Mark Neal

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HDR Sharp and Smooth – A HTDS Process

Published January 2nd, 2013

Many HDR images have been criticized because of the tendency of lots of photogs to go over the edge in post-processing. In this “How To Do Stuff” post, I’d like to demonstrate one of my techniques for producing realistic High Dynamic Range images that can be enlarged without losing too much visual detail. This image is a result of a bit of fine tuning with Nik HDR Efex Pro, Adobe Camera Raw and Adobe Photoshop CS6.

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Film Types in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 – Review

Published December 12th, 2012

This is one of those HDR images that looks really nice in color but seems to suffer greatly with a straight monochrome conversion. As you can see, it’s pretty flat and lifeless. Here is where Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 really shines with the many Film Types available.

In this post, I’m going to concentrate on a few of the lower ISO film types to show just how versatile the software is. Although there are an infinite number of possibilities available in the software, sometimes a simple film selection will be all that’s needed. I’ll let you decide. I’ve chosen an especially flat image to show just how the different film types can enhance or in some cases detract

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HDR – Doing the Splits with Camera Raw – HTDS

Published October 17th, 2012

One of the nice things about doing HDR imaging is that a final result, with all the tonal variation can be further enhanced with the use of technology. For this short and simple ”How To Do Stuff” post, I’m working with this image which was produced using five shots with Nik HDR Efex Pro and Adobe Photoshop.

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HDR – Last Azaleas for The Season – An Artsy HTDS

Published October 10th, 2012

My wife and I are really enjoying our last color punch for the year with these beautiful azaleas. This is a High Dynamic Range(HDR) image of our hybrids that bloom from spring till autumn. And the flowers are about 3 to 4 inches across. . . a little larger than the rest of our azaleas. As you can see, the day was rainy which added even more visual interest to these beautiful blooms.

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HDR – Since 1962 as Photo Art Texture HTDS

Published August 8th, 2012

An HDR image from my “Poppin a few with the Nifty Fifty” photo walk in (Little) Washington, North Carolina this past winter. It seemed like everything on the street was pretty dreary except for the awning at the front of Washington Jewelers, est. 1962. So, here it is in all of it’s colorful beauty.

Photo Art – Texture for Real

This was another exercise in strategic cropping since I was limiting myself to one prime lens. All of the zooming was done by my two legs that day.

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How Could That be Real – A Case For Monochrome,...

Published August 7th, 2012

There are times when the artistic approach is the better method for portraying a mood in an image. This monochrome, HDR image was interesting in color. But, the raw emotion portrayed by the artist was lessened by the color version of the photograph.

Last week I presented “A Case for Color” to say that true reality is portrayed in color and that other methods are simply artistic presentations of reality. Well, this post is dedicated to the artistic, non-realistic side of the equation. You might be thinking,” What about the “How Can That be Real” part.” In the case of monochrome and the other options, duotone, tritone, split tone etc., I’ll just say that they are real, artistic, photographic expressions.

I know, there are still lots of photogs who feel that black and white is the only way to go. That’s fine! :-)

Here are a few examples where the traditional color version of an image would be less effective in portraying the emotion of the scene.

Please visit the complete post for ...

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How Could That be Real – A Case for Color

Published August 4th, 2012

How many times have you heard that a true photographic expression can’t be presented in color – that the only valid way to show emotion or “feelings” in photography is with Black and White? In other words, photographic reality must be Monochrome.

When you think about it, that sounds pretty funny, huh! After all, the reality that we see and experience is in color, unless you are one of the few who don’t have the capacity to experience a full color pallet.

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HDR – Monochrome Blending with A Touch of Duo –...

Published July 11th, 2012

One of the nice things about photographic technology is that we have the ability to modify our HDR images in practically endless ways. And the art of blending a Sepia toned monochrome with an original color image can yield interesting results.

For this “How To Do Stuff (HTDS)” post, I’ve started with a color version of an old street scene that has obviously had, shall I say, a more illustrious career in the past.

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HDR - Southern Sepia

Published July 9th, 2012

I’d like to revisit a time before HDR imaging as we know it today and even before digital imaging.

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HDR – Graduated Toning – Short and Simple HTDS

Published June 27th, 2012

A certain mood can create a great impact with monochrome, HDR images. For my “How To Do Stuff” this week, I’m exploring an easy way to transform this colorful shot from River Park North in Greenville NC, to a deeply dramatic, monochrome image.

In the following Short and Simple HTDS video, I demonstrate an artistic approach to modifying images using Adobe Photoshop. I’ve kept the process short and simple even though further enhancements could be done.

Please check out the rest of this post along with the video at http://www.hdr4real.com/2012/06/27/hdr-graduated-toning-short-and-simple-htds/

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HDR – 309 Middle Street with Some Pizzaz – HTDS

Published June 20th, 2012

My HDR “How To Do Stuff (HTDS)” this week is a little different. The various expressions of exposure blending are subtle but distinctive. Today, I’m looking at Nik, Adobe and a little bit of post processing with Gimp.

I decided to give this image a little HDR, “Just Beyond Reality“, punch since the tones and textures just seemed to jump out of the scene. This is what’s inside 309 Middle Street in New Bern NC.

When I first saw my brackets, I got pretty excited. All those highlights and shadows in nine exposures to play with. I usually shoot at full stop intervals. But for these, I chose half stops to gain a little finer transition in light and tone.

Please see my complete "How To Do Stuff" post at http://www.hdr4real.com/2012/06/20/hdr-309-middle-street-with-some-pizzaz-htds/

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HDR – Antique Toning – Short and Simple HTDS

Published June 13th, 2012

My HDR “How To Do Stuff” (HTDS) this week is one of my favorite subjects . . . old stuff. In this case, a couple of long forgotten beverage trailers from way back. I spend lots of time driving around Eastern North Carolina looking for worthy subjects for my artistic endeavors. When I saw these beauties, I had to stop and pop a few brackets.

After processing the normal, realistic High Dynamic Range image, I thought it would be fun to experiment with my recently acquired Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 software and do some antique treatment. I wanted to present this image in it’s “Faded Glory“, like a 60′s color photo from some old keepsake box. You know, Scratchy, smudgy and very faded.

Please check my post and video (highlight, right click and select Go to) at http://www.hdr4real.com/2012/06/13/hdr-antique-toning-short-and-simple-htds/

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HDR – Adaptive Wide Angle – Short and Simple HTDS

Published June 6th, 2012

I’ve noticed lots of tutorials popping up on how to use the Adaptive Wide Angle (AWA) feature in (PS) Photoshop CS6. Since I usually like to portray as much realism as I can in my HDR images, I decided to give it a try. It’s certainly much more powerful and interesting than my old standbys, Lens Correction and Free Transform.

So, for this week’s How To Do Stuff (HTDS), I’ve decided to demonstrate how I used PS AWA on this kinda “Faded Glory” image. My first attempts have been pretty successful and I’m sure that after a little more practice, things will get even better.

Please see the complete transformation tutorial (highlight, right click and select Go to) at http://www.hdr4real.com/2012/06/06/hdr-adaptive-wide-angle-short-and-simple-htds/

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HDR – Nik or PS – And a Few Variations of HTDS

Published May 30th, 2012

For my “How To Do Stuff” this week, I’ve decided to compare variations of High Dynamic Range processes along with pseudo-HDR. Since starting HDR imaging a few months ago, I’ve found that there are lots of opinions as to what constitutes true High Dynamic Range Imaging. Well, no matter what any of us think, it all comes down to “whatever floats your boat”, so to speak. :-) I must admit that some of the stuff being presented is way beyond photography from a technical perspective. Yet it’s still artistic in a way. Again, whatever floats.

Please see the complete story at http://www.hdr4real.com/2012/05/30/hdr-nik-or-ps-and-a-few-variations-of-htds/

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HDR – Lens Correction – A Short and Simple Samp...

Published May 23rd, 2012

This is another HDR image from Brookside Gardens. And, this week’s “How To Do Stuff” (HTDS) is a very simple method for lens correction using Adobe Photoshop.

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HDR – The Capital Transit Snow Sweeper – Monoch...

Published May 17th, 2012

This week’s “How To Do Stuff” will focus on how different High Dynamic Range (HDR), monochrome conversions can enhance a subject and draw attention to specific details that can get lost in a full color image. I’ve chosen a beautiful piece of machinery from the National Capital Trolley Museum, the Capital Transit Company (CTCo) 09.

For the complete tutorial and examples of a variety of examples of monochrome, please go to http://www.hdr4real.com/2012/05/16/hdr-the-capital-transit-snow-sweeper-monochrome-htds/

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HDR – Photo Art Hinges on Filters – HTDS

Published May 2nd, 2012

I started a new Category on “How To Do Stuff“ (HTDS) a couple of weeks ago and hope to continue posting a new How To every Wednesday. I’ve also added a few older “How To Do” posts to the new category at my blog, www.HDR4real.com.

Today’s HDR Photo Art will focus on a couple of different techniques I use for Techno Art results. I’m starting with a finished image in beautiful Black and White that looks just a little surreal. And, as you’ll see, it should, based on my process.

Please check the full tutorial at http://www.hdr4real.com/2012/05/02/hdr-photo-art-hinges-on-filters-htds/

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HDR – Purple in Beautiful Black and White

Published April 3rd, 2012

I’m doing a High Dynamic Range monochrome for a change with this selection from my wife’s birthday bouquet. After all of the punchy color and architectural stuff of late, I thought a short change of pace would be appropriate. Since not many people do HDR imaging in b&w, I thought I would add to the few examples that do surface occasionally. I’ve presented some tutorials on a variety of techniques to convert to b&w using Adobe Photoshop (Black and White and Channel Mixer) and also Nik HDR Efex Pro.

It’s easy to forget how beautiful black and white images can be when we are bombarded with vibrantly tone mapped images that usually go way beyond reality. I still wouldn’t give up the fun of transforming static single shot images into luciously delicious, vibrantly vivid, delights of exposure multiplicity. But for now, my focus is the tonal beauty of monochrome. Having grown up with “analogue” black and white, I always try to mimic my favorite films. This image is what I would try to get fr ...

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The Grills of Great Britain

Published February 13th, 2012

If you love Classic Cars as I do, then like me, you can’t resist focusing on those magnificent grills (or grilles). And, if you don’t really care for old cars at all, I hope you can still appreciate the beautifully artistic engineering that went into these mechanical beauties. This is what looks like a 1939 SS Jaguar 2.5 litre Drophead Coupé and is a gorgeous example of British automotive design.

Please go to my blog at www.hdr4real.com to see additional examples of these beauties.

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HDR - Orchid as Art

Published February 7th, 2012

I'm presenting this HDR rendition of an orchid that started with five images shot from -2 to +2 ev. My initial, completed image below was "pretty" but didn't seem to convey anything. So, it's been sitting in my "to Publish" folder for quite awhile.

Not wanting to throw away a good pose, I decided to try some artsy techniques in Photoshop to see if I could salvage this shot. After all, I liked the original at one point but it just didn't seem to punch if you know what I mean.

Please visit my blog for the complete post on how this created this image. www.HDR4real.com

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HDR – Variations on B&W Conversions – Nik HDR E...

Published February 6th, 2012

This is the third post in my series on conversions from color to black and white using High Dynamic Range images. So far I’ve covered the Channel Mixer black and white presets and the Black & White preset settings in Adobe Photoshop

Lately, I’ve seen lots or references to the Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 software and have read a few positive reviews. So, not wanting to overload on post processing software and already being familiar with the Photoshop methods, I decided to try my hand with Nik HDR Efex Pro for a B&W conversion. What you see above is the result of using Desaturation, Control Points, and Vignetting.

I have posted shots of this Shishi Lion (Foo dog) before but wanted to use him again since he has a very broad range of tonality. As you can see, the Nik software is extremely effective at bringing out the subtle color and tonal nuances.

For the full post, please go to http://www.hdr4real.com

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HDR – The Reflecting Pool Through the Fence - R...

Published February 3rd, 2012

Yes my friends, this is my HDR photo of the Reflecting Pool which is located between the Lincoln Memorial (Look close. You’ll see it way back there) and the WWII Memorial in Washington DC. Sure it’s not what you would expect but it will be nice when they’ve completed construction (or reconstruction?).

My real intention in this post is to kind of challenge the idea that truly realistic High Dynamic Range (HDR) photographs can be achieved with a single image. As you’ll see, raw images have enough data to get pretty close. I think I’ve read that there can be a latitude of up to 5 ev with raw images. But, even with that, I have to really increase my post-processing effort to even come close to the results that can easily be achieved by using five or more images that are shot at 1 ev intervals. I hope that makes sense to you.

For the complete post, please visit my web blog at: http://www.hdr4real.com/2012/02/03/hdr-for-real-the-reflecting-pool-through-the-fence/

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Volubilis Morocco – Not Quite Rome

Published February 2nd, 2012

One of my favorite places to visit in Morocco was the Roman ruins at Volubilis located near Meknes between Fez and Rabat. One meaning for the name is “sculpture” and I can only guess that the place had lots of sculptures at one time since it was a small Roman city. I’ve also found that the name in Latin means “Morning Glory”. That seems to go along with what I was told by the “freelance guides” at the ruins. I visited Volubilis twice during my stay in Morocco. The first day was one of those perfect sky days; just a few clouds and a perfect sunset. The second trip was rainy and cloudy all day which allowed for high color saturation slides while shooting under an umbrella. I’ve mixed images here from both trips.

Please visit my web blog for the complete post at http://www.hdr4real.com/2012/02/02/volubilis-morocco-not-quite-rome/

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HDR – Variations on B&W Conversions – BW

Published January 30th, 2012

This is the second in a series of posts on Color to Black & White photo conversions. As mentioned in the first post that explored using Photoshop Channel Mixer presets to make B&W images, many HDR images are being converted to Black & White to present typically tone mapped shots in a more “artistic” way. It’s obvious that many photographers are doing very simple conversions using Adobe Photoshop without taking advantage of the variations that are available as presets. This post will deal with using the Black & White conversion presets and one way that I’ve used to create the above image.

I go into the details of using the Black and White presets in my blog post at http://www.hdr4real.com

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HDR - Classical Abstract

Published January 28th, 2012

I really enjoy photographing musical instruments. They’re great subjects for High Dynamic Range photography and make an artistic impression on me visually; like making music with a work of art. This is one of my guitars that I enjoy playing when I want to relax with something classical or even Celtic.

This abstract image was created using 5 exposures spaced -2 to +2 ev. I started with seven exposures but found that the darkest and lightest were not needed for this subject. The -3 ev exposure actually caused problems in Nik HDR Efex Pro where the deep shadow area inside the sound hole was rendered in a marbled, redish tone. I find that certain extremes don’t do well with the software.

I used 5 control points in HDR Efex Pro to enhance certain areas of the image. I specifically wanted to bring out the cross-grain brilliance of the wood. For that, I used one control point and emphasized Structure while dropping the Exposure a bit for a more true to life appearance. The wood in this guit ...

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HDR – Variations on B&W Conversions – CM

Published January 23rd, 2012

Many HDR images are being converted to Black & White to present typically tone mapped shots in a more “artistic” way. I’ve seen some beautiful work and, since I originally started with black and white photography, darkroom and all, I am particularly drawn to it. It’s obvious that many photographers are doing very simple conversions using Adobe Photoshop without taking advantage of the great variations that are available as presets. An interesting thing about the software is that there are many ways to convert color photos to black and white. I am going to present a couple of different ways to do the conversions.

This post will deal with using the Channel Mixer presets. You will see what seem to be identical images at first glance. But, looking closely, the variations will be obvious.

I’ve started with this High Dynamic Range image that has quite a bit of tonal latitude; extreme light to very dark and everything in between. It was initially processed using 7 images loaded into Nik HD ...

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HDR – Shishi Lion Among Other Oldies

Published January 20th, 2012

I’ve photographed this Lion before but decided to do a High Dynamic Range “environmental portrait” this time. All of the elements in this photo are antiques of various origin. The lion is of course Asian. The lamp base to the left is part of a large art nouveau, Austrian urn. The dining room breakfront is an English antique. And the little brass candle holder? Not sure about that but it is old.

This shot was my first set of 9 exposures using my brand new Nikon D700 last year. Having moved up from a D100 DX, I was pretty excited to finally have a full frame, FX sensor camera. I know, lots of techie talk but hey, the improvement in photo quality is tremendous.

I used Nik HDR Efex Pro for tone mapping, using control points for various areas of the image. I specifically used Structure on the Lion to add more depth and detail. Most of the post processing for this image was done in Adobe Photoshop using Curves, Hue/Saturation, Shadow/Highlights, Channel Mixer and High Pass filter (for fi ...

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Bodie Island Lighthouse - Outer Banks North Carolina

HDR - Bodie Island Lighthouse - Just Beyond Rea...

Published January 19th, 2012

This is the Bodie Island Lighthouse on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. As you can see, it’s not being used. But it’s still a wonderful subject for slightly abstract, wide angle HDR photography.

For tone mapping, I used control points in Nik HDR Efex Pro for about 6 places on this image to enhance areas of contrast and add structure to each in varying degrees. I pumped the sky just a bit to get my Just Beyond Reality look and in Adobe Photoshop, I used Image > Adjustment > Exposure to adjust Gamma Correction and Exposure for more depth. Then I added Curves to finalize tonality.

I finished by increasing the image size by 30%, adding sharpening using a double pass with Unsharp Mask (300/.5/0, 200/.6/0), then adjusting the unsharp mask intensity of luminosity and finally setting the image size back to the original dimensions. This sharpening method worked very well for this shot. I got the gritty look that I wanted without losing a smooth texture in the clouds.

For this image, I ...

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HDR – Andrew W Mellon Auditorium in DC

Published January 17th, 2012

Walking toward the Capitol on Constitution Avenue in Washington DC, I grabbed this High Dynamic Range shot of the Mellon Auditorium using a monopod for 5 exposures. Even though the shots were not perfectly lined up, I and HDR Efex Pro managed to get a fairly sharp final image.

This capture was loaded into Efex Pro for very minor modifications. I added Structure to the stonework using a control point set for the light areas. In Adobe Photoshop, I worked with levels to get just the right amount of contrast without blowing out the lights (ha ha) or losing the shadow details.There was a very slight glow on the gold points of the gating which I eliminated using the Clone tool. . .very delicate work, not perfect, but effective. The perspective was slightly off, so I used Free Transform to pull the upper left side out just a bit. It actually gave the image a slight 3D look.

I used the double pass for sharpening that I found at Win Reyns Fine Art Photography site. It’s a nice way to add shar ...

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HDR – The Art of Perspective

Published January 16th, 2012

This is an example of my technique for perspective correction. I’ve included this High Dynamic Range image to show the end result of using Free Transform in Adobe Photoshop. You’ll notice that there is still a slight bowing of vertical lines but it’s much better that the original shot.

Please see my complete post at http://www.hdr4real.com/2012/01/16/hdr-the-art-of-perspective/ where I give more detail on how to do perspective control using the Lens Correction function along with Free Transform.

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Adobe Lightroom 4 Beta

Published January 12th, 2012

Having used Adobe Photoshop for so many years and more recently, Nik HDR Efex Pro for more streamlined tone mapping, I was a little apprehensive about trying something else. After downloading the free beta version of Lightroom 4, I was delightfully surprised. And since I am totally new to the product and a little overwhelmed with what it can do, I decided to focus on the “Quick Develop” area, mainly the automated settings for color/black & white and White Balance. These seem to give more control at a global level with the ability to do fine setting manipulation for exposure, contrast, etc., as well.

Lightroom Tonality – Living Color

My starting point is a middle exposure from a 5 bracket set. The image below is what the camera would have produced in single shot mode.

Please see my complete post at http://www.hdr4real.com/2012/01/12/adobe-lightroom-4-beta-my-2-cents/

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HDR – Schlumbergera Truncata - The Art of Techn...

Published January 10th, 2012

I know it's past Christmas but I wanted to post a few more Schlumbergera truncata, i.e., Zygocactus. I've used a slightly different High Dynamic Range technique for these posts.

The "Art" of Technique - Liberty

This is full bloom in full HDR. To get more punch in the image, I used lots of structure and curves in Nik HDR Efex Pro. This example and the others in this series are of the "Just Beyond Reality" category. At times, a surreal approach fits the subject matter and with flowers it can always work.

Seven exposures were loaded into HDR Efex Pro for tone mapping. I generally try to find a preset to start with but usually end up working from default. Being a very mild control freak, this gives me more "artistic" leverage over the image. I chose an image shot at f22 with ISO 200 using a 105mm micro lens. The Nikkor lens is incredibly sharp with really nice bokeh. Love It!

This image is from my post on https://www.HDR4real.com - "HDR – Schlumbergera truncata - The Art of Technique", ...

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HDR – Technique – From Reality to HDR Xtreme

Published January 7th, 2012

Our first Orchid of 2012 turned out beautiful and a great subject for a HDR technique post. I used both Adobe Photoshop and Nik HDR Efex Pro for this exercise and found that my best results came from the Photoshop examples.

True HDRI – High Dynamic Range Imaging

I’ve noticed that many people define High Dynamic Range photography by referring to images that, yes, are a product of a combination of multiple exposures of an image, but are also heavily tone mapped for a “beyond reality” final product. Since HDRI (High Dynamic Range Imaging) has been around for quite a long time, it’s interesting that it has only recently caught on with photographers. Actually, HDR is often incorrectly used to define a single image that has been tone mapped to simulate the effect of HDR/Tone Mapped imaging. As you can see with this example, HDR for realistic images is very effective. Trying to achieve the full tonal integrity of a single shot can almost be reached using camera RAW files but, in my experien ...

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