A Country Church

In high school, rural America, late 1980s, I found myself the ‘yearbook photographer’ my junior year. A professional came and did the official portraits, but students did events and daily life. I carried the Canon AE1 around for the better part of a year, taking thousands of photos. Over the years, I fell away from photography - film and processing would pile up till I had a dozen or 18 rolls to take care of.

Then in 2004, a neighbor gave me a 2MP Fuji digital and I began to see the possibilities. I tentatively upgraded to a 4.1MP Olympus point and shoot, and with it I would take tens of thousands of photos over the next 4 years or so.

THIS photo, which happened when I was in the right place at the right time, inspired me to do more with photography. Now, new to Topaz and its suite of software, I am dusting off some old favorites, just to see what I can do with them.

Original “Heaven’s Light” image, shot with Olympus C765UZ, ISO 64, F/4, 1/250sec exposure, Enterline, Pennsylvania

Of course, I’ve made versions of this with Denoise AI, JPG to RAW, etc, just to see what could be done with a 4mp jpg image. I won’t share them all, but here’s a version after cleanup, increased to approximately 59MP via gigapixel, with a “stained glass” AI Remix stylistic filter applied, tweaked for color. I’m not sure what I’ll do with this, but it certainly is interesting, I think.

(Downsized back to original size for posting because it’s beyond the limits of the site’s content filters).


Hi James, I like the top picture but it could be improved with some post processing beyond what you have done. If you are open to it, I could post some suggestions with a picture here.

Sure I have some in between versions. Just posted the original as reference for what came off the camera. Feel free to experiment and share.

You already started with a good subject but the church is very small in the picture. The subject should be more prominent. I have found that one of the weak areas many photographers have is cropping. You can see in the picture below that I have cropped the image to make the subject stand out and got rid of wasted areas that don’t really add much. At the same time I leveled the church which was tilted.

I raised the color saturation to show of the sky more and I found that the church still had noise in it so I use Denoise AI with masking to eliminate that.

I raised the shadow area exposure a bit so it wasn’t almost black. This gives the church more depth. So I hope these suggestions make sense to you.

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Yes, I like it. :slight_smile: This particular photo has been around the world a few times. A friend in the Netherlands used it as a basis for an oil painting on canvas back when it was new (2006). Here’s that version.

The building itself has history - the original church at the site was falling apart at the turn of the 20th century and this building was finished, I think around 1905, at a cost of around $5000. And there it has stood ever since. The closer building you see across the road in front of it is a residence now, but once was akin to a general store for the village.

At the point where I took the photo, the best software I had available was paint.net - freeware based upon .net framework that supports layers and plugins, and Google’s Picasa. Both were great software, but somewhat limited. I am a minimalist by heart, and it wasn’t until recently that I really started pushing the limits of what a good camera can do that I started exploring better processing software - leading me first to DeNoise with a milky way shot and hummingbird somewhat-high-iso shots. I invested first in a new laptop to replace my 10+ year old model that could still do Denoise, but took an intolerably long time, and then during BF sale, the Topaz Suite minus video (which still took an intolerably long time with 6GB Nvidia GTX 1660ti), and as an alternative product, I picked up a copy of DxO PhotoLab 4, which I appreciate for various reasons. I think the Topaz Suite and DxO are different enough to complement each other - I find strengths in each, and have no desire to go full photoshop (I’ve used plenty of Adobe products in my line of work and invariably get frustrated). Exploring these old photos with this new setup is great.

Thanks for your input. I like the brilliance, and running through denoise looks good. i had done a bit of this + testing with GigaPixel and at full zoom found some artifacting around the steeple of the church, and just haven’t taken the time to really keep experimenting to get to what you have done. I’ll be honest - In all these years I never noticed the lights on the front porch of the home (ex general store) across the street till you cleaned things up.

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