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20/12/2014 - 10:11 PM

Driving home for Christmas

Driving home for ChristmasWelcome to the Critique Gallery, Paul.

You seem to have been an Ephotozine member for a while, without posting much work, and this looks like your first post in the Critique Gallery. I suspect that you have worked out that in exchange for not being able to get votes or awards here, you can be fairly sure of comment and constructive ideas about your shots.

All the technicalities stack up pretty well here: arguably, you could have used a lower ISO setting and a slightly wider aperture for better quality (less noise, though there's not much sign of it here; and an aperture that allows the lens to perform at its sharpest, with no diffraction issues, as you may get at f/22).

I would love to see more of the end of the curve on the left: but maybe there's something very ugly that needed to be kept out of the frame. Ideally, though, all those light trails should converge on a point inside the frame, I reckon.

On the other side, you could crop a little closer to the lamp on the right.

The verticals are pretty near perfect, it's sharp, and it all works well.

My suggestion is to use Levels and burning in to darken the midtones, for a more dramatic (if less accurate) view. I've done this in a mod, which you can see by clicking the "Modifications" tab on the left below your picture, then clicking on the thumbnail to view large.

But - and this applies to most of what any of us write here - this is about opening up options, not telling you what to do!

Please let me know what you think...
I'm not even caring about you...Willie's mod says it all - the composition with a little more room above the head, and altogether darker.

A tripod is almost a necessity with such a long lens setting: but if that isn't possible, upping the ISO setting would definitely have allowed a higher shutter speed, and I reckon that minus compensation (instead of plus) would have both helped raise the shutter speed, and improved the tonality.

A lot of bridge cameras should come with a big health warning: the zoom goes a long way out, but is only usable under quite limited (and limiting) circumstances. For guaranteed good results, a zoom that's limited to around 3x is best...
14/12/2014 - 4:33 PM


VibeImmediate zap here: lovely pose, and a vibrant model!

I'm not quite sure about the crop: I would like to see her elbows in the frame, I think, and the top of her head - or maybe a much tighter crop all round. I'd definitely like to lose the little light triangle at the bottom by cropping higher.

The big thing is that there aren't any really full blacks in it: a tweak of the shadow input slider in Elements Levels makes it really zappy!

If modes were enabled, I'd upload one...
WISTFULLY BLU[moods on the mile]I think V1 would be mroe effective if the colour was strictly confined to the figures in the foreground, and didn't extend to the advertisements and buildings in the distance.

And I might very well reduce the number of figures in colour - just the front three, perhaps...
13/12/2014 - 12:10 PM

Sir Nigel Gresley

Sir Nigel GresleyHow could I not vote when I saw such an icon?

A pity the coiled hose on the track behind looks as it it's attached - but I'm guessing you had relatively little choice of viewpoint. I think I'd be tempted to distort reality and clone it out - it's no more a necessary part of the scene than a passing pimple on a face...
10/12/2014 - 9:24 PM

Play Group

Play GroupI like this picture a lot, and in a lot of ways.

First, there's the sheer human interest - all the things Moira and others have commented on. This is a group of real children, with a real teacher: thousands of miles away from my own experience of school fifty years back, and millions from the way my daughter now teaches, with a computer connected to her whiteboard, and an amazing amount of paperwork to fill in to prove that she's taught the children something. And, at a very basic, utterly important level, she and this man are doing the same thing: treasuring the next generation, and doing everything they can to give them a good future.

Second, there's atmospheric light: dramatic, but believeable. This is a real schoolroom, naturally lit.

The colours - and the white walls - tell a story, too.

That you are accepted in such a situation is good, and demonstrates some good interpersonal skills. OK - a few of the kids are curious, and might have been distracted anyway, but the teacher's calm acceptance is (for me) both an achievement and a necessary condition for the picture.

Compositionally, I would crop a bit on the right, and I'd love to see just a little more in the top left, so that all of the window is in frame. Willie's done something interesting there in his mod, to bring it further into the frame. Picking up from that, my mod takes the same idea further.

I might have upped the ISO a bit, and closed the aperture: but what you've done has worked perfectly well.

Visually, this doesn't have the impact of your Lost City or Forgotten Knight: emotionally, I think this is the best picture I've seen you post since I joined the Critique Team. It rather reminds me of Steve McCurry's work - I hope you will take this as the high praise it's meant to be.
10/12/2014 - 7:39 PM

cleo the guinea pig

cleo the guinea pigA couple of comments on this lovely shot of Cleo.

You have overexposed slightly: there's no detail in the bright fur below her shoulders, and this drags the eye away from her face. A fraction of minus compensation would have sorted this when taking.

You've also got a very central composition - I'll upload a mod cropping the frame a bit to focus things more on Cleo. However, be careful composing in-camera with the subject away from the centre - you need to be sure of where your camera is focussing. I'm not sure if your camera allows live view, or if the viewfinder shows where the focus locks on (in my DSLR, there's a little red rectangle showing where the focus is), but you need to be careful that the camera focusses on the subject, not on the background.

Focus has gone pretty well here, but may be slightly away from the eye, and on the fur on Cleo's cheek instead. Not a big issue, but it's better if you can get things perfect.

None of this stops it being an appealing guinea pig portrait.
09/12/2014 - 10:10 PM

Green Flycatcher

Green FlycatcherFrom the lack of sharpness and the amount of digital noise here, I suspect that this is an enlarged section from a frame in which the bird was quite small.

There's nothing wrong with that - you've got a beautifully colourful image of a lovely creature - though it's unlikely to win any competitions, as judges usually look for technical perfection first.

I like the way that the bird and the branch are on opposite diagonals, making for an interesting "X"-shaped composition.

Ideally, I think you'd have framed a bit higher (if I am right about this being a small part of the frame, you can correct it very easily!). I've done a mod cropping at the bottom, and extending the frame above the bird.

At the same time, I got rid of the very dark area next to the bird's head - it took attention from the bird. I used a clone tool, with a soft edge in Elements 12. I also got rid of a narrow light line going from near the base of the bird's tail to the left side of the frame. I'm not sure what that was, but it doesn't look quite right.
09/12/2014 - 10:02 PM

Pure Happiness

Pure HappinessYou've caught the moment perfectly.

Compositionally, it would be good if you'd got all of the faces on the left in frame - the girl's delight, the man's casual interest - or excluded them completely. But fully in would be the better of the two.

The dark background means that there is a little overexposure: I notice a lot of people using manual settings, but it appears that they have then trusted the camera's meter, and given exactly the exposure that it would have done in an auto mode. Here, the dark background would have been the thing to sacrifice, and keep some detail in the boy's hand.

I've done a mod to tighten the composition slightly: cropping a little at the top and right, and darkening the tones. I've also reduced the colour saturation: you will know whether the colours were actually that bright - but to my eye, they seem quite garish. However, I am used to the muddy greens and browns of an English landscape, so it may be that my perception is wrong.

The pure happiness and joy of childhood. Nice work.
Book Signing with author, Robert HarrisWelcome to Ephotozine, and to the Critique Gallery, Jeff.

Black-and-white is often a way of focussing attention on shapes, lighting and texture - or, in this case, faces. It avoids the distractions that clashing colours often cause, and it's been pretty successful here.

Given that you've got the ISO set incredibly high, I wonder if the shot might have worked well without flash? I'm not sure - you were there, and may have a clearer view. Given the limited fall-off of flash (distant figures aren't impossibly dark) it could be fine.

However, the flash has highlighted the faces close to the camera in an interesting way - really, they're what the picture is about. Again, the faces.

Compositionally, it is what it is: a bit of a grab shot, but with a reasonable arrangement across the frame, though no driving "must have" arrangement. I can see a couple of different crops that might give more shape and form to the composition, and I'll post those shortly (click the "Modifications" tab below your picture on the left, then click on the thumbnails).

The biggest thing is that you need to name the author - because he's sat back-to-camera. You had a choice there, of course - behind him, and get the fans, or in front, and get only him. Or was there a side view of both, possibly off to the right of his position? I don't know, but you may have had reasons that you couldn't stand there.

I like the questioning look on the face of the chap on the right: and wish that the man on the left was more fully in frame. And, for perfection, the person standing behind the fairly-central lady would be fully visible, or not there at all.
08/12/2014 - 10:23 PM

Two of a kind...

Two of a kind...There's an awful lot to like in this shot, Fred.

I'm not sure if you've posted here in the Critique Gallery before - checking your portfolio, I don't think you've put anything up here since I joined the Team in February, at least.

The central thing about this shot is the echo in the poses of the two swans. That it isn't a perfect echo doesn't matter: it's close, and the differences add to the attraction (and avoid the risk of someone accusing you of cloning the swan!)

Exposure is pretty much spot on, and it's good and sharp. The minus 1/3 stop compensation will have helped hold detail in the swans.

Two thoughts.

One is that the crop is rather tight in the top left corner: the second swan looks a trifle cramped there. It wouldn't take much more space to be more relaxed, and less of an eye-catcher. It needs more space to the left, and above - the former may be simple, given that the frame-shape suggests that you've cropped in at the sides. Space at the top may be more of a problem, though you could just clone it in, with patience.

The other is about distractions. There's a leaf in the bottom part of the frame, and the reeds at the top right. My feeling is that a less cluttered image will throw more attention onto the swans, and I'll upload a mod with some fairly basic and crude cloning done to remove the distractions. (Click the "Modifications" tab on the left below your picture to see mods, and click on the thumbnail to enlarge.)

However, all of this is perfecting (or not) an already nice image. Does it work? What do you think?
07/12/2014 - 6:54 PM

Star Trails

Star TrailsA very successful effort, for certain.

Maybe darker looks better - a mod coming that used Levels to deepen the midtones. Actually, while both Paul and Nick have made good suggestions, this stands as a sound example just the way it is...
07/12/2014 - 5:51 PM


Flight.Hi, Graham -

Looking at your portfolio and your "about" page, I can see both a very high standard of picture, and that you're a professional - as you point out again in your response to Moira's comment.

It's good, from time to time, to have a really good picture that brings out some technical or artistic issue, or opens up a debate - as this has done on exposure and composition.

The exposure isn't an issue for me: as you say, the feel matters, and this really has the feel of a sunny warm day.

Compositionally, I like the backward-leaning figure, and would love to see all of the hoops in the frame - this would also push the figure towards the left, and exploit the "leaning back" really fully.

You note that the palm trees had to go in your final version, and that's a good decision - so why not post that version here, I wonder?

I think that the kite and the clouds (?) above the girl's head are also a distraction: I'm going to post a mod with all of these cloned out...

I haven't cloned the flare marks - they look right, a part of the overall feel.
06/12/2014 - 3:39 PM

Loch Ard Pier

Loch Ard PierMy two thoughts on this are about composition and sharpness.

The composition looks cramped on the left, and very much so on the right: we need a little space to the left of the jetty, and I feel a need to see all of the boat. Of course, I don't know what was just outside the frame to make this a really bad idea!

On sharpness - the shutter speed is quite low - did you use a tripod? If not, upping the ISO and shutter speed would be likely to give instantly higher quality.
06/12/2014 - 3:02 PM


SpitfireIt's a very common misconception that marks are on the lens. Doubters should try putting something - a piece of confetti, or a scrap of newspaper - on the lens, and seeing how visible it is!

I took great delight, a few months ago, in showing the vicar that the marks he thought were the result of unspecific "dust in the lens" were simply removed by cleaning his sensor. I'm going to charge him next time...

Sensor cleaning is easy, if you have sensible kit, and a steady hand, and follow the instructions!

As Paul says, zoom in - you had scope to do so. You also needed to keep the shutter speed down if you wanted a blurred prop: but I suspect that panning makes the effects of camera shake less noticeable, as you are moving the camera along a smooth trajectory, rather than trying to keep it absolutely still!

And the thing that everyone misses: against a brighter sky, 'planes always need a little bit of plus exposure compensation, if you don't want a silhouette...

What I don't understand is the halo around the 'plane: did you sharpen a lot in processing, or is the camera set to sharpen?
06/12/2014 - 11:07 AM

Sing away the blues

Sing away the bluesAfter a quick look at your portfolio, it's clear that you aqre intent on following hte learning curve in a very challenging area. One I haven't even thought of trying to work in! You have my admiration for making hte attempt at all!

There's solid technical advice above from Willie and Paul, and Paul is speaking from personal experience, too. I can only add some general thoughts about any specialist area you begin to work in.

First, just getting the gear is a start, but specialist equipment usually needs specialist operation. A Ferrari is very fast, but to exploit the massive performance you need to develop driving skills of a different type (and level) from those needed for a small saloon car. Those skills are not there for the taking - they need to be thought about, developed, and practiced.

So, for your first outing in your new Ferrari, you woud probably choose a warm, dry day, rather than one when the rain was pouring down. Similarly, for natural history pictures, a sunny day when your exposure can be 1/1600 @ f/11 and 800 ISO. And use every aid that you can manage, including a good tripod (and there's a whole further discussion about those, too. If it's light and plasticky, it probably won't do a great job. Big, heavy, and probably expensive wins the day...)

To continue the car analogy: I own an ageing but cheap MG, and it needed new tyres on the rear. I thought, since I bought it for fun, and shorter journeys, that cheap tyres would be OK - makign cornering "more interesting" - in fact, they make driving anywhere on damp roads a distinctly edgy experience. With the right rubber, the car might demonstrate the advantages of mid-engined cars. As it is, it takes nerve and caution to go out in the wet.

Similarly for your Sigma lens: I suggest, first, practice under excellently favourable conditions: and also, plenty of practice: extra frames aren't costing you anything, so shoot plenty of pictures of every scene. Do as the testers do, and practice technique on boring subjects, so that it all works perfectly when there's a bird in front of the lens. (And that's where the car analogy breaks down: there aren't too many places you can practice getting a corner badly wrong, and spinning off into the rhubarb...)
03/12/2014 - 12:00 AM

Corvus corone (carrion crow)

Corvus corone (carrion crow)That all works on a technical level, very definitely. I think I'd turn the ISO down, and see where the IS ceases to be enough!

A good point is that the bird is isolated against the blurred leaves, which point up the dark plumage in a way that a darker background wouldn't... The fact that the leaves are wet and carrying specular reflections helps.

Slightly less central composition might make this even better, perhaps?
02/12/2014 - 11:35 PM


Creep.And welcome from me, too, rather belatedly.

I wonder, a little, if the stranger needs to be a little bit closer, to make the whole thing more obvious - though as it is, there's a sort of slow-burn effect to it which I like.

A minor note - he might be better more separated from that street light, or with the light cloned out.

And a suggestion - either a high or a notably low viewpoint might have added drama: high empahsising that the girl is still young, not a grown-up: low emaphasising the threat, perhaps.
30/11/2014 - 12:50 PM


SilenceAnd welcome from me, too!

I have two thoughts about this rather lovely picture, two things that unsettle me a fraction.

Is it slightly tilted to the right? I'm not sure, and it does look beautiful anyway!

The other thought is whether the triangular composition (leaf, waterfall, underwater stone on the right) is a little overextended - would an additional point of interest, somewhere near the right hand side, be an asset? Or, maybe, a slightly higher-up view, using the leaf, the water, and that brighter stone on the right, and a squarer composition and a slightly wider zoom setting?
30/11/2014 - 8:57 AM


Self-PortraitI'd say this just about hits the nail on the head, actually - so you have no reason to look so miserable...

Maybe just a fraction mroe fill on the right side - closer to the wall, or a bit of a reflector, just to differentiate your head from the background, if you think that matters. Otherwise, just remember the settings (and positioning within the room - a light wall can alter the balance so easily), and get a few more subjects through your "studio"!