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critique #4 - 2013

Posted: Wed Oct 23, 2013 8:59 pm
by Utah Baker
These are three of my favorites, yet they were not taken at an optimal time of day. Would a polarizer filter helped in such bright light(I had one for a older camera but it doesn't fit my current one) and I know a tripod would help, another investment I need to make, something lighter than the bulky heavy one I have, it does not travel with me. Any suggestions when you come across a scene that you love, but time of day might not be perfect and you can't come back!

Re: Have at it boys!

Posted: Wed Oct 23, 2013 9:02 pm
by Utah Baker
Arrggh! Sorry the files are too big, help! :oops: click on it to get full image.

Re: critique #4 - 2013

Posted: Thu Oct 24, 2013 5:33 pm
by Andy
Utah: Thanks for jumping in. To your first question, yes, a polarizing filter would probably help. I have found that a polarizing filter can sometimes "save" a shot made in "bad" light. There is, of course, no substitute for the really nice light that is provided, usually at either end of the day, but sometimes by other conditions, like weather and angle of the sun (most effected by season). But the reality is that when we travel, we often reach these destinations at the worst time, but it is the only opportunity we have.

It is also amazing what modern software "post-processing" can do to salvage images that weren't taken in the best light.

I love reflection images, so these pull me right away. Of the three, I prefer the top one. Compositionally, the "rule" (put it in quotes, because sometimes rules are made to be broken and if we slavishly adhere to the rules, we sometimes miss great photos), is that we don't like to place the subject "bullseye" in the middle of the shot, or the horizon smack dab in the middle of the photo, horizontally. Reflection shots are often the exception to the horizon "rule." Horizons should also be level (something you have done really well here). Arguably, the "subject" is the little red cottage. To me the first image does the best job of the 3 at dynamically placing the image not in the bullseye position.

My cameras allow for superimposing grid lines in the viewfinder or on the screen on the back. I use the grid that divides the screen roughly in thirds and most of the time, I try to place the subject, or other complimentary points of interest at one of the four intersections of those gridlines (again being careful not to let the rules box me out of creativity).

Finally, the first image appears deeper, more saturated, and better colors and color separations than than the others (might be my imagination). So I am assuming you did some enhancement that wasn't done on others. Nothing wrong with that. Digital sensors do not generally present the electronic images at their best look. Almost every image - out of the camera - needs some work. Consumer "Point and Shoot" cameras that save the image in jpeg mode have adjustments. They are not the "raw" pixels that the camera sensor captures, but are adjustments that are made when the camera converts those pixels to, and saves as, a Jpeg. IMO, they don't and can't do as good a job as you can yourself (which is why I am an evangelist for shooting and saving raw images and doing your own post-processing). I think this image, generally, looks better. I do see some haloing at the tree line which could be attributable to a number of factors.

In summary, I like the subject, great colors and great raw materials for composition. I would love a shot at that image :)

Re: critique #4 - 2013

Posted: Thu Oct 24, 2013 6:21 pm
by Andy
Forgot to mention the tripod issue. I have been traveling with this tripod and have found it light and packable, yet very sturdy:

Something to keep in mind: the purpose of the tripod is to eliminate all movement of the camera due to human body movement. If you mount the camera on a tripod but continue to trip the shutter with your finger, you are compromising the value of the tripod somewhat. So along with the tripod, you also need aome kind of remote release.

Re: critique #4 - 2013

Posted: Thu Oct 24, 2013 7:12 pm
by autzig
Janice, like Andy, I think the first shot is best but I'll make comments about it and about the others as well.

Photo 1:
I think your foreground really makes this photo. I'm big on creating the appearance of three dimensions using two dimensional media. Your foreground does that beautifully. I like the reflection. Because there is a slight ripple on the water, it isn't a mirror image so it moves the eye to the subject.

Here are some things that I think would make this photo better. I agree with Andy that the cottage should be placed more off center. I also think you have far more sky than you need. There really isn't anything of interest in it so get rid of most of it. Cropping much of the sky will also eliminate the bare branch in the upper right corner. By turning a bit to your left and down, you could eliminate a bunch of sky, all of the bare branch and put the cottage more off center. You can accomplish the same result with a post-processing crop.

The color of the sky doesn't seem right and the color of the leafy trees on the far shore doesn't look right to me. I think this is caused by yellow being oversaturated. If you need to saturate the yellows and reds to make the color stand out, use a mask to hide it from the sky and the leafy trees.

Photo 2:

I have a lot of problems with this photo. Your cottage is even more centered than in the previous image. You've gotten rid of most of the sky but what is left is all washed out and you've cut off the top of the trees. If you are going to leave any of the sky, you can't cut off the top of the trees. It is kind of like cutting off the top of someone's head in a portrait. I would crop this photo so you can't see any sky. If you want sky, you can see it in the reflection.

You have less foreground in this photo and that's OK except that those little things on the bottom left. They are intruding into your photo. Either add more or get rid of them but little bits of foreground are very distracting.

Photo 3: You have a nice foreground in this photo - I like that. Your sky is washed out at the treetops and you have lots of chromatic aberration there. That's where the tree tops are blue instead of green. Adobe Camera Raw has a filter for removing it and I suspect that Lightroom does too. If Santa is good to you, you can remove it with Lightroom. It still may be more than your software can remove. You could crop this photo below the tree tops and that would solve the problem.

You've lost a lot of detail in the shadows of all three images. The Detail Extractor in Nik's Color Efex would really bring that out. I know you don't have it, but it would fix this problem in no time.

So, I rank them this way: #1, #3, #2.

If you have questions about any of my comments please ask. I'm happy to share my thoughts with anyone who is willing to listen!


Re: critique #4 - 2013

Posted: Fri Oct 25, 2013 4:47 pm
by Andy
Janice: Carol makes some great points near the end of her post regarding the functions of the camera. We take so much for granted sometimes about how much photographers know and don't know. If I tell you something you already know I hope you will realize that I am not being "holier than thou," but just trying to be thorough.

I have often said that if I were in charge of the world, and could start new photographers, I would make them all use an old, fully manual, SLR camera and 35mm slide film. The older films, especially, were totally unforgiving. That meant that if you didn't get the mechanical stuff right, the photo was anywhere from awful, to unusable (you could have a totally black or totally clear slide) :) . But what a great instructional tool. Modern technology makes it much more difficult to see our own mis-steps when shooting. Point and Shoot cameras are largely designed to be as "foolproof" as possible, which works well for 85% of shooting conditions and shooters. But when you want to start to control what the image result and/or get creative, you really need to be in control of the camera. Al often works in full manual mode, which gives him 100% control. And because he has a great command of the technical stuff, he is able to get the result he is planning - rather than just get lucky, or close.

I use it a lot too (but probably less than Al), but I use one of the set "modes" on my camera called Aperture Priority most often (it, too, requires that I have a full understanding of what that means and what the camera is and isn't doing). What these approaches allow us to do (within the bounds of reality) is "make" instead of "take" photographs.

The reason for the above (boring) explanation is that Carol mentioned "exposure compensation." Its a nice tool, but in order to understand it, IMO, you have to understand exposure theory (too long an explanation for here, but at the risk of patting myself on the back, I recommend that you read my Blog on "Getting Exposure Right" at this link: ... ure-right/. There is a series of a kind of Photography Basics that stemmed from some long e-mails to my sister a few years ago, trying to help her). To really get this stuff down, it really helps to be able to work in full manual mode. But many consumer point and shoot cameras simply do not have a "manual mode." A lot of slightly more advanced ones do, however, have "exposure compensation" buttons or dials. That is what Carol was referring to. They can be a shortcut to get you to the result you might get using full manual mode.

Another thing she mentions is the histogram (that funny, graph thing on monitor on the back of the camera). The histogram is one of the coolest tools that came along with digital. In the days of film, we didn't have this "real time" exposure measurement tool. We had to get it right and we didn't see the results until the lab delivered the prints or slides - always well after the fact. The little image on the camera monitor will show us gross errors, but it really isn't a very good tool for fine exposure judgments. The histogram is. Again, feathering my own nest, I wrote a blog explaining how the histogram works as a tool: ... histogram/.

These 2 tools are really useful. Once you can read the histogram, you can dial in either + or - exposure compensation to change the results of your image. The light meters are pretty good, but they don't always get it right. The exposure compensation button lets you adjust this and the histogram tells you how far you can go.

Re: critique #4 - 2013

Posted: Fri Oct 25, 2013 4:56 pm
by Andy
Re: The shadow adjustment. Its interesting to me to see our different approaches. For me the detail extractor in ColorEfex is just too aggressive. I do 2 adjustments to bring out my shadows. The first, which is totally non-destructive (i.e., it doesn't permanently change or adjust the raw file), is to use the shadows slider in ACR. Its pretty amazing and with the newest (PS 6 - and I suppose, for those who are using it, CC) software, the adjustment is very subtle in the darks and lights and more aggressive in the mid and lower mid tones. I always do that first (for those who do not know, you can hold down the alt key in windows and the corresponding key in Apple while operating the slider and it will black out all but the parts of the images that are in deep shadow. As you move the slider, they will disappear, helping you to see exactly how much you need to move the slider. Of course, you have to use your eyes, too to see what will be pleasing to the eye. Of course, bringing up the shadows has a tendency to reduce contrast, so you often need to make a corresponding adjustment with the contrast slider.

MY second "go to" is in Viveza, where I set a control point in the area I want to adjust and then use the NIK shadows slider to make selective adjustments. Again, there is usually a corresponding contrast slider adjustment.

We can achieve the result using either software (Viveza or ColorEfex) which is what is so great about the software. And you can also set control points in ColorEfex to make the details extractor's affect, selective

Re: critique #4 - 2013

Posted: Sat Oct 26, 2013 9:35 am
by Utah Baker
Oh wow! So much to take in Off to work this morning so I'll write more latter, but thank you, thank you!

Re: critique #4 - 2013

Posted: Sat Oct 26, 2013 2:41 pm
by autzig
I decided I would download photo #1 and apply the techniques I suggested. Because the original was a jpg file, I was unable to do the same things I would do if it was a RAW image. So here is the before and the after. Notice the crop, the color of the sky and the color of the green trees. I've also lightened up the cottage so it is more visible. Notice how the crop did not take off the tops of the trees.


And the After


Re: critique #4 - 2013

Posted: Sat Oct 26, 2013 3:18 pm
by Andy
Hmn. I hadn't really noticed this, but after looking at Al's re-work, I have to respectfully disagree with him about the sky. One of the worst and most boring skies, in my opinion, is the pure blue sky. I had thought that was what I was seeing. Looking again at Al's before and After, I like that little bit of white cloud in the sky. I would "work" it in Viveza a bit to bring out the contrast, and to get the sky slightly more "blue" and slightly darker, maintaining the white color (and probably the brightness) in the sky. Maybe it wouldn't come out well, but I would at least try it. It adds interest to the sky and the crop takes that out. You can also see the slight reflection of that cloud in the water at the bottom left.

While I agree with the lightening up of the cottage, it looks, on my screen , a little "overcooked." I would lighten it. but no so much on the green tree and its reflection just in front of the cottage. They look unnaturally bright to me (I realize, Al, that this was a "quick and dirty" illustration and you were working with a jpg).

It also looks like the "after" has a little less overall contrast and a little too much overall brightness for my taste.

I guess this illustrates that I might be right and I might be wrong and that there is some individual taste and preference in this stuff.

Re: critique #4 - 2013

Posted: Tue Oct 29, 2013 10:25 am
by Utah Baker
First let me thank everyone for sharing their knowledge with me and others who may read this, it is fantastic!

Andy, yes I have grid lines display onmy camera and learned about the "rule of thirds" in class. Remembering to use that and the other tools my camera offers me in the heat of the moment is another thing! :lol: Let's hope that will come with experience. Also instead of using a remote release timer, couldn't I just use the timer on my camera when using a tripod?

Al, yeah, my editing abilities are very limited at this time, all I have is Picasa3, and I just started to experiment with that. Sounds like a whole new learning curve ahead of me.

Carol, thanks for your idea on cropping both the top &bottom, I had never even considered that, and I love the results!
P1020948.jpeg (51.48 KiB) Viewed 18084 times
I was using my Panisonic Lumix DMC zs7. I do have an exposure button and histogram display, as well as settings for aperture &shutter priority(oh my, I feel smarter already, I actually know what those are! :roll: )

Al, I have to agree with Andy, I like the my original image with the clouds in the sky. I realize sometimes our attachment to an image has to do with the memory associated with it.........being there. Thanks for your efforts.

Re: critique #4 - 2013

Posted: Tue Oct 29, 2013 10:33 am
by Utah Baker
I almost forgot I was going to include a couple of more taken the same time, little different angle. Again you'll need to click on the first image to get the full view.
P1020952.jpeg (49.12 KiB) Viewed 18083 times
P1020951.jpeg (49.4 KiB) Viewed 18083 times

Re: critique #4 - 2013

Posted: Tue Oct 29, 2013 11:44 am
by Andy
Janice: Lots for all of us to learn here. I have the grid lines "permanently" on in my viewfinder. That way, they are already incorporated into whatever action I am involved with. And, yes, you could use your timer. I have always found that clunky, but it works and lots of shooters do it. Where it fails, is on a shot where you are trying to capture a particular instant (best example I have is when you are shooting a closeup, or have leaves or grass in the foreground on a breezy day. Sometimes if you wait, the wind will die down and you can get your shot. Hard to time that with the timer :) .

I understand the "heat of the moment" comment. However, in landscape shooting, you usually have more time than you think. Its always good to take a couple deep breaths and be methodical about shooting. When I arrive on location, I usually do some visual "scouting" before I even think about shooting. Sometimes its worth looking without even having a camera in your hand, as it frees your thinking about a composition (sometimes I'll do that and then if I want to imagine what it might look like in the viewfinder, I'll make an approximate rectangle with my fingers and sight through it. Some shooters use an optical viewer, or make cardboard cutouts. I don't like to carry that much stuff in the field.

One of the things "landscape" shooting does is lets us slow down and think methodically. You might even make yourself a little "checklist" on a scrap of paper and carry it in your pocket. I used to carry a small notebook and make notes of things I did to help study images afterward (I still should - but don't do that anymore).

Once comment on the image that you crop top and bottom - I don't think it works well, partly because it negates what Al said about having interesting foreground.

Re: critique #4 - 2013

Posted: Tue Oct 29, 2013 12:26 pm
by Utah Baker
Andy, your spouse must be more patient than mine, oh wait that's right yours would be female! :lol: :lol: . Or may be she doesn't always accompany you. :D

Re: critique #4 - 2013

Posted: Tue Oct 29, 2013 1:54 pm
by Andy
Janice: You shouldn't assume :P - but yes, she is female, and yes, she is pretty patient. Best, she lets me go out on my own a lot. The thing about "serious" photography is that it is kind of a "loner" sport. Even when I am out shooting with my shooting buddies, we mostly go off on our own. Rich and I have learned to carry walkie talkies so we can keep in touch, but it isn't unusual for one of us to wander off and not see each other for an hour or so.

I hope you'll post some more. I would love to see more participation here. Best regards,