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09/01/2014 - 12:13 AM

Blue boat

Blue boatI think the foreground stones a little uninteresting too. I think I'd have tried to get closer, yet separate the boat from the cliffs. Closer with a wider angle would have done that, and the boat would have had more prominence in the frame, thus the colour would be more obvious too.

Standing up on the same level as the boat would have enabled you to angle the camera down slightly too, then the sky would be less prominent, though it looks like there is something there to work with to the left.

It all looks overall a bit dark and brooding. It might be worth revisiting it, lightening it slightly and subtly changing the white balance, but I like the isolated feel.

Nick
30/12/2013 - 12:25 AM

Air Force Memorial - Tradition

Air Force Memorial - TraditionI'll have to disagree with you on that one. Any day is a black and white day, not just the grey ones, which are often dull and low contrast. The light is most important, and more great b&w pictures have been taken when the light is good than taken on grey days.
Those days are better spent shooting other things more suited to the conditions. I'm not saying don't do it, just don't expect a picture to work in mono just because the weather and light are poor.

If you want to do good mono work, you have to remember that colour is gone and tone is everything. Different colours may have similar tones, and you will usually need filtration to separate them. Shape, form, lines and other devices become more important where colour is absent. You need to look at it differently....not as a colour picture you can convert, but as a b&w image from the start.
If you set your camera to raw+jpg, you should get a b&w image on screen, but you have the raw to work on later. That will give you a good idea if the mono image works, and the basic tonal relationships.

I don't think you need to darken the monument. I think if you want it to stand out, you need to lighten everything else. It doesn't stand out as everything is too dark.

Nick
29/12/2013 - 9:54 PM

Air Force Memorial - Tradition

Air Force Memorial - TraditionFirst of all, why does winter seem a better time for black and white than any other time of year?

Black and white, in common with any other image, should contain what it needs to succeed in portraying the subject as well as it can do. Whether that is "soot and whitewash" or a full range of tones, or even greys with no blacks or whites. The subject and your interpretation of it will determine which.
As with most photography, light is the key. This image doesn't pop because the light is poor...in fact it's almost abstract. You have deep blacks and bright highlights, but the majority of it is dark silhouetted and hard to make out. Not sure why you needed such a long exposure in order to show sky contrast...it has blurred the clouds reducing definition and contrast.
More exposure might have helped, but judicious processing might bring out the contrast between the monument and the sky. It looks like it should be quite striking, but it's all a bit dark at the moment.

Nick
21/08/2013 - 10:23 PM

River Dart

River Dart
Quote: if its also in your original is very likely to be refraction due to the very small aperture.

Diffraction, not refraction. Refraction is how the lens focuses in the first place! Tongue

In these conditions you would struggle to contain the wide dynamic range without recourse to HDR, however, as mentioned, any small mismatch between the images will result in unsharpness, and with moving water, trees, grass etc, there will likely be mismatch, added to the long shutter speed and a lens that diffracts at small apertures, you are on a hiding to nothing as far as sharpness goes.

As Willie says, a mid-range aperture, a steady tripod and trying to get exposure spot-on will be the best way.

Nick
14/08/2013 - 9:43 PM

Yum yum ,or not?

Yum yum ,or not?As above - its too untidy for a magazine shot (unless the article is about transport cafe food)!
It also looks like it was shot under tungsten light, as its all a bit orange. You need to adjust the white balance, then the lasagne will look more appetising, and will contrast with the salad more. Plus, more salad, fewer chips and the dish will look fresher and healthier which is the aim of food photography.

On a slightly pickier note, the background (edge of the plate and work top) needs to be neutral and not intrusive...maybe show more of the plate, on a plain dark cloth. Also, it needs to be either pin sharp all over, or selectively shallow focused on the main subject. This is a bit in-between.

Nick
09/08/2013 - 12:48 AM

Harefield Peak

Harefield PeakLooks like the sun is just out of frame to the right, which has caused the flare spots across the image.
There is no real subject, as Paul says, and half the image is taken up with sky, which is a bit bland, tbh. The horizon virtually bisects the image, and this much sky has little to offer above the coloured stripe, so aiming a little lower and cutting out some sky would aid the composition here. I'm not an avid 'rule of thirds' proponent, but here the distant landscape is the real interest, so more ground less sky would fall into that arrangement. That would make the image more harmonious and peaceful, somewhat making up for the lack of main subject.

Great conditions to be shooting in, but maybe you haven't made the most of it this time. That lovely raking light will show up every contour, tree, hedgerow, boundary etc you just need the right subject.

Nick
09/08/2013 - 12:36 AM

il TENEBRAS

il TENEBRASIn my opinion, a much better image than the previous. It could bear a little work on the contrast - ie dodging the face and eyes to increase their impact and bringing back some detail in the highlights.
I like the direct contact and the uncompromising expression on his face.

It might be worth checking your camera jpg settings: it looks like it's set to increase the contrast which won't help in bright conditions like this. If you can, set the contrast control lower, you can always bring it out in processing later, but you can't recover lost data if the highlights are blown.
I'm sure there is much more in the original image to bring out, and shooting RAW will also help by not discarding any info like jpg compression does.

I'd also shave a small amount from the top, it increases the impact of the eyes by not giving you as much surroundings as a distraction.

Nick
07/08/2013 - 10:44 PM

IN FOCO TENEBRAS

IN FOCO TENEBRASI think the real picture here would have been the guy's weather beaten face and hair.
An old trick to concentrate the attention, his hands cover all the information and I find myself looking at his beard and fleece. The reason is that his eye is so dark, you can hardly see it - some selective lightening would bring it out, and perhaps a tighter crop getting rid of the sharp fleece would help too.

Something you can do if this kind of thing occurs, is to laugh at the joke, which relaxes people and they drop their guard, enabling you to grab other shots as they laugh with you.

Otherwise, good use of differential focussing and the base exposure isn't at all bad.

Nick
07/08/2013 - 2:40 PM

sunset

sunsetNot much to critique either, except the slight slope to the horizon.
Not sure about the black bits top and bottom either, but otherwise a simple image which will probably not elicit a great deal of emotion one way or another.

There seems to be a lot of colour artifacts too, and it doesn't look that sharp, but it might be because im viewing it on a small screen.

Nick
23/07/2013 - 12:42 AM

Peavine Falls

Peavine FallsPersonally, I think the flare spoils the shot. It lowers the contrast in some parts of the frame, and introduces reflections from inside your lens, which includes false colours.
The rock in the foreground looks to be the sharpest bit of the shot, and for this distance between front and back, you would have been better advised to use more like f/16, as the falls (the main subject) are not as well defined. It also seems to have a lean, but it may be as much to do with the angle you used to shoot at, as opposed to an actual off-perpendicular angle.

I think if you get rid of the flare (change position, shoot at different times, use a hood and make sure your lens is very clean) you will get a better image: cleaner, better contrast and better exposed water. Maybe a wider angle would put the falls into the landscape too, as it is, the crop is a bit close for me. There is no information about the context of the falls to he surroundings.

Nick
06/06/2013 - 10:26 PM

Sunset over Roade

Sunset over RoadeIt's a good sky, just crying out for something....a subject. Unfortunately it isn't a picture of anything, and thus looks like a lazy snap - ie you didn't or couldn't go out and find a subject. Almost anything would do, a strong graphic shape to silhouette perhaps, or some local landscape bathed in that lovely light, even a building lit by the colours.

The twin suns don't help, unless you are trying to recreate Luke Skywalker's planet, Tattooine.

As is though, it looks like a misssed opportunity, I'm afraid.

Nick
06/06/2013 - 10:10 PM

The Gray Squirrel

The Gray SquirrelYou've obviously caught a grab shot, and the small problems are indicative of that.

The shutter speed is very slow for such a long focal length, and sharpness has suffered, plus the very shallow depth of field has rendered some parts of the squirrel sharper than others. Unfortunately, the eye isn't the sharpest part, which it should be.
Settings wise, you haven't helped yourself by using ISO 100 for rapidly moving subjects in less than ideal conditions. It would have been better to shoot at 800 or even 1600 (the D7000 is quite capable at those kind of ISOs). That would have enabled you to get the shutter speed up to 1/500 or so to freeze movement in the subject and also of the camera itself.

You are very tightly cropped, and have cut parts of the squirrel off, which it might have been better to have included, plus the wider focal length would have lessened any camera shake and allowed a creative choice - considering their propensity for fast movement, it would have given you more flexibility later.

There also seems to be a green cast, caused by the canopy of tree leaves which could be edited, just to balance the colours better.

Good effort, but you can maximise your chances by thinking more about the settings before you start, so you are ready when the opportunities arise.

Nick
06/06/2013 - 9:52 PM

Beware of Polar Bears.

Beware of Polar Bears.I like this for it's simplicity. It's very hard to do justice to mountains when you are a way away from them, and you have no idea of scale. There is an impression of scale and distance here because we know roughly what size road signs are and we can see the distance to the mountains.
Camera settings are fine, and the only real crit is the inclusion of the pole intruding right hand side. Other than that, some will advocate cropping to place the sign on a third, rather than centrally in the frame, but I think it's ok as is, and you could experiment with a square aspect, or cropping the beach out leaving a more panoramic picture.

You could also try adding a bit more contrast and drama to the sky, but that might detract from the mountains if overdone - after all, the scenery is pretty dramatic as it is!

Nick
28/05/2013 - 7:40 AM

Beautiful Morning

Beautiful MorningFirst of all, the obvious - the horizon slopes horribly, which is an easy one to spot and really should be addressed before posting.

Otherwise, a peaceful scene, with nice colours and a strip of dark along the bottom to "anchor" the composition. I would like to have seen more of the breakwater, and the gap between it and the sun is too great for this picture aspect. There is just too much dead space in the middle of the frame, and the devices either side don't really "contain" it, which I guess was your intention with the framing.

Although using program mode, you could practice more effectively by varying the exposure to see what the effects would be. A little less exposure would have given more intense colours (without having to resort to pushing the saturation, which usually looks unrealistic). The easiest way is to try + and - exposure compensation....here you could have tried a couple of stops either side. At least you haven't blown the sun, which easily happens in these kind of shots.

Good try though, but take a hard look at the picture before posting and ask yourself if there is anything wrong that can be corrected. A simple horizon correction should be obvious to you. Keep practicing, but don't just let the camera make the decisions for you - decide what you want it to look like and experiment to see how you can achieve it. Make notes if need be.

Nick
28/05/2013 - 7:27 AM

Oil Seed Rape Field

Oil Seed Rape FieldWhilst being a pleasant enough scene, the black and white conversion really doesn't add anything, and I would have thought the whole point of shooting this would have been the colour of the flowers!
I find the tree a little too central for comfort, and maybe shaving a bit from the left would address this. There is also fairly flat tonal range - not sure which preset you used on Silver Efex - there is no real drama or "sparkle" to the picture, perhaps too because of the long exposure. This has also had the effect of making soft whatever isn't deliberately blurred. What I mean is, that for a really long landscape exposure to work, I think there should be something very sharp to counterpoint the soft clouds/foliage/water etc Here, because everything is moving, there isn't anything at all really sharp.

You need to think about exactly what you want to convey when setting the shot up - don't just convert to black and white and expect every shot to look good. This might be better with more dramatic light (it doesn't look a particularly good day, or time of day, for landscapes with drama), and certainly more contrast. Because of the long exposure, the clouds are a bit wishy-washy and also lack drama, but really, I think this calls for a colour shot.

Nick
23/05/2013 - 7:20 PM

A Pair Grazing

A Pair GrazingIt looks to me like you added some "fill light" or "shadow recovery" to the already added +1 exposure to get more detail in the horses but hold the highlights. The first mod by Willie looks much more natural than the original, and the sky isn't so washed out, which is often a good indicator.

The problem really though, is you are just too far away to use a 35mm and still get detail in the horses. You can show them in their environment, but the main subjects are just too small in the frame. That's why the pano crop looks better, as it gives prominence to the subject at the expense of extraneous landscape.

Nick
14/05/2013 - 6:44 PM

View From The Boat

View From The BoatI'm going to disagree with some of the comments above.

Firstly, there is actually a fairly decent range of tones in your picture. They are somewhat compressed, and can be brought out with judicious processing. You have dark shadows and bright highlights, with a lot of different tones in between.

Secondly, a good black and white image doesn't necessarily have to have a full range of tones in order to be successful. Sometimes the subject suits high key or low key treatment, sometimes a limited palette of tones emphasises the graphical nature of the subject and sometimes the subject is just more important than the exposure errors (but not that often).

There are generally 4 types of photo, in respect of colour/B+W:
1. It only works in colour.
2. It works both in colour and black and white.
3. It only works in black and white.
4. It doesn't work at all.

You have to assess whether a picture will fall into one of the categories. For a good black and white image, generally you have to have something that is independent of colour: ie a strong graphical element, shapes, faces, architecture, lines etc and/ or good contrast. Here we find the comments above, about different colours looking similar tones in black and white. Reds and greens, for instance. We have to change the filtration in order to make the colours stand out from each other in black and white - using channel mixer for instance, or PS's more advanced black and white adjustment tools. A colour will lighten itself more (in B+W) the stronger the filter effect is, and darken the opposite colours. So a red filter will darken a sky, and lighten skin tones, red brick etc, whereas a green filter will lighten foliage but slightly darken skin. A basic knowledge of the colour wheel is required, to know what the effects of a particular filter will be, then you can use that filtration to adjust how tonal values appear in the picture: ie to create "tonal separation."

Unfortunately, this is a picture in category 4. As mentioned, there is no real subject, the trees are bland, the boat intrusive, it looks like you have a dirty lens as there is evidence of flare, and it isn't very sharp. It doesn't translate well to black and white, so you are really on a loser from the outset.
There are too many members on here who think a picture will look better in black and white because it is more "arty", whereas in reality, you really need to have black and white in mind at the shooting stage, and find a subject that suits it. Trying black and white because a picture is bland in colour rarely works.

This picture doesn't do well in black and white because, apart from the boat section, the rest of the frame is very similar in tone, so nothing stands out as an obvious subject. If you want good black and white, to start with, look for contrasts in tone, easily definable shapes and pictures with a definite and obvious subject.

Nick
13/05/2013 - 7:38 PM

Two

TwoHi Elaine, Yes, some call it colour popping. I prefer the old-fashioned name of selective colour.

Make sure you do this with a copy of the original file.
The easiest way to do it is to create a duplicate layer, then carefully select whatever it is you want in colour on the top layer (using selections - magic wands, lasso tools etc). Erase this selection, checking carefully that the edges are feathered and don't look too "cut out", allowing the lower layer to show through. You can "hide" the lower layer to see more clearly what you are doing. Now change this upper layer to black and white and adjust tonal contrast as necessary (in this I emphasised the blue and green to make the lettering more prominent). When both layers are visible, the colour should be showing through where you erased the black and white layer. Flatten the image to a single layer then you can save as whatever file type you want. If you retain the layers, you can't save as a JPG.

You can also do it the other way round - ie select your subject, inverse the selection and delete everything else but your subject on the layer, then change to the lower layer and convert it to black and white. The colour part will then effectively be "on top" of the black and white layer, as opposed to "showing through a hole in it" like above.

Either way works, you just have to be very careful about your selections - zoom in to make sure the edges are where you want them (you can add to a selection by holding "shift" and subtract from one by holding "alt" on a PC). You can also modify the edges by feathering etc to make the cut out less sharp and more natural looking.

Nick
13/05/2013 - 6:50 PM

Reach for the Sky

Reach for the SkyAs you probably know, the hand-holding has taken the edge off the sharpness, as has the limited depth of field at f/2.8. There seems to be a bit of luminance noise in the background too.

I think just cleaning up the composition would have helped - ie including the tip of the frond at the top right and not having any extraneous bits like the extra leaf at bottom left. A polariser would have helped with the colour saturation by helping to remove the highlights and intensifying the green (by eliminating the scattered light) at the expense of a couple of stops of light. You cannot replicate the effect of a polariser digitally.

This really is a tripod shot, as these little things are usually tucked away in dark corners and require longer exposures with bigger depth of fields.

I would say, lower ISO to 100, use a tripod, aperture in the f/11-f/16, use a polariser and let the shutter speed do what it wants.

Nick
13/05/2013 - 6:23 PM

Greenway!

Greenway!Welcome to the site.........however, I don't wish to sound negative, nor discourage you, but if you're serious about getting criticism on your photos (as you say on your profile), you need to think more about what you are trying to achieve. This just looks like a snapshot using Hipstamatic or one of those apps.

You've tagged it "beautiful place", yet you've made it look like some post-apocalyptic wasteland. There is no real focal point and the tree on the left is intrusive. The tonal range in the photo is too great for the sensor to record, giving the blown highlights, and it isn't particularly sharp due to using a phone and the subsequent processing.
What were you trying to convey? Did you achieve it, and if so, how? If not, why not? You need to ask yourself these questions right at the start.

The best thing for someone starting out is to look on here at the kind of pictures you like to take, and look at the comments and criticisms they received. Ignore the "nice shot" kind of comment, as it doesn't help, but you will soon get a feel for the constructive kind of remark, and hopefully will take note and try to avoid making the same mistakes.

The first step, is to stop using your phone and use a camera, which will at least give you a modicum of control. Phones are good for record shots, parties and messing around, however they are mostly fully automatic (giving you no control) with poor lenses and sensors (relatively speaking, compared to even cheap compacts) and are not really suitable for learning creative photography.



Nick