Synaptic Lightroom Presets 1.0

Synaptic Lightroom Presets 1.0 is out now! Browse over to this GitHub repository to read the documentation and download the presets. Since a lot has changed since the last update anyone upgrading from a previous version should save any modifications they’ve made, remove all existing folders, and install a fresh copy.

Synaptic Lightroom Presets

A huge amount of effort has gone into this update. The folder structure has been re-organized, old presets have been phased out, and many new presets have been introduced. A few classics presets have undergone a tune-up, usually to tone things down a bit. My style these days is much more subtle than when I began experimenting with Lightroom a few years ago—and this new set of presets reflects that.

Synaptic Lightroom Presets Sample - Checheng

I encourage everyone to read the documentation carefully. I have done my best to explain my workflow and approach. This collection encompasses all of the presets I personally use with Adobe Lightroom. It is an opinionated library—but I don’t mean to suggest that my way is the best way to work with the software. You have to figure out whatever works for you—I merely explain what works for me to contribute some ideas back to the community.

Unlike many commercial vendors my presets are not designed to be magic one-click solutions—I conceive of presets as a starting point for further modification. Since every preset has Autotone switched on you’ll probably want to play around with the settings in the Basic panel after applying any of these presets.

Synaptic Lightroom Presets Sample - Hong Kong

It will be helpful to understand the modular design of my presets. I have broken out some common functions like noise reduction and vignetting into their own presets to be used in batch processing. Presets from different categories can be applied independently of one another as they don’t overwrite changes made by each other. This means that at the very least you’ll probably want to apply two or three presets to each image. Read more about this in the documentation.

Synaptic Lightroom Presets Sample - Mong Kok

I have also prepared many more samples for this release so potential users have some idea of what my preset library is all about. These images aren’t polished at all, unlike what a lot of commercial preset vendors publish; they’re meant to demonstrate the raw output of some of my presets. Many of these samples might look similar but the differences should jump out at you when you begin working with them in Lightroom.

Synaptic Lightroom Presets Sample - Seoul

For more examples of my presets in action I encourage you to browse my photography portfolio on this blog, my somewhat more serious photography portfolio site, or my Flickr.

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Wuchang temple 武昌宮

Wǔchāng temple 武昌宮 is a prime example of disaster tourism in Taiwan 台灣. Located in the township of Jíjí 集集, this temple collapsed in the devastating 921 earthquake. Rather than demolish the remains of the temple it has been left pretty much as it was in 1999. It acts as a powerful reminder of the scale of the terrible disaster that befell Taiwan fifteen years ago—and as a lucrative roadside attraction.

The ruins of Wuchang temple in Taiwan
Disaster tourism at its finest: Wuchang temple in Jiji.

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House of the green shoes

The house of the green shoes
An abandoned building in Pingxi filled with green shoes and fake plastic flowers.

This is one of the first abandoned buildings I explored in Taiwan 台灣. I had only been living in Taipei 台北 for about a week when I took a day trip out to Píngxī 平溪 and disembarked from the train at Shífēn 十分. Everyone else on the train had the same idea—which meant that the narrow street leading east to Shifen waterfall 十分大瀑布, one of the island’s finest, was incredibly congested with pedestrian traffic.

Opting for a more serene route I ducked down an alleyway and soon find myself behind the main drag on country roads lined with buildings in various states of disrepair. One of these crumbling ruins seemed particularly interesting and so I stepped inside, clambering over broken video game machines to the room pictured above, awash in discarded green shoes and fake plastic flowers. It was the first of many more explorations to come.


Two of the towers at the Toronto-Dominion Centre in the downtown core.

Depending on what metrics you use the Toronto-Dominion Centre is one of the largest—if not the largest—office building complex in Canada. Located at the heart of the Financial District, these towers near the intersection of King and Bay can be seen in almost any photograph of the Toronto skyline.

I shot this particular image back in late 2009 when I was starting to get serious about photography. Now and then I rifle through my archives and apply new post-processing techniques to old images like this. I liked how this one turned out so I am sharing it once again.

My photography, printed and framed

Recently I entered into a partnership with eFrame, a newly launched fine art photography portal. They sell a curated selection of premium framed prints from a variety of different photographers, myself included. If you’ve ever wanted to get my stuff in physical form, browse over to my gallery and have a look!

eFrame sample: Mirador Mansions

We are merely gulping down undigested experiences…

As it is, we are merely bolting our lives—gulping down undigested experiences as fast as we can stuff them in—because awareness of our own existence is so superficial and so narrow that nothing seems to us more boring than simple being. If I ask you what you did, saw, heard, smelled, touched and tasted yesterday, I am likely to get nothing more than the thin, sketchy outline of the few things that you noticed, and of those only what you thought worth remembering. Is it surprising that an existence so experienced seems so empty and bare that its hunger for an infinite future is insatiable?

But suppose you could answer, ‘It would take me forever to tell you, and I am much too interested in what’s happening now.’ How is it possible that a being with such sensitive jewels as the eyes, such enchanted musical instruments as the ears, and such a fabulous arabesque of nerves as the brain can experience itself as anything less than a god? And, when you consider that this incalculably subtle organism is inseparable from the still more marvelous patterns of its environment—from the minutest electrical designs to the whole company of the galaxies—how is it conceivable that this incarnation of all eternity can be bored with being?

The golden light of memory

Tourism map of Taiwan circa 1955
Tourism map of Taiwan circa 1955.

Slightly more than two weeks have passed since I left Taiwan 台灣. Already my sense of the daily experience of being there is slipping from my mind the way a dream dissipates in the hazy minutes after waking. We write a dream down when we want to remember it—which should explain why I have invested as much as I have into documenting my experiences. I remember more clearly those events and impressions that I have captured in words and imagery. The memories themselves, however transformed by the passage of time and the idiosyncrasies of human cognition, remain accessible because I have cut myself these keys, many of which I share with you here.

I captured this photograph in Taoyuan International Airport prior to my departure. This vintage postcard, originally published in 1955, depicts various landmarks and products from around Taiwan. Looking at this map, with its many unfamiliar romanizations, I can trigger memories: riding a scooter into mango country in Tainan 台南; encountering water buffalo by the seashore in Taitung 臺東 in the midst of a typhoon; aimlessly wandering around the fishing harbour at Badouzi 八斗子; surfing at Waiao 外澳 and partying next to the beach in Fulong 福隆; enjoying that first free pineapple cake in Nántóu 南投; bicycling across the red steel bridge connecting Yunlin 雲林 and Changhua 彰化; attending a protest in front of the Presidental Office Building in Taipei 台北 months before the Sunflower Student Movement exploded; and, of course, visiting Taroko Gorge, the most awe-inspiring place I have ever been—a place far too grand to be captured by my lens or described with any degree of verisimilitude by my virtual pen. While I generally try to avoid collecting souvenirs I will admit to keeping this postcard as a memento, something physical to remind myself that no, it was not just a dream…


TCRC bar exterior
Outside TCRC Bar at night.

TCRC Bar is a hip cocktail bar inside a beautiful old historic home in back alley Tainan city 台南市. It is an extension of TCRC Live House, short for The Checkered Record Club, a small live music venue located just around the corner that is also worth a look. Although it isn’t strictly a speakeasy TCRC Bar is about as close as Tainan gets to a place like Ounce in Taipei 台北.

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