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Author Topic: Sharpening induced miniaturism of landscape prints  (Read 3872 times)
Tim Lookingbill
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« on: July 07, 2012, 08:35:19 PM »
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Now that photographers are responsible for the final look of their landscape prints brought about by digital image processing, I'm starting to notice this weird optical effect sharpening landscapes for print output that tends to make the landscape appear miniature in scale like a diorama on the print.

The sample shot I took of my 12x12 inch NatGeo calendar is what got me to finally post on this topic to demonstrate this weird effect. That image is the only one out of the 12 that seems to exhibit this weird miniaturized appearance and I'm just wondering if it has something to do with sharpening technique and/or lack of resolution and if it can be remedied.

I've experienced this with my own similarly sized landscapes prints. Have any here experienced this and/or see this? Or am I just seeing things that aren't there?

Examining that image for quite some time it appears to me there isn't enough resolution or that everything is equally sharpened which I don't think agrees with the way humans perceive the grand scale of an actual landscape scene.
 
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Tim Lookingbill
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« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2012, 08:52:04 PM »
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Here's a side by side sample detail shot of two of my own inkjet prints picturing two extremely different scaled subjects. The one on the left is of some trees captured about half a football field length away and the right is of antique weathered doorknob detail about 3 ft from the lens.

As you can see the one on the right looks quite real looking while the trees on the left don't. They look similar to miniature banzai trees.

Have I oversharpened the landscape? Is there too much clarity?
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bill t.
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« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2012, 09:47:04 PM »
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Yes, I've noticed that sharpening is a scale killer, pretty much without regard to print size.

About a year ago I started using considerably less sharpening for distant objects versus foreground objects.  Also, I've been careful to keep some sense of atmospheric haze for distant objects.  For printing I make two or three identical composite layers at the top of the PS stack, where the "distance" layer is less sharpened and has less contrast than the closer layers, then paint masks as needed for the final composite.

Have also found that it helps a lot of soften distant skylines on older images.

PS, really like that tree/clouds crop!  Great Parrish-esque colors!
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Farmer
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« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2012, 09:51:57 PM »
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http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/cameras-vs-human-eye.htm

It's a little out of date in some references, but not in overall concepts.

I think the issue you're seeing is a result of, for want of a better term, too much depth of field in the shots relative to the angle of view and without any other "hard" scale reference.  It thus appears to be miniaturised much in the way that those processed shots with super shallow depth of field have the same visual impact.
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bill t.
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« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2012, 10:15:20 PM »
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...and without any other "hard" scale reference.

Yes, that's a big issue.  I wish I could afford the cost and hassle to take along a model to stand in the mid distance of all my landscapes.  Nothing gives a better sense of scale.  I have found man made structures also work pretty well for that, but are a sale killer for a lot of customers.  Maybe I can start a business making inflatable deer, bunny rabbits, coyotes, hikers, whatever.
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Alan Klein
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« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2012, 10:23:54 PM »
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Tim: Maybe it's my monitor but I don;t get the same impression as you. It doesn't look like a bonsai tree to me. Looks naturally sized. 

The only thing wrong with the canyon shot, is the contract is limited.  IF you look on a histogram, you'll see the black and white points are contracted to the middle.  If you extend these points in Levels, you get  better contrast, more light and blacks and a better shot.  Alan

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Tim Lookingbill
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« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2012, 10:48:41 PM »
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Relieved to see this is a relatable topic, experienced by other photographers. Concerned I was being too picky. Was thinking if NatGeo thought that image was good enough to publish who am I to judge.

Thanks for the link, Farmer. One of my favorite new terms is "Mach Band". However, I disagree with the points on how much detail we see in a landscape in the "Resolution & Detail" section in that linked article. Who looks at a landscape at a single glance? I don't.

Years back in a LuLa discussion on sharpening (titled "Hey, Schewe The Sharpener" or something) a contributor with the user name, DaBreeze, posted a huge 1200 pixel wide shot he took with his Canon 5D Mark II of the Grand Canyon to demonstrate a similar distance sharpening technique bill t. mentioned. It was so captivating and optically perfect that I was actually experiencing vertigo from its stark 3D appearance. This image kept haunting me for several years to the point I hunted up DaBreezes real name which led me to his website to where I located that same Grand Canyon shot.

I nearly fell out of my chair in absolute disappointment. He had added further contrast, sharpening and saturation edits that totally eliminated its 3D look to where it was almost to the point of a cartoonish HDR. Noticed the rest of his landscapes exhibited the same look.

Thing is I do the same thing to my landscapes as well. Afterwards, I have to go back and retrace and dissect all the steps I added to find the place of normalcy which is sometimes impossible before my eyes adapt.

Just found the LuLa link to the dabreeze posting unfortunately the original link to the image is gone...

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/forum/index.php?topic=16827
« Last Edit: July 07, 2012, 10:56:41 PM by tlooknbill » Logged
bill t.
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« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2012, 11:29:24 PM »
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It's Art versus Point of Sale Impact.  Artistic purity is inversely proportional to the weight of unpaid bills.  Or, if you're selling stuff online you gotta knock their socks off right there on the screen, atmospheric subtlety be damned.
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Farmer
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« Reply #8 on: July 08, 2012, 01:33:38 AM »
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However, I disagree with the points on how much detail we see in a landscape in the "Resolution & Detail" section in that linked article. Who looks at a landscape at a single glance? I don't.

I agree, although I think that's the point being made.  With our eyes, we survey the scene and our brain puts together an image.  In a photograph in which the entire scene can actually be viewed without additional survey, we see it differently.  The process of surveying a view and the need to focus at various points, etc, gives us reference to scale.
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bill t.
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« Reply #9 on: July 08, 2012, 02:01:24 AM »
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The process of surveying a view and the need to focus at various points, etc, gives us reference to scale.

Which is why there may be some advantage to different amounts of apparent sharpness in various parts of the image, typically in proportion to the distance implied by perspective.

Painters have long used carefully modulated focus differences to force horizons way out yonder.  As our photographic sharpening tools have improved, we have been unwittingly pulling the horizon back towards us.
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dmerger
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« Reply #10 on: July 08, 2012, 10:11:49 AM »
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I think the problem is too much contrast, as well as over sharpening.  The vast majority of landscape photos I see on the internet look unnaturally contrasty for my taste. 
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Dean Erger
Tim Lookingbill
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« Reply #11 on: July 08, 2012, 11:02:37 AM »
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Which is why there may be some advantage to different amounts of apparent sharpness in various parts of the image, typically in proportion to the distance implied by perspective.

Painters have long used carefully modulated focus differences to force horizons way out yonder.  As our photographic sharpening tools have improved, we have been unwittingly pulling the horizon back towards us.

I think you nailed it with that one, Bill. Carefully modulated focusing from distant background all the way to foreground.

The horizon line including the layered distant rock detail along and just below the tops of the hills on that NatGeo landscape are way too defined and hard lined. On my tree/cloud cropped print there is no horizon line except the trees against soft clouds. Since the clouds naturally lack hard lined definition it throws off the sense of just where the trees are located within the entire focal range.

I used to paint in a photo realistic style back in my mid to late teens and I do recall having the same miniaturizing effect because I wanted to show every leaf and foliage clump with the same amount of definition within the entire focal range. I regulated softness somewhat but I kept constantly reworking it because it just didn't look right. I'ld soften the edges of distant objects but fail to come up with the right degree of clarity in the rest of the object that matched up with edge softness.


Since we have to rely on our memory of what the scene looked like, as landscape photographers it seems we're still challenged the same way in post as a painter.

Below is another "mini cloudscape" Raw before/after process example I feel got away from me in post. As you can see there was a long way to get to the end to where my eyes focusing on just one section could throw off my perception of the rest. I know this still doesn't look right to me and will produce a weird looking print. Not sure if its the degree of clarity in the trees not matching up with the sharpness of the edges or the flatness of the composition between the tree line and clouds.
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Farmer
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« Reply #12 on: July 08, 2012, 05:42:26 PM »
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Which is why there may be some advantage to different amounts of apparent sharpness in various parts of the image, typically in proportion to the distance implied by perspective.

Painters have long used carefully modulated focus differences to force horizons way out yonder.  As our photographic sharpening tools have improved, we have been unwittingly pulling the horizon back towards us.

I agree with this entirely - it's a very good point.  It makes you wonder about such things are hyperfocal distances and their real utility.
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bill t.
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« Reply #13 on: July 11, 2012, 11:16:16 PM »
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OK, I was just printing this image and it's a pretty good example of the importance of horizon treatments to scale.

The bottom version is stitched together with images straight out of a popular HDR program.

The top version is after a little masked Curves work in CS5.  The horizon is WAY OUT THERE in comparison to the straight version.  The effect is modest at screen scale, but honkin' impressive on large prints.
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Tim Lookingbill
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« Reply #14 on: July 12, 2012, 11:48:45 PM »
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bill, they both look miniaturized to me because all textures have the same level of sharp detail from foreground to background. Was that your intent?

Searched for large resolution landscapes using Google Images and found what I consider proper looking sharpening and tonality that gives the illusion of depth, realism and scale.

http://www.macwallpapers.eu/bulkupload//Nat/lan/2//Landscape/Mac%20Mountain%20View%20Dream%20Landscapes.jpg

http://topten-pictures.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/landscape-pictures-14.jpg

The first one has a level of flatness and lightness in the background shadows that suggests airy atmosphere with consistent progression of darker and contrasty tonality the closer to foreground. This is what's missing in yours, mine and the NatGeo calendar image IMO.

The second one even though the shadows are plunged to near black the overall contrasty appearance drives home the perception of a brightly lit day compared to the near sunset of the first. Both look convincing as real scenes and don't look like miniatures. Also notice the sharpening of foliage both near and far is not over pronounced and crispy looking.
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PierreVandevenne
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« Reply #15 on: July 13, 2012, 03:14:31 PM »
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Very nice images indeed. I think the fact that those images have multiple well defined planes helps a lot. I tried to analyze the way I was looking at them and my own focus jumped back and forth from plane to plane: I see the image as a whole but care about the sharpness only when specifically looking at one plane. It seems that my brain unsharpens the other ones in the process. Fits with Farmer's process analysis. Looking at the other images, I am constantly a bit lost and wander randomly in their smooth homogenous sharpness. The PoV also matters, both "good" examples have natural PoV - I can imagine myself looking at the landscape from the point the pictures were taken. A bit harder for the Nat Geo sample.

Also, about hyperfocal distance, it's not like a picture would be perfectly and identically sharp from start to end. There's a subtle gradation and the effect of the atmosphere on sharpness helps in keeping a natural look.

It's not because it has become possible to build huge panoramas, with perfect sharpness and zillions of pixels that we always should, imho. But "art" and what one considers a perfect image are, without any doubt, fluid notions.
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Dave (Isle of Skye)
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« Reply #16 on: July 13, 2012, 03:18:00 PM »
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Artistic purity is inversely proportional to the weight of unpaid bills.

Sweet  Cheesy
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