not great, but it’s not like I sucked. I like the idea of sketching with a pencil, creating art and stuff. What I don’t like is the time one has to put into it (or anything) to get any good at it. 

These tools let me imagine I’m at the tail end of forty years of practice and capable of producing amazing drawings. Now, some would argue this is nothing more than a derivative work (in this case, from the original photo). Well, everything we produce is derivative from what we see and experience. Were I actually a skilled artist, I could produce not only the above but even this next version.

10865_MISC_091908_04_DIGIThat is one click using the Topaz Simplify plugin. Note, this one has color. That means that not only I would have to practice drawing for forty years, but also learn about colors and blending colors and drawing. Only then could I produce the above on my own. A click seems faster.

If I had learned to paint, I could paint a watercolor version much like this one I produced using the Impressions plugin.


By the way, all of these can be clicked for a larger version (1200 pixels wide) or can be seen in their original size in THIS SmugMug gallery.

Now, some will crap all over my efforts by claiming it’s not as satisfying as actual painting or drawing. That it’s cheating, even.

I beg to differ.

I created something using tools I have acquired and learned. What I created is as uniquely mine (my photo, my processing, my post-processing) as any canvas produced by any given artist.

AND . . . I can go farther.

You see, I can take the above watercolor and one of the sketches, import them into Photoshop as layers, and play with how I stack those layers. I do that and then convert into B&W to give me this:


Or, I can do the same with the Simplify and Watercolor versions to give me this:


I don’t even know what to call it, nor could I reproduce it exactly. Much like an artist mixes their paints or blends their colored pencils, I did not write down the “formula” I used. Like drawing or painting, it’s an organic process in the sense that I have nothing specific in mind. I blend stuff until I get something I like and I save it.

Then, I start over. I take the original photo and the second drawing and I do a different kind of blending, one I can’t even name because I did not look at the switches I was throwing, did not write down the values I settle on. All I know is that whatever I did got me this:


Now, these shots all look different when viewed larger. Not different in terms of lines and colors; different in terms of impact. I like these small versions, and can even show them smaller.



They might still look interesting, but the impact is not the same. Plus, these were created on a big-ass screen. To see what I saw when I finally stopped tweaking them you need to click on them (not the little ones; with those, what you see is what you get).

I could, and did, blend the watercolor with the original photo . . .


. . . and get something different yet.

Or, I could grab the original and O’Keeffe it . . .


. . . and then go to town. I take the original, the Simplify version, the O’Keeffe, and the B&W drawing and blend them all into something new.


But, I want a warmer and more saturated version. I throw a few Lightroom switches and . . .


Those people who left would look at this and think it a sin against reality. BUT . . . I’m not done yet; think of this as a stepping stone to other stuff.

For instance, I can change it to a B&W version (again, one click). 


Instead of making it warmer, I could make it cooler . . .


Then invert it and blend it with the original photo . . .


I admit that, unlike some artists, I did not have this vision in mind when I started playing with this one photo. In fact, it’s a long way here along a path I’ve since forgotten, but here we are and I like that photo.

I like it in color, and I like it in B&W . . .


. . . and I like it inverted and blended with the first drawing . . .


But, where does it end?

It ends with this next one. It’s called “The Kitchen Sink”. I took four or five of the above — I don’t remember which — and started blending, layering, switching this off and on, throwing this or that switch at random until, when the dust settled, I had this . . .


It was not intentional, but I like how the curvature of the vignette tracks the curvature of the Bean. I like how the building in the background command more attention than they did in the original photo. I like the color combinations, and I like the hint of grunge.

I like it as much as if I had drawn and carefully painted it. And, this is uniquely mine. Sure, someone could copy it . . . but I created it. Not only that, I like that I would be able to duplicate the process or the result. Not only uniquely mine but unique. 

For those who left and might have wandered back, rather than looking at this as a photo ruined, look at it as you would a piece of art hanging in a museum (but without a famous name associated with it). Enjoy the vision of the artist or not, but don’t compare it to the original photo or even the original scene. It stands on its own, separate from anything else. 

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ o o o o o o ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~



Astute persons might have noticed these doodles, and correctly surmised they hold some significance for me, and perhaps for humanity at large.  

If you click on the doodle, and nothing happens, this is the link it’s supposed to go to:


Note: if you are not reading this blog post at, know that it has been copied without permission, and likely is being used by someone with nefarious intention, like attracting you to a malware-infested website.  Could be they also torture small mammals.


Please, if you are considering bestowing me recognition beyond commenting below, refrain from doing so.  I will decline blogger-to-blogger awards.   I appreciate the intent behind it, but I prefer a comment thanking me for turning you away from a life of crime, religion, or making you a better person in some other way.  That would mean something to me.

If you wish to know more, please read below.

About awards: Blogger Awards
About “likes”:   Of “Likes”, Subscriptions, and Stuff

Note: to those who may click on “like”, or rate the post; if you do not hear from me, know that I am sincerely appreciative, and I thank you for noticing what I do.

. . .  my FP ward  . . . chieken shit.

About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
This entry was posted in Photo-effects, Photography, Photography Stuff, Snow, Weather and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to The Bean, Lightroom, Photoshop, and Topaz Plugins

  1. personally I like playing in Topaz………you can create some amazing dramatic effects, like you have. I also am fond of the pencil effects as well as the Painting effects

    Liked by 1 person

  2. seekraz says:

    Looks like you had a bit of fun playing with your toys….very nice, I might add. I like the pencil renderings…


    • disperser says:

      I’m actually going to squeeze in some drawing practice (relearning) sometime this year (I already doodle). But, it’s fun playing with these.

      Thanks for the comment and the read.


  3. I love when you do this! And I can’t pick a favorite. All the different effects are amazing…they each give the original photo a new look and feel. And you are very creative! And The Bean is cool!
    Enjoyed the music, also!
    I had a friend recommend Fortitude to me. I hope to start watching it soon.
    HUGS!!! :-)


  4. mvschulze says:

    Nice: the journey to the final image, and the reasons you like it. I do too. M:-)


  5. oneowner says:

    I can’t think of an art form where there is a limit on an artist’s expression. I don’t like the attitude of the so-called purists that will not tolerate image manipulation. Try telling Eric Clapton there is only one way to play “Layla”.
    I like the idea of blending several different versions of a file to bring a more personal vision to an image. When a technique becomes too well known (“You used the Da Vinci sketch filter again, didn’t you”?) you have to shake things up. This particular photo really lends itself to a wide variety of approaches and these are really good examples.


    • disperser says:

      I can’t fault people for liking original photos over my playing with them, but I think they miss the point. The manipulations are not there to replace, enhance, or augment the original photos any more than the Mona Lisa painting is meant to be more than the original subject.

      The manipulations are products onto themselves and should be viewed as such. Of course, I know I invite comparisons to the originals when I present both, but I think that’s the wrong approach for these exercises.

      Thanks for your observations and comments.


  6. desleyjane says:

    Love this. Very cool editing.


  7. margie says:

    the pictures are make it look as though there is another dimension, right along with ours……could there be.


  8. I would Love to be able to do what you do – honestly – but I am just too damn lazy to learn and there is a LOT of learning in what you do. Good skills. I only use photo shop (once again too lazy to learn any other programs) so I am going to go back into your post and see if I can glean one or two tips to improve my own shots. Thank you.. c


  9. What city is this?


  10. AnnMarie says:

    Now, let me make something very clear here . . . I “wow-ed” each of the photos, enjoyed your explanations, and I agree that each is a work of art and unique. But I must declare that your last photo is a MASTERPIECE! You ARE a true artist!

    Liked by 1 person

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