Back Modifications (4)
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swan's dive

By joseluissc    
birds are many challenges to me:

I try to see composition independently of the pose. I believe every pose have a possible composition. even if, like here, it's not the best (under water swan head). so comments are very appreciated
ie.: I don't feel the need to include the swan's back on this composition

White balance:
here I think it would be better to blend a different wb exposures (since to make the shadows acceptable, I lose some vibrancy (blue channel) on the water, and warm too much the highlights of the swan's feathers

Birds feathers are always a challenge in terms of capturing details... here I think I made a good exposition (even not avoiding highlights completely), then a reasonable balance between contrast and sharpness

note: this comment on detail / sharpness intend to ask about one of the most criticized aspects on my post-processing. Many times epz's members tell me about flatness.

Aperture priority mode; 1/800; f4.5; 70mm; ISO 100; auto-WB 5497k (changed to 6750 on post-processing); shoot hand-held
note on f4.5: This was better if at f8 or 5.6, no doubt, was in consequence of testing this lens resistance against sun's high light. On this case, if slight to the right, it lose all contrast.

thank you

Tags: Birds Composition General Specialist and abstract Detail White balance Wb Sharpness High-contrast Wildlife and nature

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DRicherby 13 269 726 United Kingdom
16 Mar 2010 6:20PM
Hi, Jose. Thank you for the comprehensive notes that accompany your photo — it's much easier to offer critique when we know what you were trying to do! One thing you missed out are the camera settings (focal length, aperture, shutter speed, ISO and anything else that might be relevant, like whether you were using a tripod). However, in this case, I don't think that matters as I think the exposure is spot on and the detail and contrast are good so whatever settings you used seem to have been the right ones. Smile Swans are difficult to photograph and I think you've done an excellent job.

I would tend to agree that almost any pose can result in an interesting photograph. That said, I'm not quite convinced by the pose/composition combination here. The lack of the head gives this a rather abstract feel and I think I want to see the whole swan. The two white curves of the neck and body against the blackish background, coupled with their reflections would, for me, make a stronger composition than having one of them truncated by the edge of the frame. That would be much less important in a more conventional shot with the head visible. And I do think it's more important to include the whole of the swan's reflection — you've only shaved off a small part of it at the bottom of the frame — rather than all that empty space at the top.

So, in summary, I'd say that the technical aspects of this and your processing are excellent but, for me, the overall impact is reduced by the composition.
Eviscera 15 1.1k 149 United Kingdom
16 Mar 2010 6:27PM
You seem to have set the wrong white balance in the first place as it has a green cast.

Perhaps you left it on shade (which tends to warm images)

Blending bracketed w.b is going to be a pain.

With scenes like this (warm evening glow and blue water) its good to experiment with the colour temperature w.b settings rather than rely on the presets. Dunno about the D80 , but my Sony defaults to 5500k , upping it warms the image and lower cools it.

And even then , its best to try and adjust the curves afterwards to add some punch to the shadows , highlight and midtones to stop it being flat.

As for sharpening , this image would best suit smart sharpen using the motion blur option and setting the angle to best match the overall feather direction.

Compositionally its might have been better to decide what attracted you.

Either zoom in on the Neck detail , stand further back to include the tail, change your p.o.v to concentrate on the reflections etc.
joseluissc 13 16 3 Portugal
16 Mar 2010 6:30PM

Quote:the camera settings

You're right, David. I'll bookmark it right now!
Eviscera 15 1.1k 149 United Kingdom
16 Mar 2010 6:34PM
Sorry posted pc was slow , second mod is same.
joseluissc 13 16 3 Portugal
17 Mar 2010 1:25PM

Quote:the exposure

I always try the "exposure to the right" technique, but on cases like this my enthusiasm results in highlight clipping : -S

Quote:Swans are difficult to photograph

Feathers with grease are a difficult mix for detail extraction ; -)

Quote:...pose/composition combination... ...The lack of the head... ...a rather abstract feel...

This kind of discuss it's very subjective. And I knew it when ask for critics on this.
Even so, I ventured to ask for criticism. (This is always positive to me)
Interesting then, David, the abstract feel you didn't liked, was my motivation (Make it more abstract and less "natural / wild / candid"). If you realize I categorized as an "abstract" in 2nd place.
To me, the positive on this it's on comparing tendencies. My attempt was to place "near to" on a strong area thirds rule on the circular water waves around the swan's diving head, then make the two white curves flow into the opposite side.
Nevertheless I would agree with you telling about the overall impact.

Thank you very much David,
jose luis
DRicherby 13 269 726 United Kingdom
17 Mar 2010 2:15PM
I actually rather like the abstraction! But I think that an abstract of this kind would be better to include the whole body or to focus in on one specific part of the bird, whereas there's much more flexibility when you're photographing the swan as a swan. Perhaps because it's abstract, I feel I need to be shown the whole shape, in contrast to a more concrete image where I can imagine the full shape on my own?

As for the positioning of the waves, I'd say that, compared to the big, white swan, they're minor parts of the composition and I think they stand out less than the reflections, too. The composition needs to be guided by its strongest elements.
NEWMANP 13 1.6k 574 United Kingdom
17 Mar 2010 2:25PM
compositionally i dont agree at all. sorry but for me the shot has to be cropped behind the neck and be a neck shot or include the whole of the body and be a complete shot, but breaking the edge with a white mass is a definate no- no in terms of allowing the eye to settle and retaining interest within the frame. also taking the swan as an abstract negates its use as a natural history subject as you are eliminating valuable information regarding the form of the bird.

the white balance i guess is subjective but to me it looks fine , its the shadows that are underexposed a little really and i do appreciate the difficulty of balancing the exposure to retaing detail in whites without blocking shadows but there are facilities for highlights and shadows together with fill in in raw conversion to assist with this. the details i conceed you have retained well enough. with a shot like this id prefer to use high pass sharpening.

me personally id make a duplicate copy, lighten the water and erase through to retain the original tones of the swan . just to brighten things up a little.

so generally, its not badly exposed, reasonably sharp but non the less lacks any impact as a composition or indeed record for natural history purposes. (as defined by FIAP or PAGB)

joseluissc 13 16 3 Portugal
17 Mar 2010 2:52PM

Quote:Sorry posted pc was slow

Please don't be ; )

Quote:green cast

WB settings are more hard to set on digital (this is my personal feeling). Although, on film times post colour processing was always made by third party's, and I've usually made it on negative + print. Even so, my feeling on the few slides I made go on the same direction.
About green cast, I would say that the still and shallow lake waters (on this case) are more greenish / brown than blueish. But I like much more the blue / vibrant of your mod. Seem more digital / less natural, tough.

I made an upload of the same post-processing only with the original WB setting and just by curiosity it seems more acceptable to me today (after saw your mod)

Another interesting aspect it's on your reference to the green cast. Due to your modification, I feel you corrected yellows instead greens (not saying I'm right) since blue it's the opposite, as magenta is to green. I think we all have this tendency to see green as yellow.

You're right when mentioned the WB was made on the shadows.

As for composition, I'll try to make a crop focused on the swan's neck

Thank you very much Eviscera!
joseluissc 13 16 3 Portugal
17 Mar 2010 3:38PM

Quote:breaking the edge with a white mass is a definate no

I must agree with you Phill and Eviscera!

Here the problem was that I cropped too much during composition...
If like my last modification upload (opted by 1:1 aspect ratio), I feel it would be better if left some space down on the swan's neck reflexes.

So, nothing can be do!

Anyway, definitely my initial composition doesn't make sense.

But for me was very positive to realize that (this is not a good composition, period!)

I Would agree to Phill's WB comment.
Right now my default post-processing tool is silkypix... I will go to lightroom soon, than make some comparisons... After maybe try high pass filter techniques later in ps (but I'll check if I can do it on my elements version)

Thank you very much Phill!
joseluissc 13 16 3 Portugal
17 Mar 2010 10:28PM

Quote:I think we all have this tendency to see green as yellow.

I wanted to say:
to not see green as yellow instead of see green as yellow

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