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Author Topic: Serious critique please  (Read 8043 times)
sgwrx
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« on: June 27, 2006, 12:55:54 PM »
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Please critique this image.  I'm worried that the blown out sky distracts too much. Would this be considered a sellable image? a good image?  I do have another where i zoomed in to crop out most of the sky. It's a lot more intimate as opposed to this one which is more of a 'view' so to speak.

Thanks much
Steve

PS Although i really like this image, i'm hoping to get the type of opinnions that helps me judge my progress as a novice.
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2006, 03:39:46 PM »
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Please critique this image.  I'm worried that the blown out sky distracts too much. Would this be considered a sellable image? a good image?  I do have another where i zoomed in to crop out most of the sky. It's a lot more intimate as opposed to this one which is more of a 'view' so to speak.

Thanks much
Steve

PS Although i really like this image, i'm hoping to get the type of opinnions that helps me judge my progress as a novice.
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It's a nice image, Steve.

The heretical thing that I would do about the sky in the upper left corner is to clone some of the nearby foliage to fill in between and to the left and right of the two prominent trees near the left. The upper left is the only place that I would try to fix that way.

Purists may well jump on me for that suggestion.  

Just my 2 cents.

Eric
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sgwrx
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« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2006, 07:59:03 PM »
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thanks.  i'm more a purist also.  i'd rather go back and get it right.  this is potentially a hard situation to deal with unless perhaps i get an overcast sky i'd think.  part of the problem is this is deep in the forrest as it were so there's heavy shade.  the other shot has much less sky in it, but some.  another thought i had was to use a second graduated ND filter or a hard-edge, to really darken the sky, but i'd have to worry the darkening of the tree tops.
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AdrianW
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« Reply #3 on: June 28, 2006, 07:05:35 PM »
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another thought i had was to use a second graduated ND filter or a hard-edge, to really darken the sky, but i'd have to worry the darkening of the tree tops.
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There is a solution, presupposing you're using a tripod and the trees aren't waving around too much. HDRI.

Just shoot a bracketted range of exposures, and then merge them into one HDR image using something like [a href=\"http://www.hdrsoft.com/]Photomatix[/url] - gets around the hard edged filter problem nicely!
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sgwrx
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« Reply #4 on: June 28, 2006, 08:39:22 PM »
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yep, defintely could have done more of that.  i did bracket by -2 stops and still the sky was blown.  you bring up movement, in fact there was quite a bit of movement at the very tops of the trees, just the circumstances of the moment.

i was recently looking at some of the images by clyde butcher, who in fact was the inspiration for this shot, and i noticed that up in the background of some of his shots there were white skies peaking through. i think that he USES that in some of his images to add interest, but for the most part i've seen examples where he seems to have cropped in more to avoid getting too much sky in the scene. on the other hand, he's an experienced artist and i probably shouldn't be making any assumptions about his work   his mistakes, if he makes any, i'm sure are WAY better than what i think is a keeper!

i think that one probably has to live with what one gets. think more on the creative side of things.  i suppose that is the trouble i have with most critiques - which tend to be more brain-orientated than passion-orientated. i hesitated putting this up.  but, it's hard for me to judge my own work, very hard. no, very very hard.

thanks,

steve
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Lisa Nikodym
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« Reply #5 on: June 28, 2006, 10:54:56 PM »
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i was recently looking at some of the images by clyde butcher, who in fact was the inspiration for this shot, and i noticed that up in the background of some of his shots there were white skies peaking through.

It's always been my strong opinion that black & white photos can get away with pure white highlights, while color photos can't (in general, of course; there are always the rare exceptions).  I don't know whether conventional wisdom agrees...

In the case of your image, I think the bright area distracts, and smears the edges of the trees silhouetted against it.  Could you maybe try selecting all pixels that are blown out, or nearly blown out, and darken them to a light gray (with some appropriate slight color cast)?  It might not work, but you never know, it just might improve things.  Or have you tried seeing how it would look in black & white?

I've often had the "too much contrast" problem too, so I can sympathize, only in my case it's usually redwood forests instead of swamps.  My usual approach is just to reduce the exposure waaay down until the sky isn't quite blown out, then brighten the shadows in ACR and use noise reduction if the shadow noise gets too bad.

Lisa
« Last Edit: June 28, 2006, 10:57:27 PM by nniko » Logged

sgwrx
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« Reply #6 on: June 28, 2006, 11:18:47 PM »
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thanks for the comments lisa.  i converted the image into black and white and also attached a B&W version of the -other- shot i mentioned, the one where i just zoomed in a bit to crop out more of the sky.  i do like these, but i think the sky might still be too distracting in the un-zoomed image?

that's an interesting idea of selecting and toning down the pixels. it would at least give a sense that something is there vs. just pure white.
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #7 on: June 29, 2006, 08:21:16 AM »
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I think Lisa may be onto something. I find the white sky much less bothersome in the B&W version than in the color version. For me the cropped version feels a bit cramped, so I agree that you should try to work on the one that agrees more with the way you felt the scene.

If you try Lisa's toning-down-the-blown-pixels suggestion, please show us what you come up with.

-Eric
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sgwrx
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« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2006, 06:19:12 PM »
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Ok, i used a circular gradient mask and then curves adjustment to drop the white down to 200 and pulled down a few more points, mid-point and darker.  hm. it does seem less distracting. but, maybe some more playing around.
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jdemott
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« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2006, 07:36:57 PM »
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Steve,

I really like the black and white version.  Frankly, in B&W I don't think you need to do anything to the sky, particularly if you open up the shadows a bit so the sky isn't as noticeable.  OTOH, if I were to see a larger version or print, then the blown out sky might be more objectionable.  In that case I think you want the least possible adjustment so that the sky is still very bright but is just shy of being blown out.  I think the last version you posted probably goes a little far in terms of the amount of darkening of the sky.  In the color version, I think some adjustment of the highlights is definitely called for.  Here's a method that should work in either color or B&W.

Create a new layer above your background layer.  Set the foreground color to black (or in color, to a sky blue).  Apply Filter >  Render  >  Clouds.  Apply a blur filter (I use a motion blur) so it looks a little more like an overcast sky (it doesn't have to be very realistic; you just want to avoid a solid color look).  Add a layer mask and apply a linear gradient so that the cloud/sky layer goes from 100% visible at the top to fully transparent in the middle of the frame.  In the Layers palette double click on an empty part of the cloud layer to bring up the Layer Style dialog box.  You want to move the black slider for the Underlying Layer way to the right so that the cloud layer is visible only in those areas where the underlying layer is brightest i.e., blown out.  Holding down the Alt key while clicking and dragging on the middle of the black slider will let you split it into two sliders--move the right half to about 245 and the left half to about 220.  That should give you fairly natural transitions around the foliage.  Finally, reduce the layer opacity of the cloud layer until the new sky/clouds are just barely visible.

Here is an example of what it looks like with the shadows opened and a little local contrast enhancement.  I hope this helps.  Great shot.

[attachment=772:attachment]
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John DeMott
sgwrx
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« Reply #10 on: June 29, 2006, 09:39:01 PM »
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john, great idea!  i followed along and it works pretty good, really good actually. with some more experimentation i'm sure i could get it right.  i like how it throws different lightness values across that area (i used a pretty high motion blur).  as far as more experimentation, i think i'd have to play around blending the edges of the foliage as they are pretty blue in highlights.  in B&W the edges are less disturbing, but still somewhat. and when you mention printing a larger size, i still think it's probably not going to be 'right'.

i just got done curing the color print of the zoomed in image, 12x18. i think at this size this wider version would just be too distracting.  i really like the print of the zoomed in version both color and B&W (which is still curing). for the B&W, i did two copies, one with R2400 set at advanced B&W with a warm tone, another with the warm tone but set to 'normal' instead of 'darker'. i dodged the left tree trunk in it's darkest areas to bring out some tones and it really did the trick.

i think for a wider, i'm going to have to try the shot again and get a different angle or just plain go for the super HDR with two images and blend the two layers together. i don't think the wide angle would look bad, B&W even if the top of the image were very dark, blending to a 'good exposure' in the middle, then down to the darker ground with perhaps some blown out reflections in the water.

i think i'm finally on to something, that is to say finally thinking right about making photos.  i said it once before and i still can't think of anyth better advice - it's best to get it right    i think that while i like the zoomed in image, getting the wider angle better would be a hit out of the park for me.

everyone's ideas have helped me understand more what a 'right' shot would be. i'm going to have to wait until next week before i get up to where i shot this.
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sgwrx
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« Reply #11 on: June 29, 2006, 09:48:58 PM »
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excuse me for hi-jacking my own thread, but switching to printing.  i said i printed two B&W versions of the zoomed in one.  the first looks _very_ dark under ambient lighting and under two 60 watt bulbs in a frosted ceiling light.  however, if i shine a light right on the print, i can easily see detail everywhere.  the version that i printed using the 'normal' darkening setting, looks much better in the ambient light and again i can see the detail in dark areas.

it reminded me of a print i saw in atlanta by (i forgot his name) an arial photographer. i think it was called tractor in field. i was initally taken by the fact that it too appeared very dark. there were stipes of green field with stripes of black dirt. the green seemed fairly 18% gray whereas the dirt was very black.

i wonder and still wonder, it must be true that when you print, perhaps you are best off printing for your audience. so, if i know my prints are going to hang in houses then i should open up the shadows because there are no bright spots shining on them to show the detail.
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jdemott
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« Reply #12 on: June 29, 2006, 10:57:44 PM »
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On the Luminous Landscape homepage there is a link to info about workshops, which includes an announcement by Alain Briot of a Photoshop and printing workshop.  Briot describes working for a full week to get the adjustments just right for one photo.  No doubt, another equally skilled photographer could have spent a week on a similar photo and ended up with a different look altogether.  Darker and more moody, or lighter and more upbeat, more or less saturated, etc.  Ultimately it comes down to "vision."  How did you see a particular scene and what feelings do you want to communicate?  

It sounds like you have some strong feelings about this particular scene, so I say go for it and explore all the variations--darker or lighter, cropped or not, B&W or color, etc.  Yes, it makes sense to anticipate the likely viewing conditions but I don't think you can anticipate the likes and dislikes of the audience.  You have to follow your own vision.
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John DeMott
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« Reply #13 on: June 30, 2006, 07:57:01 PM »
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I think John has the essense of it.  Experiment with different variations of this image, consider toning, sepia, duotones, gold toning, etc. The sky is the limit. You can't print for anyone else, you have to print for yourself, it's your image and you have to please only yourself. It's good to ask for comments, other viewpoints are always helpful, it makes you look at your work in different ways.  It's nice when someone else admires one of your images but I make images for myself, not anyone else.  In regards to printing,  I remember a quote somewhere by one of Ansal Adams's assistant's overhearing AA in his late printing days coming out of his darkroom muttering" Finally got a decent print",  the assistant looked at the neg sleeve, it was over 40 yrs old.  If it took AA 40 yrs to get a print right, you and I have a ways to go.  enjoy.
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Ray Malin
sgwrx
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« Reply #14 on: June 30, 2006, 09:29:34 PM »
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well there you have it.  it wasn't until this picture that i understood how, or rather why, you would dodge or burn (i think, see my question below).  i dodged the tree on the left in the shadows (middle and top) to make the hidden detail more visible.  i think perhaps i dodged a little too much because it looks a little flat overall.

what has irked me is hearing / reading many things by the masters who say pretty much the same thing: "if they knew what a good black and white (or color) print was".  a recent read at Digital Outback Photo said pretty much the same thing, but what makes a good print is something for another article.

does what i say of dodge and burning above show that i'm starting down the right path of what makes a good print?

the big picture for me, pardon, is that i'm less stressed now about the never ending redoing of a digital file or print. i guess it takes a lot of experimentation, revisiting something after time, and personal input (vision).

early on in my first post i asked "is it sellable". perhaps i'm getting too anxious around making money with this hobby, but it's one of my goals (here and there to sell one).  i recently attended a outdoor fair at which two long-time photographers sold mostly 8x10 or a little smaller.  browsing at some of the prints i was pleased to see that i took nearly the same shots of the landscape, beaches and lighthouses. i guess that answers my question, that post-card type images can be sellable and i think i'm capable of that.  the bigger, knock your socks off prints i think are going to take a while.

thanks again for everyone's responses.

steve

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I think John has the essense of it.  Experiment with different variations of this image, consider toning, sepia, duotones, gold toning, etc. The sky is the limit. You can't print for anyone else, you have to print for yourself, it's your image and you have to please only yourself. It's good to ask for comments, other viewpoints are always helpful, it makes you look at your work in different ways.  It's nice when someone else admires one of your images but I make images for myself, not anyone else.  In regards to printing,  I remember a quote somewhere by one of Ansal Adams's assistant's overhearing AA in his late printing days coming out of his darkroom muttering" Finally got a decent print",  the assistant looked at the neg sleeve, it was over 40 yrs old.  If it took AA 40 yrs to get a print right, you and I have a ways to go.  enjoy.
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« Last Edit: July 15, 2006, 09:12:04 PM by sgwrx » Logged
Lisa Nikodym
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« Reply #15 on: June 30, 2006, 09:48:52 PM »
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A lot has happened on this thread since I made my original black-and-white suggestion!  (I just got back here.)  I think your B&W versions works very well, much better than the original color version, and I agree with someone above that I like the uncropped version better.  A good one!

Lisa
« Last Edit: June 30, 2006, 09:50:05 PM by nniko » Logged

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