Share this page

Follow me
Facebook   Twitter   DA   500px

All images©Hougaard Malan
Site design by focalFOLIO


Here you can find features on other artists. Hopefully you’ll enjoy reading my review on their work and perhaps you’ll give them a bit of attention!

July 15, 2013

Free Web Sharpening Action

There can be many good and bad things said for photography’s great migration to the Internet, but no matter what you say, that migration has happened. Getting your images to look their very best on the Internet has become as crucial as the ability to print was in the old days. Luckily, as with everything else in the digital era, preparing an image for web presentation is much simpler than film printing.

I can’t claim that any of the knowledge I have on web sharpening is mine as I learnt all of it from other people’s tutorials. It does make it easier to be able to cross-reference everyone’s techniques, take the best from each and put it together. I wrote a set of actions about 2.5 years ago and haven’t updated my knowledge or techniques since. Over the past week I took it upon myself to look at what’s new and what I’ve been missing. I was very relieved to see that I haven’t missed anything, but there are one or two things I have now been able to improve.

Everyone still uses the same basic formula with minor differences. That formula is to resize the image 3 times, using a factor of 1.66x. Why 1.66x specifically works so well is anyone’s guess…whether Fibonacci or chance or flying beavers, it works.

Choose the resolution you want and multiply it twice by 1.66. If you want your final image to be 1000px, then the second resize should be to 1666px and the first resize to 2775px. Apply a select amount of sharpening on a duplicated layer at each stage and refine it at the end. At this stage some people do something to minimize halos, compensate for lost saturation or add slight highlight diffusion. Either way it’s not that complicated, even if you’re a Photoshop beginner. If you do it step by step a few times you’ll quickly be able to program actions that resize to a resolution of your preference and add a touch of your own.

Here’s exactly what my action does.


  • It resizes using File>Automate>fit image instead of image size because fit image works on both portrait and landscape images. You just enter the same size in both fields and it will resize the image’s longest side to that. For a 1000px image that first size would be 2775px.
  • Duplicate the original layer
  • Apply an unsharp mask of 200%, 0,3px, 0 threshold.
  • Fade the unsharp mask to minimize halos. Edit>Fade Unsharp Mask, set the mode to luminosity, zoom in to a contrast edge at 100% and play with the slider until your happy. The image should still be sharp. 50-70% works well.
  • Fit image to 1666px
  • Duplicate the sharpened layer
  • Apply an unsharp mask of 200%, 0,3px, 0 threshold.
  • Fade the unsharp mask to minimize halos. Edit>Fade Unsharp Mask, set the mode to luminosity, zoom in to a contrast edge at 100% and play with the slider until your happy. The image should still be sharp. 50-70% works well.
  • Fit image to your final size, in this case 1000px
  • Merge the top two layers (You should still have your background layer below it)
  • Set the layer blending mode of the top layer to luminosity
  • Apply an unsharp mask of 200%, 0,3px, 0 threshold.
  • Apply Fade Unsharp Mask one last time, again luminosity mode. This time its crucial that you watch the sharpness at 100% when adjusting the slider. The imge may only be a tad oversharpened.

That’s the end of the sharpening. Now all that’s added is a bit of highlight diffusion. I desaturate the cyans and blues by -10 because blues always end up oversaturated in my opinion. Then I add vibrance of 25 to compensate for the bit of color lost in all the sharpening.

  • Get the light lights selection (CTRL/CMD+click on RGB channel>CTRL/CMD+ALT+SHIFT+CLICK on RGB channel)
  • Duplicate a layer of the selection (CTRL+J/CMD+J)
  • Apply Gaussian blur of 3px
  • Set the layer blending mode of that layer to soft light
  • Add an adjustment layer and boost vibrance by 25

That’s it, now you just fine-tune the amount of each layer to your satisfaction and you’re done. If you want to make an action of a custom size, all you have to do is the following.

  • Duplicate the action of the closest size by clicking the drop down tab on the top right corner of the actions palette and selecting duplicate
  • Rename it to your new size.
  • Open the command structure of the action by clicking the little play button to the left of the text
  • Look for the lowest fit image command
  • Double click it and enter the size you want

I’m not going to post a million samples here of how sharp it makes it, download the action and use it on your own images. Feedback/critique is welcome!



Download Action on CapturEarth

April 18, 2012

Water in Deadvlei

Most visitors to Deadvlei have probably noticed that there’s the odd set of footprints going around the pan. If you’ve walked around the place barefoot for two hours then you’ll know how hard that surface is, so where do the footprints come from? Deadvlei needs a substantial amount of water for that surface to turn to clay so that someone will leave noticeable prints. It is a pretty common occurrence to have water in Sossusvlei in the rainy season because it gets flooded by the Tsaucheb river, which gets fed from a major mountain range catchment area. Deadvlei however, is deadvlei because it was cut off from Sossus by a dune hundreds of years ago and that made the trees die. So for any water to end up in Deadvlei, it has to fall directly above it. If you consider how many tourists go there a year and how few footprints there are, then you’ll realise how little people have seen this natural spectacle, let alone photographed it.

Images and story by Dom Wills – Check out his Deviantart page to see more.


“After an early evening of looking at some stars at the campsite at Sesriem, I was a bit shocked to be awoken a few hours later by thunder and rain. Being in the Namib Desert, I thought it would be temporary storm and move on. I was wrong. It rained solidly for 2 days.

I took periodic trips to Deadvlei to see how much, if any, water was landing on the pan. On the second morning, I was one of the first to the 4×2 parking lot and the road to deadvlei was flooded. Other cars had parked and were waiting for guides to help them get through. I knew that the river was going to come down in flood at any time, so I lowered tyre pressures and pressed on.

I though there would be the odd puddle at deadvlei at the most, but as I walked over the dune, I was delighted to see there was loads of water pooled up in large puddles all over the vlei. Given the river flooding situation, I gave myself an hour before heading back. What a glorious solo hour in this iconic landscape.

When I got back to the 4×2 parking lot, the rangers had blocked access to the vlei – suppose timing is everything and sometimes early mornings do pay off.”

The Day Before. Dramatic sandlip kicked up by the impending storm...


Wind being blown across the pan the day before

At this point one starts getting to the nice trees in the pan

Dom said that instead of running around and trying to get a shot of all the trees, he focused on getting one or two good shots.

My favorite shot from his series

Filed under: Featured — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — Hougaard Malan @ 9:33 am

January 10, 2011

Namibian Bodyscapes by Willem Oets

The results of a talented photographer travelling to some of his favorite spots in the Namib with a beautiful model. Very inspirational photography

To see more of Willem’s work visit his website

October 3, 2010

Mitchell Krog

The name Mitchell Krog has become synonymous with electric storm photography amongst South Africans. Apart from his mindblowing lightning shots, he also has a stunning and comprehensive collection of nature photography from Macro to landscapes to wildlife. To see more of his work and find out more about the man behind the camera you can visit his website and for any inquiries you can contact him via email

The beautiful Blyde River Canyon in the Mpumalanga Province of South Africa captured at sunrise. This is the 3rd largest canyon in the world and also one of the greenest. Nature sure did not disappoint me this morning and it's a location I will be exploring more in the future.

One of the most recognisable animals of Africa has got to be the Elephant. Under a very dramatic stormy sky we came across these two elephants walking across the open plains of the Maasai Mara. The colour image holds its own ground but the black and white reigns supreme.

I spent several days in Namibia in 2009 and Deadvlei although well traversed and well photographed still offers many unique opportunities for a landscape photographer. Having seen so many thousands of images of this iconic world heritage site I tried something different and I have a soft spot for the resulting image.

If there is one place in the world to see a Cheetah in an environment that shows it off best, that place is the Maasai Mara. I had numerous sightings of Cheetah on my last trip there and this particular Cheetah sat for some time posing for us Papparazzi and she seemed to really enjoy the attention.

On a hot summer's night in Namibia under a starry sky I captured this image of some Quiver trees against the beautiful night sky. The clouds which I first thought may be a nuisance that night turned out to be a perfect element for the image and add a whole new dimension.

The Maasai Mara certainly holds many opportunities for the landscape photographer, granted it's not the cheapest detsination in the world but well worth it. This particular morning the most amazing glow from the sun just created the most idyllic scene I've seen in some time.

August 18, 2010

Michael Anderson

Most countries have their top photographers with stunning and diverse galleries of the country’s most photogenic locations, but it would seem that this man’s craving for photography and exploration isn’t even closely satisfied by what any one country has to offer. His portfolio consists of breathtaking photos of some of the most spectacular locations that the world has to offer. Many people have galleries with similar international diversity, containing images ranging from Patagonia to the Himalayas to the U.S Midwest, but none of them go to the effort that Michael does to get unique and unseen perspectives on the places, instead of the normal viewpoint snapshots.

I usually don’t show too many photos of the photographer I feature, but this man deserves at least ten images so here are my eleven favorite images of his. All captions are by Michael himself.

This is hands down one of my all time favorite photos of any photographer. I’ll definitely buy a print before the edition sells out!

This is a scan of a 35 mm slide. In the winter of 2003, 4 friends and I set out to ski about 70 miles of the great divide route across the icefields of the Canadian Rockies. Along the way we enjoyed (suffered through?) many adventures including a rappel down an icy cliff face in 100 mph winds onto a dangerous avalanche slope, a ski across the thin ice of a thawing lake, and some of the most incredible powder skiing of my life down the face of Mons peak. This image of an ice cavern at the base of the Mons icefield seems to encapsulate the beauty, remoteness and danger I felt on that incredible adventure.

When I first saw a photograph of the karst peaks of Guilin thirty years ago, I couldn't believe a landscape like thisreally existed. The area remained at the top of my 'life list' of places to see since then. When I finally found the opportunity to visit, I wandered alone on the riverbanks and met a cormorant fisherman who showed me his traditional methods. They fish at night and the lantern attracts fish toward the raft so the cormorant can dive in and catch them. The fishermen tie a loose string around the cormorant's neck so they can't swallow it completely, and the men pull out the fish and store them in a basket. This method of fishing has existed for over a thousand years here. I decided to call the image 'Timeless' in honor of the men and their tradition. It is still possible to find the 'old China' if you know where to look. I met the fisherman during the day when he was cleaning his raft on the banks of the river. Using a Mandarin phrasebook I carried in my pocket, I asked him if he would be out fishing that evening. He said yes, and I asked if I could watch him from the shore and photograph him. He agreed and seemed genuinely interested in my camera. He understood what I wanted to do and stayed fairly still on the raft as the best sunset of my trip unfolded around us. I used a fill flash to keep the wing detail in the black Cormorant. Suddenly it spread it's wing wide open. And then the most amazing part happened. It held it's wings open and still like that for about 2 seconds. It was getting pretty dark and my shutter speed was slow at 1/30 second. That single moment, with the cormorant holding it's wings out still like that was the key to the entire image. The cormorant was perfectly sharp in the dim twilight during the best sunset of my entire trip.

The most majestic mountain sanctuary I've ever seen.

Twenty minutes before I took this image, I was surrounded by dense fog. I looked at my map again and the contour lines clearly showed that Ama Dablam, one of the most beautiful mountains in the world, should be right in front of me. But all I could see were a few rocks at my feet and a the faint outline of a dark ridge disappearing toward the bottom of a deep canyon. Then the fog began to glow, and in an instant, it lifted up and revealed this spectacular scene in front of me. I had time to take about 10 photos before the alpenglow faded. I continued to stand there in the fading twilight transfixed, overwhelmed by the brevity and majesty of the scene I had just witnessed. And I was elated that I had finally photographed a scene that did justice to the grandeur of the Himalayan landscape.

Angel Falls, the highest waterfall in the world, thunders 3,000 feet down into the heart of the Rainforest.

The swirling waters of the Iguazu River tumble into the sunset mist of the rainforest. I took this a day after my other version of this scene. The sunset light was more dramatic this evening with cloudy warm tones.

Cerro Torre towers over a Dreamscape of ice and snow in the majestic high country of Patagonia.

'Islands in the Stream'. Credit Hemingway for the title. I'm not sure if the old man of the sea ever made it to the South Pacific, but I'm sure he would have really enjoyed the Manua islands here in American Samoa. These are some of the most magnificent islands in the world and they are way off the radar of most travelers and photographers.

Twilight on one of the most beautiful and unknown islands in the South Pacific.

This spectacular light only exists for a few minutes each day for 3 weeks around the summer solstice. Then the darkness rules again.

I almost didn't get this one. My camera was having electrical problems from sea spray two days earlier. The camera finally came back to life in the middle of this sunset. The scene is so fantasy-land, I left the blurred palm on the right as a reminder that it IS real.

Check out his website for more

Filed under: Featured — Hougaard Malan @ 1:52 pm

July 4, 2010

Shem Compion

Shem Compion is one of South Africa’s top nature photographers with many awards to his name in all the major competitions. His work shows some Africa’s most beautiful wildlife, but I like his eye for the wider shots of the animal in the landscape. Check out his website for more

Filed under: Featured — Hougaard Malan @ 11:56 am

May 1, 2010

Isak Pretorius

Isak is yet another talented young photographer from the Northern Region of South Africa. He has a very impressive gallery of wildlife images and is quickly learning the landscapes game. His images speak for themself…


Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM at 140mm, 1/1250 sec at f / 5.6, ISO 400 - Okovango Delta, Botswana - This was taken during an overcast morning. I had to over expose the shot by 1.3 stops to capture the detail on the leopard, but of course resulted in a blown-out white background. In post processing, I added a little bit of contrast and selected the "sepia" preset in Lightroom for this desired effect.


Tree and Milky way in the Richtersveld National Park, South Africa NIKON D3, 14-24mm f/2.8 @ 14mm, 25.0 sec at f / 2.8, ISO 2500


Elephant in the Chobe National Park, Botswana Canon EOS-1D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM + 1.4TC @ 280mm, 1/60 sec at f / 16, ISO 400


Springbok in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF 600mm f/4L IS USM +1.4TC, 1/20 sec at f / 36, ISO 250


Springbok in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana Canon EOS-1D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM + 1.4TC @ 280mm, 1/6400 sec at f / 11, ISO 320


Dead Quiver Tree in the Richtersveld National Park, South Africa Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM @ 16mm, 5034.0 sec at f / 4.0, ISO 125

Filed under: Featured — Hougaard Malan @ 12:42 pm

March 31, 2010

Mark Dumbleton

I want to use my blog to expose other up and coming photographers who’s work I like. If your work is of a high standard and you would like to be featured just send me a mail with a link to your portfolio! Alternatively you can nominate someone else who you think deserves some exposure

In my opinion, South Africa’s #1 up and coming landscapes AND wildlife photographer. a Young passionate man with a love for the nocturnal landscape. If you like the images below check out his website for much much more

Check out Mark’s blog to see how he went about shooting and processing the Meisho Maru shot

Meisho Maro - A recent shipwreck at Cape Agulhas captured in stunning sunset light

Meisho Maro - A recent shipwreck at Cape Agulhas captured in stunning sunset light

Kubu Nights - One of the famous Kubu Island Boababs under the milky way

Kubu Nights - One of the famous Kubu Island Boababs under the milky way

Makgadikgadi - the cracked surface of the endless pan under dramatic cirrus skies

Makgadikgadi - the cracked surface of the endless pan under dramatic cirrus skies

Kogelbay - the scene you'll find in every S.A nature tog's gallery

Kogelbay - the scene you'll find in every S.A nature tog's gallery

Filed under: Featured — Hougaard Malan @ 9:50 am
Powered by WordPress - Full custom template by FocalFolio