Editor’s Note: Each week we’ll be featuring members of the Photofocus community.  Part of our New Year’s resolution is to focus on new and emerging talent.  As such, Melissa Niu will personally select images from our readers and feature them here on Photofocus.


Corvallis, Oregon, where I live, is surrounded on the north and the west by the McDonald Forest.  When I am in town, I walk and photograph almost daily in the forest.  Autumn is always one of the prettiest times.  When there is lots of fog, like there was this year, the forest takes on a mystical aura.  As I was walking along, what especially attracted me to this scene was the way that the trail was covered with autumn leaves.  The curve in the trail juxtaposed with the vertical tree trunks created that combination of the energy of vertical lines and the serenity of curves.

It just so happened that shortly after I took this shot, I watched a Topaz webinar led by John Barclay.  He introduced me to what was for me a new technique.  I first processed it setting the white and black points in Lightroom 5, and then I went into Photoshop and applied Topaz’s Clarity filter to create a little punch.  (These days I am using onOne’s Dynamic Contrast instead; I think that it is fabulous and is the new star of Perfect Effects 8.)

What John introduced me to was applying a new layer using the BuzSim preset in Topaz’s Simplify 4 filter.  That creates a very painterly look; way too much for me.  It’s what comes next that is the trick.  I reduced the Opacity to 60%.  This resulted in the slightly painterly look which I found to be quite appealing.  The main reason that almost all of my keepers end up in Photoshop CC is because of Layers and Blend Modes with the ability to control Opacity at almost every level, including Brush strokes.

— Jack Larson



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About MelissaNiu

Melissa Niu is a storyteller at heart. Niu's work ranges from her Broadcast Journalism experience at NBC in Seattle to her recent work as a co-founder and host of the photography platform, [FRAMED] Network. Her passion for photography, music and journalistic skills harvests into a massive need to tell a good story. As a mother of three daughters and running multiple businesses, Niu is constantly seeking balance, health, laughter and progression.


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