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Cottages on the downs

By Roy_Perryman  
Nikon Z50, doesnít seem to be in the drop down selection, I took this yesterday, it was a Misty, low cloud afternoon on the top of the downs. I have adjusted the exposure by a stop in Lightroom mobile, and reduced the highlights, I metered off the building which made the sky almost white. I also increased the shadows and reduced the whites.

Would there have been a better point to meter from to obtain a correct exposure? I understand that the camera is trying to meter for a mid grey but with this contrasting scene I wasnít sure which area to expose for.

I guess the shutter speed could have come down a bit if I had changed the iso, but I was on the biggest aperture I could achieve with the lens.

Any thoughts on composition would, as always be most welcome. One day I might even get it right! Thanks again for all the help. Roy

Tags: Hills Rural Cottages Landscape and travel Southdowns Belle Tout Lighthouse

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chase Plus
15 2.1k 541 England
16 Feb 2021 10:32AM
A pretty scene with lots to see.
A difficult one to meter for as that sky, whilst bland is rather bright and there is a lot of it. Perhaps 2 exposures would have been in order, one for the sky and one for the land then combined in your editing program, even an ND grad filter fitted to your lens would have helped.
The alternative of course is to pick a nice day with a bit more colour in the sky but with some cloud cover.

I did do a mod....Cropped off most of the sky, it does rather take over this nice scene and for me it isn't adding to anything. Cropped just a wee bit from the bottom too, just to put that lovely building on the third.
Helped the remaining sky along with a little colouring on a separate layer.
I warmed the image up just a smidge with the camera raw filter in Photoshop and brightened slightly.
Lifted the shadows under the bushes to the right.
I don't see much wrong with your composition generally, maybe a step or two to your left would have shown a bit more of the gate and the track leading to it.
dudler Plus
17 1.5k 1812 England
16 Feb 2021 10:33AM
I'll be honest, Roy - I'd have used Aperture priority and multisegment metering, and would have expected the result to be as good as this more or less out of the camera.

The weather and sky weren't on your side for landscape and distant views: when it's soft and grey, the best thing is to concentrate on details.

You say the contrast was high - but my feeling is that it was pretty low, and the one thing I shall do first in a mod is increase contrast. The sky is more or less a lost cause, I think, lacking interest even if you achieve tone.

I shall also try a Nik Efex detail extractor filter to grab a bit of extra local contrast.

Big question - is that helpful, or do you really, really want to make the best of an unpromising day?
dudler Plus
17 1.5k 1812 England
16 Feb 2021 10:39AM
Afterthought: the slightly-soft bushes on the right are as much of a blocker as a frame, perhaps... I think I can see the zig-zag structure you were aiming for with this, but it's not quite worked, for me.
capto Plus
8 6.6k 25 United Kingdom
16 Feb 2021 10:39AM
It's a lovely rural scene, I especially like the distant building on the hill, it's tiny but in just the right place.
Although the camera settings could have been better, a few tweaks in photoshop can save the day.
I used the dehaze filter on the sky with a little noise reduction and a little dodge & burn mainly on the cottage.
mrswoolybill Plus
14 2.7k 2376 United Kingdom
16 Feb 2021 10:49AM
A bit like your snowy beach scene... It's the sort of conditions that can be very appealing 'in the flesh', in the round, but precisely the aspects that are attractive - the softness, the haze, the lack of clear sense of depth and distance - mitigate against the small flat rectangle on a screen. I suspect that the metering was right (and the -2/3 stop won't have had any effect in manual), but the image simply needs a boost in order to achieve the 'takes me there' feel for an outsider who wasn't there.

I agree with Janet re crop, though I might leave in a bit more sky - but basically, if a sky doesn't add anything, keep it to the minimum unless you are specifically looking for minimalism; which isn't the case with this foreground.

Again, watch for settings left over from a previous shoot. You have ISO 100, it would have been fine, you didn't need 400; again, seeing 1/3200 second in normal daylight should ring alarm bells.

And as with your previous uploads, I might try b&w for a really desolate feel.

You are looking for interesting, personal, 'different' shots, I wish more people would do that...
mrswoolybill Plus
14 2.7k 2376 United Kingdom
16 Feb 2021 11:11AM
I've added two modifications now, numbers 5 & 6.

For the first I cropped tighter to reduce sky and less interesting detail left and right. The crop places the background cottage on the upper right third - I think that works, think of the viewer's route through the frame, the far cottage is where we are heading. I added 20% brightness and made a Levels tweak to boost whites; then some very gentle dodging (highlights, huge brush, 3% exposure) and burning (on shadows, similar settings) on the foreground. This enhances texture, gives a better sense of depth.

Then toned mono, worked in Nik Silver Efex - a lot of added contrast, a lot of playing with the colour channels, a frame. I used a split tone, which effectively adds a tiny bit of yellow to highlights and blue to darker tones. I think it conveys winter grimness quite well.

It's a really nice composition; and it's real, it rings true - the dilemma with British landscapes tends to be between recognisable scenes and chocolate box fantasies... Wink
mrswoolybill Plus
14 2.7k 2376 United Kingdom
16 Feb 2021 12:35PM
One further comment - for examples of how a big, empty sky can work as negative space with a simple, strong, minimal foreground, look at this guy 's portfolio. It's an approach that can work very well at this time of year.
dark_lord Plus
16 2.8k 751 England
16 Feb 2021 12:44PM
It'sa pleasing scene, and while the flat lighting is what it is, this would be worth revisiting in different lighting conditions throughout the year.
However, just because the lighting is flat doesn't mean you should ignore it - Moira's mono mod is very appealimng.

Soft flat lightimg shouldn't present big problems. However, even with matrix metering because there's a lot of white/pale grey sky that will have an effect on the result. This is a classic case where avoiding too much sky in the frame when metering is the way to go. And you have a gift right in front of you - thatarea of grass. That equates very closely to the mid grey and is instamntly what I would use to base my reading on ad it's in the same light as the main subject. Just dip the camera, take the reading and lock it in, recompose and shoot.

Talking of recomposing, while I say that 2/3 land and 1/3 sky is only a guide it really does apply here (or even less than 1/3 sky) because there's little or no value in including so much featureless sky (though I may try a mod to give it some substance). A 50/50 split rarely works so well as the viewer finds it difficult to deternine whether the sky or land is the primnary interest (a very dramatic sky can be a different matter, of course).

Those exposure settings should ring alarm bells.
ISO 400 in cloudy conditions is fine, especially if you're hand holding and don't have a tripod to hand.
But 1/3200? If you want to capture fast action then it's ok (but I don't see that here).
f/3.5? It's not an image that requiores a shallow depth of field for example if you were concentrating on a close foreground object. True, you've got middle and far distance with nothing too close to the camera position so you don't need f/16, but even to cover what you have and to obtain better lens performance I'd go for f/8 here.
16 Feb 2021 1:25PM
Thanks to you all for helping me out here.

Hi Chase, you are right about the sky, it didnít help, guess I will have to try and learn about combining images in Lightroom to try the double exposure thing.

Hey Dudler, I will give AP a go, see how I get on. Your comments are always helpful, I am after all a novice despite all the grey hair! In answer to your question, I would like to make the most of an unpromising day. I hope you might have a suggestion? I like the second mod you did, thanks.

Thanks for the time you have taken Capto the image retains the softness I like but with better sky colour.

Morning Moira, love the BW. Do you use photoshop? I am trying to play with Lightroom. I have checked out Franken and see what you are saying. Thanks for the advice.

Hi Dark Lord. Thanks for the advice about metering from the grass, another nugget to store away. I think I may have got fixated on thirds trying to keep the lighthouse on the hill close to a third with the cottage on or near the diagonally opposite corner.

I do need to work the exposure triangle I suppose practice is the key.

Thanks all for all the tips and advice all much appreciated.

mrswoolybill Plus
14 2.7k 2376 United Kingdom
16 Feb 2021 2:27PM
Thanks for your feedback! In reply to your specific question, I use the Nik Silver Efex plug-in for b&w, in conjunction with Photoshop and also Elements. Silver Efex is part of the Nik collection from DxO, unfortunately it's not a free download... If you are seriously interested in b&w, it's the bee's knees.

BUT, one reservation - I don't use Lightroom, my Other Half does, and although theoretically you are supposed to be able to use Nik with LR he cannot get it to open there. I'm hoping someone else will have the answer to that one.

The detail extractor, used by John in mod 3, is also part of the collection.
16 Feb 2021 2:29PM
Thanx Moira
mrswoolybill Plus
14 2.7k 2376 United Kingdom
16 Feb 2021 2:37PM
PS Bill, my Other Half, suggests that you have a look at the b&w presets in LR (in the Develop section). Select a preset from the left, then open the Adjustments panel on the right and have fun with the sliders. Hope that helps, it's not something that either of us has actually used.
banehawi Plus
16 2.4k 4217 Canada
16 Feb 2021 3:05PM
When you upload next time, theres an option to ADD the camera as a new one to the EPZ list.

As a general rule, always use the default matrix metering, it will rarely produce a poor result, and you can, IF youre using Aperture or Shutter priority, use the Exposure Compensation dial, not effective in M mode.

The LR presets are quite decent, worth a try. In the panel on the left in the Develop module.

banehawi Plus
16 2.4k 4217 Canada
16 Feb 2021 3:33PM
Ive uploaded two mods with details in the descriptions.
dudler Plus
17 1.5k 1812 England
16 Feb 2021 4:26PM
My suggestion in these conditions would be to look for interesting detail - the texture of a tree trunk, the arrangement of stones in a wall, rather than a 'big view'.

Then consider a black-and-white conversion - you can use Nik if you have it, but there is a facility in Photoshop that works perfectly well.

And always look at the contrast - Levels is a wonderful control in Photoshop and Elements, and the same sort of control is available in most software, even if it has a different name.

I wrote a blog about this sort of thing a week or two back - it's HERE if you want to have a look, and find a couple of references to photographers who have really got the idea sorted. The challenge is to find subjects that work well in the light that you have on any given day.
16 Feb 2021 6:25PM
Thanks banehawi, always grateful to receive helpful comments. I read the item Dudler, I see what you are getting at, if only I could see what I am looking at! Thanks again. Roy
dudler Plus
17 1.5k 1812 England
17 Feb 2021 8:20AM
Ahhhh... That's the question, isn't it: and it's the key to creative photography.

Spend time looking hard at the scene, possibly leaving your camera on your shoulder, and going close to things. Practice arranging elements in a scene relative to each other. And maybe get a copy of Michael Freeman's book The Photographer's Eye: it is as close as you can get to step by step tuition in finding pictures.

I may have to spend some time thinking about another blog... And if you try isolating one or two subjects next time you're out: and maybe it will help if you set the zoom to 50mm. I'm not sure, but a slightly telephoto lens might just help find little details.

Mind you - if the sun comes out, shoot some big views as well!
17 Feb 2021 3:21PM
Thanks Dudler, I will give it a go, off to Amazon to see if I can find Mr Freeman.

mrswoolybill Plus
14 2.7k 2376 United Kingdom
17 Feb 2021 5:11PM
Another vote for the Freeman book, I recommend it a lot. It analyses how the eye explores an image, why one image may work and another apparently similar one works less well. How different compositions from the same scene can create very different effects. It shocked me the first time that I read it, it explained things that I had previously regarded as sacred mysteries...
17 Feb 2021 10:50PM
Hi Moira, found one on eBay, I think Mr Bezos has more than enough money. Should be with me by Saturday. Need rainy days so I can read it! R
dudler Plus
17 1.5k 1812 England
18 Feb 2021 7:06AM
Good for you, Roy. I agree...

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