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Make this a better photo...

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by DavidM, Feb 2, 2005.

  1. A few days ago a few of us were discussing the concept of constructive criticism vs. the "wow - great shot" comments that are so common amongst polite folks...

    There are so many great photographers/artists at this site already I thought I might try this little experiment. My purpose in posting this photo is to get constructive feedback. Specifically, I already know of several things that I would have done differently with this pic, but I'd love to hear ideas from the larger group on what you would have done differently. Some of the ideas I will probably already know about, but I'm hopeful there will be many that I haven't considered. I already know that I've got much to learn, so help me!

    My skin is pretty thick, so let me have it. All aspects of the photo are fair game: composition, acquisition/exposure, post processing, whatever ideas you may have. My only request is this: "that's a lousy picture" is OK, but please say why, and if possible, what you would have done differently. I suspect we can all learn something in this process.

    Here's one that I know is less-than-perfect. Tell me how you would make it better next time!

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
  2. PGB


    Jan 25, 2005

    Did you use a circular polarizer on this shot? It seems on my monitor that the sky is not consistantly blue. This could be I guess becasue of the direction of the sun. I seem to get this effect when I use a Cir. Pol. filter only.

  3. Thanks

    Patrick - that was one of my major lessons that day. Pretty much every picture I took that day suffered the same fate. Wide-angle lens + circular polarizer, and not only was that too wide a viewing angle for a polarizer, but the sky was darkened too much overall (IMHO).

    Thanks! What else might you have done differently?
  4. marek

    marek Guest

    Polite "great shot"s from me? Never.

    To start, usually Im not a big fan of following photographic rules, but here going 50:50 sky:land doesn't seem to work. Sky is pretty but doesn't hold enough interest to so dominate the frame. What would work best here (IMHO) is a more top down shot letting the expanse of the lake fill hte bulk of the frame with the river (little inlet?) meandering to one corner leading the eye to the large body of water. Moutains on the horizon would frame that well (as they already are), but obviously I don;t know if there were any vantage points available to do this from! Is it also a little underexposed?

    BTW what was the mm on this shot?
  5. Hi! Despite being essentially a clear sunny day the landscape is a bit dull. There should be more contract between the foliage and the bare ground. If you shot Raw, I'd look at upping the EV and adding a bit of contrast. Other things would be based on what the histogram looks like though.

  6. Cool! Now we're talking. Thanks for the comments (and please keep them coming). This is exactly what I had in mind when I posted this originally. Although I can't go back out and reshoot any time soon (I live several thousand miles away), I can attempt to rework the original photo.

    First to answer some questions. Here's the original pic as it came out of the camera, downsized for posting:

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Here's the pertinent EXIF:

    Exposure time: 1/20
    F-stop: 22.0
    Focal length: 17.0000
    Exposure mode: Manual
    White balance: Auto
    Exposure bias: 0.0000
    Metering mode: Pattern
    Exposure program: Manual

    Taking the suggestions I've had so far (and a few of my own), I made the following changes:

    1) Opened in Capture and used newer processing techniques to adjust curves, WB, etc. (for now I'll call them the "modified Ron Reznick" process). In essence, this was to set sharpening, individual color curves and WB per RR, then to change the final luminance to increase contrast. That last part I usually do when I prepare a pic for posting (but not printing). As a last step I actually bumped up the color saturation a bit to add more color to the foliage.

    Moved the pic to PSCS, then did the following:

    2) Rotated to correct a very slight horizon tilt (about 0.4 degrees CCW).

    3) Cropped to remove most of the sky and to include more of the foreground brush.

    4) Converted color space from Adobe RGB to sRGB.

    5) Resized for Web and saved as JPG (level 10).

    This was the result:

    View attachment 4818

    Am I on the right track?
  7. That's a lousy picture! (ONLY KIDDING). Actually the new and improved version is much better. The elongated look is more interesting and the knarled scrub oak on the left adds interest. You have recovered nicelyl.
  8. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    David :

    You've hit most of the issues I'd been thinking about (esp. the tilted horizon - an extremely annoying mistake I personally make too regularly for comfort :? ).

    I'd also note that the exposure of the foreground earth seems still a bit "hot". Living in the southwest as I do, I know that this is a constant battle to address, as the lighted coloured earth reflects disproportionately with respect to the juniper and (dead) piñon. When you address the sky darkening, I suspect this is bringing up the ground exposure just a bit too much.

    Also, shooting at almost any time other than early morning or late day means than the juniper and piñon get washed out. However, increases in colour sat or hue don't really provide restoration, as the branches and ground are reflecting the harder sunlight differently.

    The next time you're out here (and I noted your trip's path last year shown on your site), we'll go out for some early day or late day shots and have some fun with all of this.

    John P.
  9. John -

    Thanks for the comments!

    Re: the horizon:

    I believe it was this picture that got me to thinking that something was up with my camera (D100), because I was using a tripod that day and carefully aligned the horizon with the horizontal bars in the viewfinder. I've noticed this same relative amount of tilt in some other pictures I've made, and I'm really starting to think there's something askew in my viewfinder. One of these days I'll take the time to do a more rigorous test. I've seen some other postings where people have said similar things about their cameras, so I don't think mine is an isolated issue.

    Re: exposure comments:

    You mentioned what I think is the overriding problem with exposure on this shot -- time of day. This was just a spot on the side of the road I passed while driving between two destinations, so it was by no means planned. I would like to go back sometime to some specific places I saw on that trip and get morning shots of some of the better landscapes (I frequently point people to my Bryce Canyon Ampitheater shots to illustrate why). Lake Abiquiu isn't particularly near any place that I would want to stay overnight, so getting there in the morning isn't very likely for me at this point.

    If I'm ever out west again, I'd love to connect with Gordon, JC, yourself, or anyone else in the area to get the "scoop" on the best locations and perhaps shoot a few keepers... it's a beautiful part of the country for sure.

    Thanks again -
  10. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    David :

    Glad to help. I can hardly ask for constructive criticism myself without offering some in return.

    Lake Abiquiu, eh ? I thought that this looked familiar. You really were in my backyard. Actually, I shot a solar eclipse using a point'n'shoot digital while standing on a crag at Ghost Ranch, not far from Lake Abiquiu. It was the lack of ability to use a proper polariser on that camera in that moment that eventually led me back into SLRs, specifically the D100.

    As for the horizon issue... If you look at the corrections we make in cases like this, they are almost always in the 1-3 degree range. We can differentiate this in a full screen view on the computer, but the viewfinder is simply too small to adequately make out a 1:180 or at best 1:60 ratio tilt from the horizon. Even the larger viewfinder on the D2H is simply too small to be able to get a definitive determination.

    Time of day is critical in the southwest for photography. Noon light is much more "flattening" here because of altitude, while the sky colours are also changed. I find I can shoot very specific images if they are close enough to manage the exposure, but the wide dynamic range here at noon makes midday shots much more, *ahem*, challenging.

    By all means, stay in touch. It's likely that there will be a group shooting at the Bosque del Apache this next autumn, and I'll be proposing some other amazing places to shoot here in the "Land of Enchantment". We might also discuss a shoot in southern Utah closer to Gordon's neck of the woods.

    John P.
  11. Gale


    Jan 26, 2005
    Viera Fl
    Hi David,
    Couldn't help playing with this photo with technique I am really trying to get better at and this photo offered a good opportunity. Hope you don't mind.

    It is called Painting with light I picked up on the retouching forum. First I ran a Velvia action then PWL action and commenced to pain. Actions are available at www.actioncentral.com

    Ok now you can critique mine. :>))

    View attachment 4820
  12. Hey Gale -

    Looks like the actions really heightened the saturation levels. To be honest, I'd probably like the result better if I hadn't used a polarizer on the original photo -- the polarization made the sky too dark in the original and the increased saturation makes that too blue for me. :) 

    I do like the more saturated colors in the rest of the landscape, though. It tends to tone down the mid-day sun a bit.
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