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Author Topic: To crop or not to crop  (Read 5730 times)
byork
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« on: July 11, 2009, 06:06:22 AM »
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Not sure which is the best composition....seems to be a downfall of mine judging by some of the responses to a few of my posts. Hate em both? I'd rather you said so!!

Cheers
Brian

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RSL
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« Reply #1 on: July 11, 2009, 06:40:10 AM »
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Brian, Don't crop. The original composition is good. What did you see when you decided to take this picture? Usually, that's the picture you want.
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byork
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« Reply #2 on: July 11, 2009, 06:55:20 AM »
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Quote from: RSL
Brian, Don't crop. The original composition is good. What did you see when you decided to take this picture? Usually, that's the picture you want.

Hey Russ

I actually went there specifically to take the original shot. Last time I was there a couple of weeks ago it was raining but I wanted the waterfall on the left with the valley in the background. Yesterday was a bit misty but I think that probably helped the shot in it's way. I went on the walk with my brother in law, and he sat in with me while I went through the shots.....he more or less convinced me to take the right side out.
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Ray
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« Reply #3 on: July 11, 2009, 07:36:12 AM »
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Quote from: byork
Not sure which is the best composition....seems to be a downfall of mine judging by some of the responses to a few of my posts. Hate em both? I'd rather you said so!!

Cheers
Brian

The composition of the second one is quite good in terms of shape and form. The flow of the sky over the pinkish rock face tends to mirror, or complement the flow of the waterfall.

However, I can see why you attempted to crop the image. The eye tends to be attracted towards the brightest parts of an image. The waterfall is the main subject, but the sky competes with it and tends to win because it's by far the brightest part of the image and covers quite a large area.

An alternative to cropping would be to lighten the waterfall and darken the sky, if it's not blown.
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button
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« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2009, 07:49:10 AM »
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Quote from: Ray
An alternative to cropping would be to lighten the waterfall and darken the sky, if it's not blown.

I agree with Ray- the original composition works beautifully.  If you have camera raw or lightroom, play around with the luminance sliders and see if you can pull down the sky brightness.  If the sky is blown, then just lightly burn that half of the picture.  It's a really pretty shot!

John
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PeterAit
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« Reply #5 on: July 11, 2009, 09:16:09 AM »
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Quote from: byork
Not sure which is the best composition....seems to be a downfall of mine judging by some of the responses to a few of my posts. Hate em both? I'd rather you said so!!

Cheers
Brian

My thought would be to crop but differently than you did. I would crop off a vertical strip at the right edge, about 1/4 of the photo width. This would get rid of the very distracting white sky and focus more on the very nice waterfall and foreground leaves.

Peter
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« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2009, 10:03:07 AM »
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Quote from: byork
Not sure which is the best composition....seems to be a downfall of mine judging by some of the responses to a few of my posts. Hate em both? I'd rather you said so!!

Cheers
Brian

Brian:

I prefer the first of the two.  My reasoning is the repeating of the "flow" of the waterfall in the distant cliff & sky at the right, and similarly with the two green branches along the left.  All three of these features are somewhat parallel and I think that works.  

If there is any improvement to be made it would be to lower the brightness of the sky to the right of the cliff.  Not a lot, just enough so that it does not draw your eyes away from the waterfall, but still enough to keep that repeating pattern defined (say ~20% reduction in brightness?)

Andrew
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RSL
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« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2009, 10:43:28 AM »
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Brian,

I guess people are going to get tired of me saying this, but I'll say it anyway: If you're a reasonably experienced photographer and if you've learned something about composition by studying the work of the masters -- either masters of photography or masters of painting, a very large percentage of the time your first impression of a scene is going to be the correct one when you turn it into a photograph.

Now, I know the theory is that your eye is drawn to the brightest point in a picture, but some eyes are connected to brains, and my brain tells me that the waterfall isn't the primary subject in this picture. The sharp canyon with its foggy, soft light is the primary subject. I see that first. Then, I notice that there's a waterfall on the left, beautifully subdued by the lighting, and echoing the S-shape of the stepped valley. Finally, I notice that the shape of the overhang on the nicely wooded cliff on the right echoes the initial slant of the cliff on the left.

It's very good composition. Frankly, I can't see how you can improve on it. I know that a lot of people think that snapping the shutter is only the first step, and that all the fun comes later when we play with it in Photoshop. If that's your bag then get the picture into Photoshop right away and crop, enhance, subdue, and otherwise trash the picture. But to my mind, that would be sacrilege. You nailed the shot when you tripped that shutter. It's a very good shot.
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byork
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« Reply #8 on: July 11, 2009, 05:33:18 PM »
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Thanks everybody, first class feedback.

Russ, you've summed up exactly what I was trying to achieve with the composition, but there are some good suggestions here so I might play around with those later and see what I end up with. If I think it works better I'll post it.

Cheers
Brian
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Ray
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« Reply #9 on: July 11, 2009, 07:10:22 PM »
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Quote from: RSL
I guess people are going to get tired of me saying this, but I'll say it anyway: If you're a reasonably experienced photographer and if you've learned something about composition by studying the work of the masters -- either masters of photography or masters of painting, a very large percentage of the time your first impression of a scene is going to be the correct one when you turn it into a photograph.

If one is attempting 'art', there's no such thing as a 'correct' one, only a preferred one and a one preferred by whom. Irrespective of one's experience as a photographer and one's formal training and study of the masters, a photographer will tend to take a shot of a composition that interests him.

The difficulty then becomes one of rendering to monitor or print that initial impression that prompted or inspired one to take the shot.

Disappointment in the final result, especially with landscapes, is often due to the inability of the camera to capture with a single shot the detail, tonality and vibrancy of the original scene as witnessed by the eye. This is partly because the pupil of the eye is continually dilating and contracting as one's gaze shifts from one part of the real scene to the other. Furthermore, this dilation and contraction occurs almost instantly so we are hardly aware it's happening.

We look at the bright mist and our pupils contract so we see every whisp and drift. We shift our gaze to the dense undergrowth surrounding the waterfall and our pupils instantly dilate so we can absorb the fine detail in the shadows. We shift our gaze just slightly to the water, and our pupils contract so we can see every bubble of the froth.

We don't know from Brian's jpeg presentation whether he's captured the mist or not. If he has, then that should remain as an integral part of the composition, even the main focus as you mentioned. If he hasn't and the sky is totally blown, then there's a problem.

The fact that Brian was not sure which is the better composition implies that he failed to capture the mist, possibly as a result the long exposure he used to blur the waterfall.
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byork
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« Reply #10 on: July 11, 2009, 07:15:51 PM »
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Well...there's nothing I can do about the brightness of the mist....but your dead right Russ, I like it the way it is. I'll definitely be going back to re-shoot on a clear day though.

Once again, thanks everyone for your comments, great feedback!

Cheers
Brian
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byork
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« Reply #11 on: July 11, 2009, 07:29:57 PM »
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Quote from: Ray
If one is attempting 'art', there's no such thing as a 'correct' one, only a preferred one and a one preferred by whom. Irrespective of one's experience as a photographer and one's formal training and study of the masters, a photographer will tend to take a shot of a composition that interests him.

The difficulty then becomes one of rendering to monitor or print that initial impression that prompted or inspired one to take the shot.

Disappointment in the final result, especially with landscapes, is often due to the inability of the camera to capture with a single shot the detail, tonality and vibrancy of the original scene as witnessed by the eye. This is partly because the pupil of the eye is continually dilating and contracting as one's gaze shifts from one part of the real scene to the other. Furthermore, this dilation and contraction occurs almost instantly so we are hardly aware it's happening.

We look at the bright mist and our pupils contract so we see every whisp and drift. We shift our gaze to the dense undergrowth surrounding the waterfall and our pupils instantly dilate so we can absorb the fine detail in the shadows. We shift our gaze just slightly to the water, and our pupils contract so we can see every bubble of the froth.

We don't know from Brian's jpeg presentation whether he's captured the mist or not. If he has, then that should remain as an integral part of the composition, even the main focus as you mentioned. If he hasn't and the sky is totally blown, then there's a problem.

The fact that Brian was not sure which is the better composition implies that he failed to capture the mist, possibly as a result the long exposure he used to blur the waterfall.


Yes you're right Ray, I blew the mist, and your comments provide the good kick up the behind I deserved. The shot as is, is something I might be somewhat happy with, but obviously I could have done better. This has been by far the most productive thread for me so far.

Cheers
Brian
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RSL
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« Reply #12 on: July 11, 2009, 09:15:33 PM »
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Quote from: Ray
If one is attempting 'art', there's no such thing as a 'correct' one, only a preferred one and a one preferred by whom. Irrespective of one's experience as a photographer and one's formal training and study of the masters, a photographer will tend to take a shot of a composition that interests him.

You're right, Ray. "Correct" wasn't the right word. "Best composition" would be better. But I stand by what I said. There's a reason you decide to make a photograph, and the composition you saw that made you shoot the picture almost always is the best composition -- the one you shoot first. But that's only true if you've learned to throw a mental frame around the things you're looking at. Subsequent shots usually run down hill from that first one.

Quote
The difficulty then becomes one of rendering to monitor or print that initial impression that prompted or inspired one to take the shot.

Disappointment in the final result, especially with landscapes, is often due to the inability of the camera to capture with a single shot the detail, tonality and vibrancy of the original scene as witnessed by the eye. This is partly because the pupil of the eye is continually dilating and contracting as one's gaze shifts from one part of the real scene to the other. Furthermore, this dilation and contraction occurs almost instantly so we are hardly aware it's happening.

We look at the bright mist and our pupils contract so we see every whisp and drift. We shift our gaze to the dense undergrowth surrounding the waterfall and our pupils instantly dilate so we can absorb the fine detail in the shadows. We shift our gaze just slightly to the water, and our pupils contract so we can see every bubble of the froth.

We don't know from Brian's jpeg presentation whether he's captured the mist or not. If he has, then that should remain as an integral part of the composition, even the main focus as you mentioned. If he hasn't and the sky is totally blown, then there's a problem.

The fact that Brian was not sure which is the better composition implies that he failed to capture the mist, possibly as a result the long exposure he used to blur the waterfall.

I agree with all of that. Yes, I do post-processing in Photoshop to reproduce what I saw, but I don't crop in order to improve the composition. As far as I can see, this photograph can't be improved by cropping. As far as the "blown" sky is concerned, how much detail do you normally see in fog? But at this point we're talking about fairly subtle details that can't really be discriminated on a 72 ppi monitor.
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byork
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« Reply #13 on: July 12, 2009, 02:16:38 AM »
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Apologies John, after trying to pull back detail with sliders, forgot to burn. Nevertheless, I've had a go and think it makes a small difference. What do you think?

Cheers
Brian
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PeterAit
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« Reply #14 on: July 12, 2009, 08:05:12 AM »
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Quote from: RSL
You're right, Ray. "Correct" wasn't the right word. "Best composition" would be better. But I stand by what I said. There's a reason you decide to make a photograph, and the composition you saw that made you shoot the picture almost always is the best composition -- the one you shoot first. But that's only true if you've learned to throw a mental frame around the things you're looking at. Subsequent shots usually run down hill from that first one.



I agree with all of that. Yes, I do post-processing in Photoshop to reproduce what I saw, but I don't crop in order to improve the composition. As far as I can see, this photograph can't be improved by cropping. As far as the "blown" sky is concerned, how much detail do you normally see in fog? But at this point we're talking about fairly subtle details that can't really be discriminated on a 72 ppi monitor.

I find myself regularly cropping, simply because the composition I wanted when I took the photo does not fit into the aspect ratio of the camera. It's not realistic to expect a 1.5:1 (or whatever) aspect ratio to fit more than a small fraction of your photos, is it?

Peter
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #15 on: July 12, 2009, 08:47:58 AM »
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Quote from: PeterAit
I find myself regularly cropping, simply because the composition I wanted when I took the photo does not fit into the aspect ratio of the camera. It's not realistic to expect a 1.5:1 (or whatever) aspect ratio to fit more than a small fraction of your photos, is it?

Peter

Brian,

From long habit looking through 1.5:1 viewfinders, I find that perhaps 90% of my images do, in fact, fit the proportion Peter mentions. But whenever a scene doesn't, or if I notice a better composition after the fact, I have no hesitation about cropping. I'm not doctrinaire about it at all. Cropping is a tool; use it when it is appropriate.


That said, I liked the original cropping better than the cropped version at first. But the latest revision of the cropped version, with the mist enhanced, works very well for me now. So I think you have two good photos; just don't show them both in the same exhibit!

Regards,

Eric

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Ray
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« Reply #16 on: July 12, 2009, 09:03:16 AM »
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I see we're back to a previous discussion on cropping after the shot, where Jonathan Wienke advocated that it was not recommended for resolution considerations.

I find such rigidity of approach very Germanic. I'd recommend, crop whenever you feel like it. Of course try to get a shot which won't need cropping in post-processing. Doesn't everyone try to do that?

It's really a very silly argument.
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« Reply #17 on: July 12, 2009, 09:03:27 AM »
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Quote from: byork
Apologies John, after trying to pull back detail with sliders, forgot to burn. Nevertheless, I've had a go and think it makes a small difference. What do you think?

Cheers
Brian

I find those HSL sliders a bit unpredictable, especially when dealing with really bright, almost white areas.  To me, it looks like that you've tried to pull down the brightness of the mist, and in so doing, you have reduced the brightness of the leaves on the right.  Those leaves now have more visual weight to my eye, which unbalances the image.  Based on this result, I recant my "burn the right" suggestion, because I think you'll get a similar effect.

I'll be honest with you, Brian, the more I look at the uncropped original, the more I like it.  I think that whatever you do to it (if anything), you don't need to do much.  Here's another suggestion, if you want to give this a shot:


1) Open in photoshop, and duplicate the layer.  

2) Set the new layer blending mode to "soft light" for starters.  Play around with the opacity percentages.  You might also try "overlay", "hard light" or "vivid light" for more effect.  Stop here if you're happy.  For local adjustments, keep going:

3) Add a mask to that new layer and invert it (turn the background color from white to black).  This will cause the new "effect" layer to disappear.

4) Select the mask, chose paintbrush, set a soft edge, and now change the background color to white.  This allows you to "paint in" the new effect layer wherever you want to see it.


Sorry if you know all of this already.  I find this procedure useful for local adjustments in photoshop.  Let us know what you decide!

John
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RSL
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« Reply #18 on: July 12, 2009, 03:31:37 PM »
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Brian, The burning seems to change the picture considerably, though, as I said earlier, we're into subtle enough differences that it's hard to be sure on a 72 ppi monitor. The unburned version makes the foggy valley the subject of the picture. The burned version shifts the subject to the very pretty red rock wall of the cliff. I like them both.

Congratulations on posting a picture that brought out this much comment. Wish I could see an actual print from this file. I'll bet it's stunning.
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dalethorn
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« Reply #19 on: July 12, 2009, 04:43:58 PM »
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Commenting on the first post only: The reddish glow(?) in the rocks is faded too much in the cropped version. Some of the image could be cropped off of the right side without losing much, and the white sky isn't ideal, but I think you need to keep most of it.
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