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27/03/2015 - 10:50 AM

Worlds Apart

Worlds ApartYou obviously thought about this carefully - and it's paid off. The cloud over the mood really draws attention.

From owning an X-10, I suspect that you can use other flash units, but you need to dig deep into the menus to find the thing that activates the hot shoe contacts!

On the other hand, I reckon that careless flash would spoil this, and I'm not sure what constitutes 'careful' use. I'd go without, and keep the composition and technique as simple as possible.

I would be (am!) tempted to straighten the verticals - when they're nearly right but not quite they look messy, and I think part of the appeal here is in a certain formality of composition.
24/03/2015 - 10:44 AM


DistractedI agree with Willie - good focal length, and always good to try something new!

Actually, the focal length is at the long end of 'usual' for portraits, given that your sensor is APS rather than full frame - but that's fine.

I'd really up the ISO under poor light - better have noise than blur. 400 is pretty low these days - you can probably get very decent quality at 6,400 with your camera.

Though it's a portrait, I think I might have zoomed out a little, and gone for landscape format, to give your subject space to look into.

Lighting is rather nice, and the background isn't bad.

If you decide to make a habit of portraits, you may want to consider getting a fixed focal length lens, somewhere between 50 and 105mm - it could be one that doubles up for macro...

A final thought - when trying new areas, it makes sense to arrange to begin with all the parameters working in your favour - good light (but not direct sun for portraits!), choice of background, and so on. Begin with success, and move on into low light, unaware subjects and so on once you've gained some confidence.

But, always, shoot the picture you really want when it's there! Don't procrastinate - or you miss lovely shots like this one.
22/03/2015 - 8:04 PM

Mermaid Inn

Mermaid InnHmmm...

This is a long way from what I'd do - and for the sake of a mod, I may try to show how I'd approach duff weather...

However, this is a perfectly valid thing to do, and the result is nice - as a postcard, I'd buy it, certainly!

Beyond that - there are some competitions where the manipulation would rule this out, of course, and it will annoy the purists who want everything solely 'as shot' - which shouldn't worry you.

Dave Butcher's landscape workshops teach seeking the beauty in what is there - if the weather is grey and dull, look for the telling details, the beautiful shapes, and relinquish the colourful vistas with grace. I think that it was when i started to realise this for myself that I began to think of myself as largely a monochrome photographer...
21/03/2015 - 7:24 PM

South Serbian's plain II

South Serbian's plain III think I might crop out the house on the extreme left, as it's so much brighter than the rest, and drags the eye away from the main composition a little. I love the sweep of the power lines, and of the composition.
21/03/2015 - 9:20 AM

Arch in Louvre gardens.

Arch in Louvre gardens.Tony's right - the viewer's attention is split between the two subjects.

One way to deal with it (and still have both subjects in frame) would be to move to the right, and a bit closer, and then use a portrait format - then, the statue would be dominant, with the arch as an echo in the background.

You're halfway to that composition here, with the dramatic perspective and converging verticals emphasised by the low raking sunshine, and my suggestion wold simply take that nearer to the max.
19/03/2015 - 7:45 PM

Hot Hatch

Hot HatchIt certainly makes the Fiesta look really nippy! Excellent work.

My only reservation is that the blank numberplate looks wrong: I can understand not wanting to put your mate's number on here, but I think it needs some sort of filling in - or, possibly, cloning out completely?

The flash of red brake caliper through the alloy wheel is a fine touch.
17/03/2015 - 9:45 PM


HollieI think that you are, as you say, part-way there.

You write about shadows, but they're actually very soft: to get really well-defined shadows, you need a harsher light source. Otherwise, the light just wraps round the model...

So the shot you nearly had here is not a shadow shot - it's a high-key nude. My mod takes it all the way, and also sorts composition a bit.

Because you've got Hollie quite central, and her feet are right at the edge of the frame: as she's looking down to the left, I've extended the canvas, and then cropped on the right.

One other thing: you're taller than Hollie is, and that means that you need to stoop (or even kneel: sit on a chair if you're lazy, like me) to get natural perspective, and avoid foreshortening her legs.

I agree with others about both the use of shoes (for muscle tone in the legs, and general posture), and the heaviness of this pair. Ditto the creases - even the best-toned model has them, and it's part of the tog's job to spot them and ask the model to stretch a bit more! It gets easier with practice!
14/03/2015 - 8:18 AM


50/20There seem to me to be a couple of different things to comment on.

You asked whether a shot like this can stand on its own - I think the answer is 'probably not'. That doesn't mean that it isn't a good picture, but that it would need to be very contrived to tell the whole story without the text.

Together, they're fascinating reportage: without the text, there are too many questions in the viewer's mind - or it just becomes a still life.

Given that this is reportage (at least, that's how I'd classify it - if it's pictorial, different expectations and aims will apply, and you would need to aim for spectacular light and composition which would stand above the content, to a large extent), I wonder about using HDR - for reportage to work really well, it needs to be straightforward, and substantially unedited.

The HDR look, by the way, is subtle, as you intended - though it appears far more obvious in the thumbnail, and I'd marked it down as HDR before looking at the large version or reading your text.

Definitely an interesting shot, and I would certainly welcome the chance to see a set of pictures from your trip (again, a characteristic of much reportage is that a series of shots build the story, each adding specific information and impressions).

Good work.
Best Way To Sharpen Light On Right End Of CloudHi, Fergal -

Welcome to the Critique Gallery!

You've been a member of the site for a while, but this looks like your first upload: and it's a lovely shot.

A couple of thoughts...

First, sharpness isn't everything. Some scenes look better with less sharpness, even if they were sharp in reality. Think of the benefits of soft focus for portraits...

Second, there is a very definite tendency for things with higher contrast to look sharper. So where contrast is lower, sharpness appears to be lower, too. My advice is live with it.

Finally, was it sharp as taken? The EXIF data matters, as does whether the camera was on a tripod, and related stuff. The best way to achieve sharpness is to shoot sharp, and have the choice as to whether to sharpen a fraction, or soften things. I don't mean in-camera sharpening - I mean using lenses at optimum aperture, solid tripod - even using the best glass you can afford. I have a friend with the same Canon L-series who complains that it's not terribly sharp, even after a return to Canon under warranty. (I'm a fan of fixed focal length lenses, myself.)

I hope that some of this is of use - I am sure the advice form others will be useful, though!
11/03/2015 - 5:36 PM

rotting hulk minus vignette

rotting hulk minus vignetteI'm glad others like it this way, given that it was me that suggested it.

It cries out for some sort of framing (something I almost never say!), so I've done that with Nik Efex, and a slightly different sepia effect.

I notice that there are unsharp edges and corners in this version: I don't believe that an iPhone lens is capable of doing that, so I suspect some sort of app at work. The reason for thinking about this is that old pictures are often wonderfully sharp all over... This is a curious combination of depth of field (unsharp background) and lens quality (bottom corners), which says 'digital processing' very loudly to my film-attuned senses.

If the stern of this boat is sharp, then so should the boat to the right be!
11/03/2015 - 5:25 PM

A Simpler Life III

A Simpler Life IIIThere are two things that mess with my mind here.

One's the surreal feel, and that is entirely good. I welcome it.

The other's digitally mashed depth of field, which just looks unnatural, and - well... wrong.

This is territory I'd never dare enter, so I'm very discountable: but coming from the above thoughts, maybe it's best to keep all effects firmly in either the 'mess with their minds' or the 'as natural as possible' categories, and avoid the 'can't decide' and 'digitally weird' areas...
10/03/2015 - 6:28 PM

Lights - Cork Salon

Lights - Cork Salon'Twas an Irishman, Bob Carlos Clarke, who gave the best advice on working with models - though some of it is scandalously incorrect! Very much 'do as I say, not as I did' stuff, but he knew what he was doing, and wrote it all down in 'Shooting Sex'. Most of the advice applies to portraiture just as well as to erotica, so it's worth reading once, at least!

Talk to the model. Draw her/him out. This is actually much harder to do at a group than on your own, though groups are less intimidating until you have confidence that you can actually do it. Once the conversation is flowing, you will get animation: when it slackens off, usually, you will get stiffness and formality creeping back in, unless the model is experienced or very relaxed with posing. Once you've built a working relationship, it all flows.

Quite a few good togs suggest talking for a while before you start to shoot - very hard indeed at a group event, though you can make a point of chatting during a break, perhaps, and holding back while the young men (and maybe the older ones, too) rush in and do obvious stuff. Should you choose to exploit it, you have a natural advantage, as a woman, in terms of credibility, and obvious freedom from ulterior motives: we men really have to work at it, to avoid appearing crass and suggestive. Some people have the knack, others don't.

So i suggest, as a technical exercise, asking a friend to pose for you. Don't try artificial light, but aim to shoot for an hour or so, in one place - near a north-facing window will be good, avoiding too much contrast.

Your street shots were great: build on that sort of instant working relationship. If you can approach strangers, working with a friend will be easy. Set the technicalities in advance, and concentrate on the look, the character, and maybe a few set-up poses - hands included, or using a prop (I've had repeated excellent results with an old micrometer, and some engineering and building tools from a car boot sale).
05/03/2015 - 6:06 PM


MiaThere's good bits and bad bits in this, I reckon.

The lighting could be very nice - soft but directional - but the angle is giving a shadow from that stray lock of hair that is distracting, and... I am having real problems with the lighting.

I am sure there's a single source, to the left of the camera. However, the bank note is casting a shadow in a completely wrong direction - suggesting a second light which is otherwise casting no shadows I can see. So I'm confused.

Basically, I think the pose and styling aren't quite right for the light, or vice versa.

The elbow pointing at the camera doesn't look good - they never do. It either needs to be higher, and pushed out to the side, to form a triangle against the side of Mia's head, or folded in against her chest in a secretive, possibly defensive pose. That's what I reckon, anyway!

Mia is smiling a lovely downcast smile - beautiful. I think it would work with either a less suggestive outfit, or an art nude - it really doesn't go with what you might call the lapdancer styling of the undone dress and the bank note (which strikes a rather sour note for me).

I may try a severe crop to see if I can make something of the smile, and remove the parts of the context that seem to me to be at odds with a shy lady.
03/03/2015 - 7:13 PM

A view with a Ferris wheel

A view with a Ferris wheelSoyah -

First, a belated welcome form me, as well!

Replying is not only the right thing, but we really welcome it on the Critique Team. 'Please talk to us' is our motto!

A few loose ends.

Softness with a tripod may be a reflection on the tripod more than anything else. Big, solid, heavy - all good things in a tripod, but it makes using one harder work! (I have a personal preference for Benbo kit - two leg sections make for less flexing, but it is a beast to carry, so I don't, usually!)

Polarising filter - as Willie says, the only way is to try it - my feeling is that it will affect all of the reflections, and the rest of them, away from the ship, are integral to your composition.

And I'd simply let the exposure time go longer to compensate for adding the filter. This will do two things, I hope. First, a minimal effect on the look of the water: already blurred by motion. Second, if your tripod is on solid ground, any movement probably resulted from the mirror rising, and the shutter opening. This will have affected two or three seconds of the exposure - and that will be a smaller proportion of a longer total exposure, and so may be less noticeable. Camera shake tends to be most of a problem for exposures that are too long to hand-hold, but still relatively short.

A final tip - if you stabilise the tripod by hanging your camera bag from it, make sure that the bag just touches the ground. If it is not touching, it can swing like a pendulum, and destabilise the whole set-up!
26/02/2015 - 9:40 PM

Balmashanner War Memorial

Balmashanner War MemorialThere's something about the quality of the sharpness that makes me think 'Pixar' - I keep wondering if Shrek is going to emerge from the gatehouse.

Maybe the exposure could be tweaked a bit - it looks technically correct, but deeper tones wouldn't hurt.

The main thing is that the composition seems a fraction uneasy... There are several smaller compositions trying to get out - a square crop with the dog and the monument in opposition, a square crop of the tower, more detailed shots of the track... Or step back a bit, and take a portrait-format shot with more of the track leading from the bottom of the frame up to the tower.

You'll know if any of these were feasible, having been there. I'll upload a couple of mods cropped down from this.
26/02/2015 - 9:32 PM

Bluebell Impressions

Bluebell ImpressionsLooking at the thumbnail, I thought this was a deliberately swung camera job: Intentional Camera Movement, as they call it. As Willie says, it seems odd when you find there's a sharp area.

I think what it needs is a driving compositional device, and the processing doesn't hide that. Maybe the answer was to go closer, and really centre things on the tree. I'll do a mod...

The lens raises questions - I'm a fan of Zeiss glass (I still treasure and use my Contax RTS, with a variety of Zeiss lenses - the 85mm Planar being my favourite), and the whole point is sharpness combined with general smoothness. It may be the filter, but I wonder whether the natural way to go with the Touit would be to make the picture all about the bluebells, and make all of them sharp, as far as you possibly can? Look downwards more - or possibly use portrait format, and combine a sharp bluebell carpet with those slender soaring trunks?
26/02/2015 - 7:50 AM

Flash forward

Flash forwardAs Willie says, the front light needed more power, so that the result would be as Willie's mod has it.

Yes, it's largely trial and error, unless you have an incident light meter, and can set the flashes manually.

You do need to background light to be brighter as well: putting it below or above the subject will avoid falloff side-to-side, but might give it top-to-bottom. In a studio, you'd have two (or even four, one from each corner) lights to do the work. But your setup will work, once you get the balance right. Try a little change at a time, and only, ever, change one variable at a time!

Bouncing the front flash was a sensible choice - direct flash will give very noticeable rim shadows.

My strong feeling is that the 'speedlight' route is actually confusing, because it gives the impression that the system will set things up for you. The purely manual setup of all but the most modern and sophisticated mains-powered flashes means that you know you have to do it all yourself, and that can be easier - fewer things to control, and simpler controls. But it can be done, and if you persist, you'll get there.

Remember, the histogram and the image are the true measure of whether the exposure is right, not what the camera and flashes are telling you. This subject is light tones on a white background: metering systems using reflected light (as cameras and flashes do) will lead to underexposure (as has happened here!)
25/02/2015 - 5:37 PM

Whistling Sands, North Wales

Whistling Sands, North WalesYou've been a member for years, Arthur, but unless you've taken down pictures, this seems to be your first visit here. Welcome, therefore, from me, as well!

There are lots of good ideas above.

Actually, this looks like a pretty appealing day - a lot of surf, low sunlight: the problem, always, is to capture the drama that's so apparent with all five senses on sensor or film. The reality is that you usually need to hype it up a bit!

The rock's an excellent piece of foreground interest: I think I might have wanted to put it on the left, as a counterpoint to the headland in the background. I might do a crude mod to show what it might have looked like if you'd stepped a bit to the right.

Waiting for the light to go even lower and redder might have helped, too. Again, my very crude mod used the Levels control to deepen the midtones - always a good way to add drama.
21/02/2015 - 1:35 PM


WaterfallWelcome from me, too, Brian. I hope you'll enjoy looking at pictures, and get what you need from the Critique Gallery - both new options and solutions to specific problems.

As others have said, it needs straightening. Don't worry - but it's worthwhile allowing a little space to correct a tilt, even if you're using a spirit level. Sometimes, dead right doesn't look it!

It is rather bright, and my mod used Levels to darken midtones with the input sliders, and take the edge off the highlights with the output highlights slider.

I then burned in shadows at the top (the Dodge tool would lighten things), and at each corner. The Dodge/Burn tools are linked in elements and Photoshop, but you need to take care which you select, the opacity (I start with 9% for both, and go over things several times if necessary), and what it will apply to (higlights/modtones/shadows). Play with the options, and you'll soon find out what works in which situation!)

And, as Willie suggests, keep on shooting!
21/02/2015 - 1:25 PM


RunTo get a shadow on the road, you'd need the axe held low down, so that the light is coming at it from higher up, as you surmise.

I don't think you can get a proper, recognisable 'shadow' with the rays in the mist - the different parts of the axe will be superimposed on each other. Best option might be to make sure the axe is visible as dark on light (or light on dark) above the figure. This is going to be a matter of holding it higher, against the darkness, and making sure the edges catch a reflection, which will be a trial-and-error job.

Effective as it stands, though. (Despite the logo being relatively distracting so large, white on black, up the side. I generally dislike logos, so this may be me. But it does draw the eye strongly!)