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The Storm Clouds

By Irishkate  
Took the camera out yesterday when the sun was shining -
this was the result!!!! I'll enable mods to learn from the experts
on processing this dark image.
Many thanks to all who commented on Archway of Colour.

Tags: Storm Landscape and travel Inverclyde Lunderston bay

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ddolfelin Plus
8 103 3 Wales
26 Feb 2014 10:09AM
Have added some brightness and adjusted contrast, Kate but it's a fine picture anyway.

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nonur 11 18 13 Turkey
26 Feb 2014 10:21AM
Very atmospheric shot, Kate. I like it as is, but wanted to see what can I do without decreasing the effect. Used Mac Phun software. Hope you like it.
Lovely capture that tonal range is perfect for the amount of light. Well done Kate.
ugly Plus
11 9 57 United Kingdom
26 Feb 2014 10:23AM
It has atmosphear but is quite dark in some areas.
May be a bit more contrast and lighten image on bottom half.

RonnieAG Plus
10 154 119 Scotland
26 Feb 2014 11:03AM
Very atmospheric and a very nicely composed Landscape, Kate: you have handled the relatively low light situation well and I feel that were I there this is exactly what I'd have seen.
mrswoolybill Plus
13 1.7k 2119 United Kingdom
26 Feb 2014 11:49AM
Hi Kate, welcome to the Critique Gallery, I think it's your first upload here? It's a good place to learn, I hope you will find it useful.

First off, this scene clearly had a powerful atmosphere, something that you wanted to record and convey. The feel of the moment.

There's a big difference between what someone will experience 'being there', seeing the 360 view, feeling the wind, seeing light dance on moving water; and the viewer's experience, seeing a rectangular two-dimensional image on a little screen. The art is in fitting a composition into a frame in such a way as will lead the viewer in, make them feel a part of the scene.

Something important here is the foreground rocks. That's where we are standing. They are not just a very solid base for the composition, they tell us where we are in all this. It's a pity there isn't greater variety of texture in them as they are large flattish surfaces - a bit of dodging and burning might give a more tactile feel.

I like your low viewpoint - that again gives us a feeling of being physically there. And your sea level looks spot on - it's amazing the number of sloping seas that turn up here...

The toning is attractive, sepia but the colder end rather than muddy pinkish. It has an organic, peaty feel. But something important to remember - adding toning reduces the dynamic range of the image unless you correct light afterwards, and it also loses some degree of detail and image quality.

The main problem here is narrow dynamic range, already there in the image but exacerbated by the toning. I hope that you are familiar with the histogram? It's the graph that shows the relative distribution of tones in the image, from true black on the left to true white on the right.

If the curve of the graph doesn't rise and fall at the outer ends of the baseline it means that the image lacks black and white. The further from the edges that it rises and falls, the narrower the dynamic range.

Almost always, and particularly with mono, images need real dark tones for background shadows, a sense of depth and distance; and also white for sparkle, life. Look at an Old Master painting, look at the flecks of white paint, used strategically as highlights.Look at the histogram for this and you will see that a 'mountain peak' rises a little way along the baseline, and falls back to it only about half way along. That means there is no black, and scarcely any mid to light tones or white. As a result the whole image looks flat and underexposed.

Adding contrast, if done discreetly, will not lose the menacing atmosphere, but it will give a greater sense of depth, distance, and also give a sense of better vitality to the water.

Going back to the histogram, if you open the image in Levels the received wisdom, which works in at least 90% of cases, is to move those outer sliders until they touch the points where the graph curve rises from the base and drops back to it. That will introduce true black and true white. Some experiment and flexibility is needed, try and see what works; but the principle is that moving those sliders inwards increases contrast.

The middle slider controls midtones. I often move it a little bit to the right, to darken, less frequently to the left. Again, experiment and see what works.

The message is that it is important to check and adjust the light balance after converting to b&w - a perfectly balanced colour image will not convert automatically to perfect b&w; and then again after adding toning.

I'll have a go at a Modification - I'm sure you know where to find them, under the Modifications button below your upload - click on the thumbnail to view.
mikbee 12 3 8 Scotland
26 Feb 2014 12:23PM
The only critique I can give you Kate is,
with weather like this I would head for the nearest pub !!
Nikonuser1 Plus
7 161 16 United Kingdom
26 Feb 2014 12:43PM
I like Mick's comments Kate but some great advice has been given above.Smile

Joline Plus
13 30 54 United States
26 Feb 2014 12:55PM
An attractive seascape which works well in mono, I think.
I increased the brightness a bit, then used a black and white filter adjusted to remove the sepia tone and took it more toward the black and white spectrum by increasing the contrast to bring out the various shades of grey and black in the foreground.
barbarahirst 11 27 12 United Kingdom
26 Feb 2014 1:15PM
as Moira has said ....WinkWink
for me in a word.... moody
Fefe Plus
8 33 31 United Kingdom
26 Feb 2014 2:13PM
Hi Kate, I have done you a mod. I firstly ajusted the levels in all colour channels. I adjusted the shadow/highlights. I selected the bright area of sky on the horizon with the magic wand and darkened it very very slightly with the "burn" tool. (not a tool I use a great deal, it is quite new to me). Then I added some luminence in "Match colour" to the whole image. I then selected the rocky foreground with the magic wand, and adjusted the shadow/highlights again, just in that area, to lighten that area only.
I then added a sepia filter to replace the sepia that I had lost and gave it a smart sharpen.
Hope this helpsSmile
26 Feb 2014 2:20PM
I think Mick makes a very valid comment Kate a wee mod upload done

banehawi Plus
15 2.2k 4070 Canada
26 Feb 2014 2:47PM
Hi Kate.

First, we need to establish why its so dark from the camera, It shouldnt be.

Looking at the exif details, I see you used SPOT metering. This is highly likely to be the reason. This is a scene where the normal centre weighted average would work best. This mode works best in 95% of all situations, - I personally have never used any other metering mode, - though I shoot in RAW and can adjust afterwards.

Now a question, - why ISO 400? You should get as low as possible with ISO, and only increase it if the shutter speed is too slow for the focal length.

So I wont do any mods per se. But what I will do, which I hope is helpful, is uploaded two screen shots from Photoshop.

The first will show the image as-is, and just how underexposed it is; the second will show thats its a full 2 stops underexposed, and what It likely would have looked like is centre weighted average metering was used. A lower ISO would increase quality.

No amount of modifications will make up for whats missing in the original shot.

Hope this helps,


26 Feb 2014 2:49PM
Hi Kate. You've got an interesting image here, wild and windswept indeed!
A very dark image is fine, and can be very effective, but this has come out rather dull, even though the time recorded in the camera exif suggests the light levels have been accurately recorded.
Moira, as usual ( Smile ), has gone straight to the crux of things, and has given what is probably the best and most comprehensive advice you're likely to get from anyone, regarding tonal range and dynamic range.

[If you aren't sure of the different meanings of those terms, tonal range is the number of distinguishable tones ranging from pure black to pure "paper base" white that are present in an image. Dynamic range refers to the levels of luminosity ( brightness ) that can be represented with discernible detail before shadow areas "block up" completely, and/or highlight areas "burn out." The former can depend on camera/exposure settings, whereas the latter is more a function of sensor design. That's where the use of graduated neutral density filters comes in, but that's another story...]

My personal approach to Landscape images is that simply recording the "facts" is of little artistic value, that's the territory occupied by the poorer examples of the picture postcard or the holiday snap...a journalistic record of events. I feel it's of more value to record your "response" to what is in front of you. In other words, photograph the way it "feels" rather than the way it "looks," they might be the same, slightly similar, or wildly different. My point is, it's a subjective genre.
I think you basically have a good well composed image here, but the light is indeed very flat, so I've adjusted contrast globally in levels and tried to throw light across the foreground in a more varied way to give what I hope is a more moody and "poetic" feel to things. I also reduced the sepia toning and changed its hue slightly.
I hope the uploading process doesn't change the look of my mod too much... there often seems to be a tendency for that to happen!
Anyway, enough talk, see what you think.

Herge88 Plus
12 40 6 England
26 Feb 2014 3:12PM
Lovely toning here Kate, and what drama in that sky, nice one.

Best Matt
rayme330 8 17 1 United Kingdom
26 Feb 2014 3:31PM
A lovely atmospheric image Kate that has benefited by the mods that have been posted that have lifted the contrast a little.

LynneJoyce Plus
11 22 101 United Kingdom
26 Feb 2014 4:40PM
An image with loads of potential for lots of different treatments depending on what you want from it. I have no problem with dark images per se, but this one started as rather dull and lacking in contrast. I leave technical advice to the experts and you have plenty of that. I only offer my tinkered with modification as a different way of translating the original.
26 Feb 2014 4:49PM
Very atmospheric shot
26 Feb 2014 5:29PM
Excellent capture although a little moody, Kate!
ErictheViking 7 124 102 Scotland
26 Feb 2014 5:58PM
Hi Kate
So many MOD's I almost didn't give it a shot, but I did so I am No. 12.

Over all this is a moody stormy shot so I wanted to keep the mood and not make it too bright but I wanted to lift the image and make some of the detail more visible.

I use very simple methods to adjust images so for me it was the levels control which I applied to selected areas and made individual adjustments. What I tried to avoid was to over expose the bright sun patch so I never selected this and in my MOD its the only untouched part.

For the sky and the foreground I adjusted levels to keep the dark slider at the edge of the histogram and then I lightened the midtones as necessary. For the sky I also increased the highlights.

As I adjusted the shot this really nice sepia tone appeared so I left it

Hope you like

paulbroad Plus
12 131 1288 United Kingdom
26 Feb 2014 6:12PM
So many comments, but Willie has it. It is potentially a decent if slightly bland scene but a long way too dark, especially in the foreground. Spot metering and auto exposure is not a good idea unless you spotted, then used exposure lock. But what did you spot from? The bright sky I bet and that will lead to general under exposure.

You do need to under expose for the sky, but then you need to bring the shaddows back with the dodge tool. Having read all the comments above, you are not going to believe Willie and myself and, indeed, the concencus is of a very good image. You make your own final decision, but do be careful with spot, if you use it you kust meter from 18% grey, the equivelant, or use compensation.

10 10 10 England
26 Feb 2014 7:12PM
V1 is very sombre and dark Kate but I find V2 very pleasing. Have also enjoyed all the mods and will catch up on the reading later.
netta1234 7 382 2 Wales
26 Feb 2014 7:20PM
For me it's v2 Kate,but I will leave the critique to the experts,and you've had many helpful commentsSmile
BIGRY1 8 3 8 United Kingdom
26 Feb 2014 7:35PM
Very moody and forbidding. If you keep flicking the mouse over the two versions it looks like it is lightning!WinkGrin
paulbroad Plus
12 131 1288 United Kingdom
26 Feb 2014 7:43PM
V2, is, unfortunately, the other way. V1 with shadow control.

26 Feb 2014 7:50PM
i think this is my first ever mod,no idea what i was doing but i triedSmileSmileSmileSmileSmileSmile

marktc 9 101 15 United Kingdom
26 Feb 2014 9:49PM
I can't add anything of any value Kate, the others more knowledgable than I have said it all. I do like it though, very much.
andylea 11 37 1 United Kingdom
26 Feb 2014 10:20PM
dark moody and i like it kate Wink
jasonrwl Plus
9 1.1k 10 United Kingdom
26 Feb 2014 10:28PM
It's all been said Kate. I like the shot though
PaulLiley 10 2 13 United Kingdom
27 Feb 2014 5:15AM
I love the atmosphere in V1 but the fg needs lightening a little. Not too much otherwise you would lose the atmospherics of the image. Agree with Willie and Paul above. Its all been said. paul
27 Feb 2014 6:13AM
Amazing atmosphere, great picture (V1 is my fave).
PranavMishra 7 52 18 India
27 Feb 2014 5:06PM
V1 for me.. very atmospheric.. and transporting..
if i had to say something, i would say it lacks a bit of drama on the top left corner and the bottom left corner.. i would have rendered lighting effects in which the corners would be darkened, which would make for a good framing.. and would defintely highlight the center more.. the all important center of this image where the drama is.. my own choice.. maybe wrong too..
the lighting perfect, the tone superb.. very moody.
atenytom 9 1 Poland
2 Mar 2014 7:42AM
in such cases where the deficiencies in the natural color of the reasons I would propose to change the WB settings can sometimes exploit in later processing this change in color as a result of the filter

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