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Argyll Forest Park

By Rose73
Hi,

I came across this location in Argyll Forest Park and particularly liked the wooden fence and bench in amongst the trees.
I used my wide angle lens for this shot - standing just behind the tree on the left of the picture to give a sense of ‘being there’. I had set the camera to ‘cloudy’ but when looking at it again today have changed it to ‘shade’ to give it a warmer tone – especially to the wood. I used a tripod for this shot.

The small area at the top of the image had completely blown highlights which I tried to fix at the time in RAW processing by reducing the slider as far back as possible, but with no avail. It had affected the sharpness at the very top of the tree which I’ve tried to fix in Elements this morning. I selected it using the Lasso tool > Enhance > Adjust Lighting, and darkened the highlights by 47% and lightened the shadows by 6%.

I tried using the Quick Selection tool first, but it created a more rounded shape when I let the mouse go - and I then didn’t know how to adjust it to change its shape. What do I use to alter the edges to push the edges in or out to go round the top of the tree for instance?
It seems to have given a bit of outline to the top of the tree, but the sky still seems very white and overexposed. Is this non-recoverable now or can you suggest anything further?

I’ve uploaded the copy adjusted in Elements as a modified version for you to compare and comment on. Look forward to your feedback regarding lighting, composition etc. Thanks.Smile


Tags: Argyll Forest park Wildlife and nature

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Comments


mrswoolybill Plus
14 2.8k 2403 United Kingdom
21 Feb 2021 6:12PM
Hello again, good to see you back in the Critique Gallery! And thanks for being so precise in your questions.

Regarding the Quick selection tool - it needs some practice. Start with a small pixel size, I generally start with 8 pixels for something like this, see how it goes, go smaller or larger if necessary; you can nudge the edges of the area selected outwards by running the curser along the edge, then if you want to nudge from the other side, go to the Select menu and click on Inverse, that will put you on the other side. Check what Feather is set to (again under the Select menu), if it's more than a few pixels that can make the selection imprecise.

BUT - It works best for areas with areas with clean edges, here the delicate bits of foliage peeping in complicate matters, and reducing brightness, as in your modification, was the way to go. You can then use the dodge tool set to highlights, a large brush, just say 3% exposure, to bring back highlights lower down. This is my method, I came to digital photography via water colour painting and using brush strokes comes naturally - other people have different methods.

And BUT again - I cannot help feeling that here the easiest solution was not to go so wide. Then you can cut out the sky, and the longer focal length would also bring the background forward, reduce the empty space in the foreground.

So, always consider the options. For me the strongest area here is the lower left, with the strong framing and the invitation of the bench. I shall try a quick modification.
Moira
mrswoolybill Plus
14 2.8k 2403 United Kingdom
21 Feb 2021 6:21PM
I've added a quick mod - I cropped using your aspect ration, brightened slightly and did some very gentle dodging and burning. I also toned yellows down a bit, they seemed a bit dominant.

My instinct here I think would be to move to the left, bring the bench closer to the trunk on the left, and aim for a square crop, framed on the left as you have done.

I'm also thinking b&w...
chase Plus
15 2.1k 562 England
21 Feb 2021 6:43PM
Hi, great questions again, tough ones but precise.
This looks like a really quiet place just to sit for a while and take it all in.

I did straighten this, using that big upright post as a guide.

I thought of cloning in the bright areas, cropping them away or...errr...something else entirely different.
The quick selection tool isn't always the right way, it does take some time and plenty of practise to get right, squiggly edges are not the kindest Sad
I would have gone with not including the sky at all, the forest is really quite dark and the bright sky is always going to be a problem.
The large post at the front would aggravate me, it is a little over-bearing so, a closer POV, not so wide for the reasons Moira has suggested.

Maybe a few steps to your left, if possible as it looks as though there is a little pathway between the trees.


I managed a couple of mods.
1. cropped off the sky totally but I used a levels layer and a gradient to enhance the light coming onto the bench, working with the light rather than against it.
2. I used the paint tool set to a very light blue/cyan, used the 'darken' mode and painted it in, not great but could perhaps be worked on.
3. Cloned away that big post, not great but it does open up the image.

Not entirely happy with my mods tbh but may give you a couple of different ideas.
Thanks Moira for your feedback and suggestions. Yes, a lot of practice is required with Elements! I’ll give it a try again on another copy and see how I get on with the ‘nudging’ and going onto the other side etc. I’ll also have a go with the dodge tool as you have outlined here.

I like your modification – it looks far better composed and balanced. As you say you’ve cut out the sky and that overexposure, and I like the bench sitting on the right and lower third of the picture now. I can see comparing the two, the bench is quite far away and distant in my image – not so inviting.

I’ll also go back to the RAW image and convert it to B&W and see how it looks – thanks for that suggestion.

So, you were into water colour painting – that would give you a good grounding in composition. I read somewhere that if you wanted to learn about good composition, go to a gallery and look at paintings.
Thanks Moira. Smile
Hi Chase,

Yes, it was a lovely place to visit – so peaceful.

I never even noticed until you’ve pointed out about it not being straight. I can see that now looking at the fence.

The cropping is a good idea and I prefer how it looks – much nicer composition. Maybe one day I’ll revisit again. Thanks for your modifications – removing the post has definitely been an improvement. Its amazing what you don’t notice – that’s why feedback is so good to have. Thanks very much for that.
Cheers. Smile
Yes, I quite like it as B&W Moira! I've taken a penchant for B&W images. I converted several a few years back. Added atmosphere!
pamelajean Plus
15 1.5k 2214 United Kingdom
21 Feb 2021 7:26PM
Hello again, Rose.

You are finding some lovely locations to photograph. I like the way you concentrated on the fence and bench, but at the same time telling us that these are within a forest.

My first thought was, "Take the easy route" and crop away the white sky. Better still, try not to include it when you are taking the shot. That's easy for me to say because I lived and worked in the New Forest for 20 years and found that lowering the camera was often a good idea, saving me from including sky that was peeping through the tops of the trees.
I see that you have a few modifications with the crop done.
Some will say not to worry too much about a bit of bland sky, but sometimes it's a large area in an image and it will always tend to pull the eye upwards and away from your subject/s.

I am loving the way you analyse your own shots and particularly the consideration you give to taking them.

Pamela.
Hi Pamela and thanks for your lovely comments!

This is a great place to learn and I'm soaking up all the feedback and suggestions I receive. It makes such a difference to see how others view your pictures - seeing things you can't see. Its brilliant! Smile
banehawi Plus
16 2.4k 4233 Canada
21 Feb 2021 8:45PM
F/20 makes it quite soft, in addition to soft light. Try to smaller than f/11.

It seems overly warm to me on my monitor.


I would crop a lot more tightly, - removing the bright shy areas is the better approach, and the bench is really the focal point,


Regards


Willie
Thanks for your feedback Willie - especially regarding the settings. Yes, I definitely like the cropped modifications - as you say the bench is the focal point and I should have given it more prominence. Much appreciated. Cheers Smile
dudler Plus
17 1.6k 1840 England
21 Feb 2021 9:05PM
OK, Julie, I'm going to come at this from a different direction, and maybe answer questions you didn't ask...

I always tend to go back to the camerawork: and I will freely admit that I have never used any of the lasso tools successfully. There is often a way to avoid needing them. But for now...

As Moira says, the first thing is to consider excluding the sky completely. It reduces the contrast a lot, and also avoids having a distracting highlight at the edge of a largely-dark composition.

I'm intrigued by the aperture. You stopped the lens down almost as far as it will go, and that will have knocked the edge off sharpness. If you don't need absolute maximum depth of field, stay around f/11, and make a decision about what you want in focus, and what you want out.

Being there: yes - and I want to move a little to the right, to open up that area with the seat, and maybe lose the tree, or at least turn it from a block between me and the rail into a frame. I really want to see into that little alcove...

But is any of that useful to you?
Well Dudler, you won’t be seeing into that little alcove anytime soon!!! Its not in the near vicinity to me, but you never know. I’d love to go back again one day.

Yes, Elements looks like a lot to learn – especially some aspects of it. Picked up a book called ‘Photoshop Elements 11 for Dummies’ – very aptly named in my case! It’s a big read.

I set the aperture to f/20 because I wanted lots of depth of field. I didn’t know about lens softness at extremes of aperture then - or now really to be honest – but I’m learning!

Thanks for your feedback in the last paragraph about change of viewpoint – I like your idea there. And thanks for the tip about the reduction in contrast regarding the sky.

Yes, plenty of useful info here Dudler. Cheers Smile
mrswoolybill Plus
14 2.8k 2403 United Kingdom
21 Feb 2021 9:31PM
Thanks so much Julie for joining in the conversation again, it makes a lot of difference. We've given you ideas to think about, that's the important thing!
Moira
dudler Plus
17 1.6k 1840 England
22 Feb 2021 9:14PM
Yes - the conversation matters!

A thought about learning software... I remember someone on my audit team in the late Nineties, who seemed to make really heavy weather of moving to using Word from WordPerfect. Most of us muddled along, got the hang of (slightly) different commands and shortcuts, and were fine after a few days. She insisted on being sent on a 1-day course about it, and came back little the wiser.

My suggestion is start with half a dozen tools that are REALLY useful, and play with those. When you want to do something else, see what the book tells you.

The problem is that most books (and yours may be an exception) are written by people who understand the whole shooting match, and think you need to, as well. So they insist on explaining big concepts instead of telling you how to crop, clone, rotate, dodge and burn. (Those are my top tips, by the way...)
Yes, I totally agree Dudler - conversation matters. Its a huge book - ok for reference. I much prefer to talk to people and get feedback and motivation especially.

I don't want to spend loads of time going into all the details and fancy stuff. I just want to use it if I need to improve something specific e.g. adjusting lighting etc. but I'm not too keen on learning all this stuff about layers and combining pictures etc. At least not anytime soon. I need to learn to take reasonable pictures regarding the basic rules of composition, lighting and depth of field. I feel I can learn a lot discussing that here and also I find it really enjoyable! I've got my enthusiasm back!
Life's too short to spend it with your nose in a book!! Wink
dark_lord Plus
17 2.8k 767 England
22 Feb 2021 9:59PM

Quote:I need to learn to take reasonable pictures regarding the basic rules of composition, lighting and depth of field

That by far is what photography is about, get that sorted and you'll get good images. No amount of processing can turn a badly executed image into a masterpiece. Silk purses and sow's ears.

But, and it's an important one, getting familiar with the basics of image processing will enable you to get the most from your daptures. In that vein I'd also recommend that you larn about Layers at some point. They aren' just about conbining images. More bread and butter than that. Adjustment Layers and Layer Masks are incredibly versatile.
On the face of it you'd think they are the same as normal adjustments but they allow you to go back and make changes to settings and selections.
Nothing to worry about for now. And shooting RAW means you can revisit those files in the future and reprocess them - somehting Locldown has caused many of us to do. Not that we want another Lockdown but long winter evenings are useful too.
22 Feb 2021 10:28PM
Yes, baby steps for now! I’ll progress onto these things in time no doubt. Thanks Keith. Smile
dudler Plus
17 1.6k 1840 England
23 Feb 2021 7:16AM
I really like photographers who are as focussed as you are, Julie!

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