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Author Topic: Merits (demerits) of a "black" sky  (Read 2194 times)
David Eckels
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« on: April 11, 2013, 08:16:33 PM »
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Bad light (ie, not early or late enough in the day), so I've been doing a series from a recent visit to Arches National Park in Moab Utah and rendering to B/W (obviously). The clouds reminded me of smoke and I like the drama against the very dark sky, but is this esthetically viable? Is it a cliché? Does it work with only some images? All thoughts welcome!
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James Clark
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« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2013, 08:29:01 PM »
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I quite like it, especially against the pallet of the American Southwest, where the various reds and oranges often register as variegated mid tones and the clouds are so fluffy and white.  To my mind it adds a distinct and fuller tonal range to many photos like the one you've posted here.
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2013, 08:45:10 PM »
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As I mentioned in another thread, I have nothing against it in principle. However, black is quite heavy (visually), thus it has to balance well with other elements. In the above case (as well as in the other thread) I would experiment with darkening the foreground, especially the lowest parts, to create that balance.

Come to think of it, it is not just about tonal balance, but overall balance of elements. Your foregrounds in both cases are quite empty (rocks are in the middle ground), and that creates disbalance as well.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2013, 08:48:21 PM by Slobodan Blagojevic » Logged

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Isaac
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« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2013, 10:07:35 PM »
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Maybe it's just the reduced size image, but it almost seems like there are dark outlines on the upper part of the clouds?
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2013, 10:09:44 PM »
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Maybe it's just the reduced size image, but it almost seems like there are dark outlines on the upper part of the clouds?

Too much clarity?
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Kirk Gittings
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« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2013, 10:11:44 PM »
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As I mentioned in another thread, I have nothing against it in principle. However, black is quite heavy (visually), thus it has to balance well with other elements. In the above case (as well as in the other thread) I would experiment with darkening the foreground, especially the lowest parts, to create that balance.

Come to think of it, it is not just about tonal balance, but overall balance of elements. Your foregrounds in both cases are quite empty (rocks are in the middle ground), and that creates disbalance as well.
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« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2013, 10:34:59 PM »
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Hi,

I think it is quite OK. Would be interesting to see a variant in color. I'm slightly disturbed by the vegetation in the foreground.

Best regards
OK


Bad light (ie, not early or late enough in the day), so I've been doing a series from a recent visit to Arches National Park in Moab Utah and rendering to B/W (obviously). The clouds reminded me of smoke and I like the drama against the very dark sky, but is this esthetically viable? Is it a cliché? Does it work with only some images? All thoughts welcome!
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David Eckels
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« Reply #7 on: April 12, 2013, 08:02:35 AM »
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As I mentioned in another thread, I have nothing against it in principle. However, black is quite heavy (visually), thus it has to balance well with other elements. In the above case (as well as in the other thread) I would experiment with darkening the foreground, especially the lowest parts, to create that balance.

Come to think of it, it is not just about tonal balance, but overall balance of elements. Your foregrounds in both cases are quite empty (rocks are in the middle ground), and that creates disbalance as well.
Thanks, Slobodan, for the suggestion; I will experiment with that. I don't know if there is a formal definition for balance that I can apply and I am not sure I recognize it when I see it. For example, your comments about the other image, I do not "grok" what your saying. Any suggestions (eg, a book to read)?
Maybe it's just the reduced size image, but it almost seems like there are dark outlines on the upper part of the clouds?
If I am seeing what you're seeing, I think it's the jpeg effect. I'm not seeing it on the full size psd image.
Too much clarity?
The clouds are hopped up, but as you've taught me, a little goes a long ways, but I'm going to go back and redo this.
I think it is quite OK. Would be interesting to see a variant in color. I'm slightly disturbed by the vegetation in the foreground.
I will post the color version here. And viz the foreground, I am going to have a go a la Slobodan and see if I like that; if it seems worthwhile I will put it up here, too.

Thanks for the comments, guys!
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David Eckels
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« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2013, 11:28:26 AM »
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So, long story, the first version is actually a 3 shot +/- 1EV HDR merge and there were some artifacts from that process and these were exacerbated with the B/W rendering. So, in fact Isaac was right, but I was looking at the boundary between the white clouds and the black sky, not the darker clouds on the background of the lighter clouds where I think he was seeing this. So as to why do HDR, the answer is somewhat like the following: Why does a dog lick his balls? Because he can. Recognizing the limitations of a hand held HDR exposure, I went back to a single DNG and started the entire process from scratch. I am beginning to think like Eric, that HDR is unnecessary except in the most extreme circumstances, at least with my 800E. I believe the IQ in this version is superior to the OP; my imagination?

Anyhow, I took your suggestions to heart and repost the effort here. Went as far as I could in LR, only a bit of clarity applied, watching the clouds carefully: no visible artifacts to my eye. Darkened the foreground a la Slobodan but dodged some lighter spots so it looked kinda like spotty cloud shadows. Went to PS and after cloning out a couple hikers, applied a full contrast and structure filter with SEP2 to emphasize the rocks and to a lesser extent the clouds (masked that in the foreground and where it had screwed up the sky and was over the top with the clouds); I really wanted the SEP2 layer to bring out the luminosity in the rocks. Then I did the black and white conversion, bringing down the blue/cyan in the sky, but not as much as I did before; I see it as a dark gray now. Thanks Slobodan, I think it is less stark now. I also bumped up the yellows and reds in the B/W sliders to add more luminosity to the rocks against the darker sky/clouds. Finally, a high pass filter at 0.5 to avoid over sharpening of clouds and that was it. I have posted the B/W version of course; the color version is exactly the same with the B&W layer turned off.

Sorry for the lengthy technicalities, but your comments are helping me look at my images in much more detail and I wanted you to know I was paying attention Wink
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #9 on: April 12, 2013, 11:42:16 AM »
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... I don't know if there is a formal definition for balance that I can apply...

Ah, the scientist in you! Formula perhaps? A couple of Greek letters squared? Grin

Just kidding! No formal definition, unfortunately. Just millennia of art history, some rules of thumb, psychology of perception, etc., which each artist then mixes and matches to his taste. Like other principles of composition, it is mostly guidelines, rather than rules.

Quote
...Any suggestions (eg, a book to read)?...

There are three books I can not recommend strongly enough (two of which have nothing to do with photography, yet are highly useful for photographers):

1. Perception and Imaging: Photography--A Way of Seeing - my bible.

2. Pictorial Composition

3. Picture This: How Pictures Work - WARNING: Do not let anyone see you reading this book, they might think you regressed to a kindergarten level Grin
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Slobodan

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sdwilsonsct
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« Reply #10 on: April 12, 2013, 01:23:45 PM »
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Thanks, Slobodan, I have placed an order with Amazon (.ca). Much cheaper than the new gear I hanker after.

Dave, your stuff is great. A little dark and crunchy for my taste sometimes, but it's educational to watch the process.
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Isaac
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« Reply #11 on: April 12, 2013, 01:51:48 PM »
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There are three books I can not recommend strongly enough...

Google books shows enough to get some idea of the content, for example Perception and Imaging: Photography--A Way of Seeing
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Isaac
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« Reply #12 on: April 12, 2013, 02:08:54 PM »
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Went as far as I could in LR, only a bit of clarity applied, watching the clouds carefully...

I'm not going to second-guess you, but I wonder if you saw Charles Cramer's article from last year "Tonal Adjustments in the Age of Lightroom 4".
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2013, 02:39:45 PM »
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... repost the effort here...

The sky and clouds look more natural now, fluffy vs. crunchy.

However, the rocks now look washed out and the foreground is darker, but of a murkier, muddier kind. Try darkening it by simultaneously decreasing exposure and increasing contrast, or by using negative shadows. By the way, the OP wasn't that bad to start with, a slight change in the sky and darkening of the foreground would have sufficed.

What the image misses is something post-processing can not solve: stronger foreground interest. The cropping is also rather tight, especially at the top: it almost touches the highest cloud, leaving no room for elements (clouds) to "breathe."
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David Eckels
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« Reply #14 on: April 12, 2013, 04:37:32 PM »
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I'm not going to second-guess you, but I wonder if you saw Charles Cramer's article from last year "Tonal Adjustments in the Age of Lightroom 4".
I didn't. Joined in February. But I will! Thanks.
UPDATE one half hour later: Isaac, that article was terrific. EXCEPT now I am going to go back and try again!
« Last Edit: April 12, 2013, 05:06:53 PM by David Eckels » Logged

David Eckels
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« Reply #15 on: April 12, 2013, 06:21:19 PM »
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Ah, the scientist in you!
Just trying to give my right cerebral hemisphere some food for thought. No formal training otherwise! Ordered the books; thanks!
Dave, your stuff is great. A little dark and crunchy for my taste sometimes, but it's educational to watch the process.
Glad you are all willing to stick with me. As I've said elsewhere, I know I have a heavy hand and this process is helping me enormously to see where I get off base. In post, I tend to be like that dog (see above) Wink Also, happy that this open process is informative, even if I become the butt of Slobodan's phallus jokes Wink
The sky and clouds look more natural now, fluffy vs. crunchy.

However, the rocks now look washed out and the foreground is darker, but of a murkier, muddier kind. Try darkening it by simultaneously decreasing exposure and increasing contrast, or by using negative shadows. By the way, the OP wasn't that bad to start with, a slight change in the sky and darkening of the foreground would have sufficed.

What the image misses is something post-processing can not solve: stronger foreground interest. The cropping is also rather tight, especially at the top: it almost touches the highest cloud, leaving no room for elements (clouds) to "breathe."
So I took Isaac's suggestion and reworked the sky with the Cramer essay (excellent!) in mind and fixed the rocks, I think, and also took your suggestions viz the (uninteresting) foreground. Hope the third time's a charm! Thanks for the many suggestions. It was good for me, hope it was for you, too! Whew! Time for a beer!
« Last Edit: April 12, 2013, 06:30:17 PM by David Eckels » Logged

Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #16 on: April 12, 2013, 06:49:25 PM »
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... Hope the third time's a charm!...

Yes!

EDIT: Let me qualify: it looks good for me. However, you are not shooting to satisfy my (or anyone else's) taste. It is important that you like it (and more than the other versions).
« Last Edit: April 12, 2013, 06:56:28 PM by Slobodan Blagojevic » Logged

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Isaac
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« Reply #17 on: April 12, 2013, 08:23:04 PM »
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Hope the third time's a charm!

If you wanted a sense of depth, I think you achieved that ;-)

How many different programs did you use?
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MTGFender
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« Reply #18 on: April 13, 2013, 06:38:30 AM »
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You inspire me this time for this gorgeous B&W! Fantastic work David!
Pramote
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David Eckels
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« Reply #19 on: April 13, 2013, 07:01:00 AM »
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...you are not shooting to satisfy my (or anyone else's) taste. It is important that you like it (and more than the other versions).
I absolutely get that. These discussions are helping me to "see" differently. Often, I look at an image and it's 90% there, say. But I can't quite figure what the missing 10% is. I appreciate the time you've invested. BTW, I do like it better than the others, too!
How many different programs did you use?
Just two: LR and PS. Mostly LR. I suppose you could include the Nik filter, so that'd be three. Each time was faster, though! I think part of this is mastering the tools and while I've read every book I can find, these discussions force me to use the tools better and more subtly.
Thanks for your comments, criticisms, and inspiration. Hope I can be even a tiny bit as helpful to others as you and the rest of the folks in LuLa land have been to me.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2013, 07:14:14 AM by David Eckels » Logged

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