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06/05/2012 - 1:56 PM

view from islandmagee

view from islandmageeI'm not sure a tripod would have bought you a huge amount. Are you sure that EXIF is correct? If so, the change I'd make to the way this was taken would be to decrease the ISO to 400, giving a more than adequate shutter speed of 1/250s. The reason I ask if the ISO is correct is that I'd expect a lot of noise at ISO-3200 and I don't see any.

The second version is a big improvement as it has much more punch. I think it would be improved further by moving some distance to one side to move one of the farmhouses to the left and one to the right, to avoid the very central composition.

Overall, though, I just don't find the photo very exciting. It's a nice view but that doesn't necessarily translate into a strong photograph: I can't hear the birds singing or smell the flowers or feel the warm sun on my back so you need to work extra-hard to convince me that I'm interested in this place. In fact, you have to work super-hard because it's just as easy for me to look at your photo as it is to look at a photo of somewhere really dramatic like the Grand Canyon.

OK, so how do you compete with that? Of course, really, you can't but, on the other hand, it should be much easier for you to convince me to spend a long weekend in Northern Ireland than to make the treck to Arizona. You also have the "hidden gem" factor in your favour, because most British people don't know the first thing about the landscape of Northern Ireland, beyond maybe the Giant's Causeway. Try to find compositional elements that will lead the viewer through the scene. Something like a road moving from somewhere close to somewhere in the distance can often help a lot. Maybe shooting along the valley, rather than across it. Somewhere for the eye to rest can be useful: put the foreground farmhouse around the intersection of thirds (probably lower-right, as it's facing to the left) and the viewer starts to imagine that they live there and see the view from their own front window. Or maybe a well-placed and nicely lit group of farm animals so we can think, "Lucky them, getting to see this view all day." What's the tower on the horizon on the far right? Would you get a good photograph of the tower, with the landscape as a background?

Nice light throughout the shot would obviously help, too, but if we got to pick the weather, life would be much better. Wink

06/05/2012 - 12:16 PM

Dockey Wood

Dockey WoodOverall, this works very well and the symmetrical composition is natural and sensible. I have just a few little suggestions.

- A little more depth of field would be nice, to get the foreground sharp.

- The lead-in takes us to a point in the background that's very close to what seems to be a person standing in the distance. I find that person rather distracting as he or she doesn't really fit in. Best cloned out, I think.

- It looks like it's leaning to the left: the ground slopes that way and most of the trees are leaning. Although the ground may well be a gentle hill and trees don't necessarily grow vertically, especially if there's a prevailing wind, I think the photo would feel more relaxed if it was straightened.

05/05/2012 - 2:06 PM

Swiss fountain

Swiss fountainWelcome to ePhotozine!

I think this works rather nicely and shows the interesting shapes of the water moves through as it falls. The background is nicely blurred, too. The shot is very blue but a white balance adjustment would take care of that.

There are two main ways of photographing water. One is to use a fast shutter speed, as you've done here, and capture the shapes the water flows into, which the human eye never sees because it moves too quickly. The other is to use a slow shutter so the water blurs into a smooth stream; that usually needs a tripod but you can sometimes rest the camera on the edge of the fountain, a wall or something like that. In both cases, a burst of flash can add sparkle to the droplets.

05/05/2012 - 1:52 PM


LiverpoolExcellent viewpoint and shooting before it's really dark has given a nice blue colour.

On the down side, the shot's very noisy and the HDR processing has introduced haloes around the skyline and, in particular, its reflection. It's also resulted in a rather low-contrast image. Was HDR really needed, here? The purpose of HDR is to reduce contrast so that a scene with extremes of brightness and darkness can be represented in a single photograph without losing too much detail in the shadows or the highlights. But this isn't an especially high-contrast scene. Shooting RAW, I'd expect this to work just fine with a single exposure and a curves adjustment to bring out the shadow detail.

05/05/2012 - 1:42 PM

Bowdon Bridge Transportation

Bowdon Bridge TransportationYou've done really well to get a tolerably sharp photo at 1s hand-held! Getting down on the floor and bracing your elbows against the road surface may have helped, as would going to ISO-800 to cut the shutter speed to 1/2s. The flare from the moon was probably unavoidable and it's not fallen in particularly bad places.

05/05/2012 - 12:18 PM

Autumn Approaching

Autumn ApproachingThis is a difficult shot to take and a good effort. I like the idea of framing it and the mossy wall has a lovely texture that needs to be in any photograph. Smile On the other hand, that big branch is very heavy and seems quite intrusive. I'm not a big fan of the fence, either, as it's very geometric and man-made so doesn't seem to fit in the setting.

The difficulty is in the exposure, which needs to be long enough to get the detail in the shaded foreground but short enough to avoid blowing out the background. If you're on a tripod, merging two exposures might be the best way. No need to use HDR or anything fancy: just open the two images, copy the foreground as a layer on top of the background and use a mask to selectively erase the parts of the foreground image where you want the background to show through. It's somewhat time-consuming but not difficult and the results can be very effective -- here's one I did with exactly this technique.

05/05/2012 - 11:57 AM

Standing on

Standing onOverall, this works well as the bright colours of the butterfly stand out well even though the background is quite busy. But I do think you need to crop out the part of the yellow butterfly in the top-right and there's quite a bit of dead space on the left: I'd crop it off at about the 'i' of your watermark.

You've done well to get a sharp image at only 1/50s. If possible, try to shoot with a faster shutter, which should give you a higher success rate. Aiming for 1/(1.5 x focal length) or faster is best, even if your lens has an image stabilizer. You can probably afford to push the ISO up to 400 without much loss of quality.

In terms of composition, I like the way that the main butterfly is balanced by the out-of-focus one in the background. It would be nice, though, if the main butterfly was facing into the photograph. Having it facing outwards tends to draw the viewer's eye out of the photo.

05/05/2012 - 10:16 AM

Lowry Fireworks

Lowry FireworksAt first sight, this looks really good. You've merged the images very well and, as you say, the reflections are key. But it's still pretty obvious that you've merged two separate images because the background was clearly taken with a very long exposure (perhaps even several minutes), whereas the fireworks were taken with a relatively fast shutter (at most a few seconds).

Whether this is a problem depends entirely on your intended audience. If you're aiming it at pedantic photographers, that kind of thing will get spotted. If you're aiming it at the general public, it probably won't. On the other hand, a general audience might find the shot a little confusing, without being able to pin down the technical reason. The blurred clouds in the sky give a slow-paced, quet, relaxed feel but the fireworks are bright and fast and loud -- so maybe they don't quite belong in the same photo?

04/05/2012 - 10:08 AM

The view

The viewTo get the verticals (nearly) correct in the camera, use the autofocus points as a guide. Line up the column of them that goes through the centre against a true vertical and then move the camera to get the composition you want. The reason for using the centre ones is that a vertical line through the centre will remain vertical when you tilt the camera up or down -- if you use an off-centre vertical in the viewfinder, you might be aligning not against true vertical but against a line that's angled by being in receding perspective.

Also, why HDR? The purpose of HDR is to take a scene whose contrast is too high to represent in an image and reduce that contrast until it can be displayed on screen. Here, the range of contrast looks well within the capabilities of your camera's sensor -- so why do you want to reduce it? HDR may be useful for night shots, where the bright lights are vastly brighter than the darker areas. But this shot was already a low-contrast image and tone-mapping has reduced the contrast even more.

The L S Lowry centre Salford Quaysjestertheclown wrote:
Quote: What you have here is lens distortion rather than it just not being straight.
You could correct the verticals a bit but it won't rectify all of the leaning elements as they're at differing distances from the camera and therefore leaning at different angles.

Sort of. The leaning of the verticals isn't a distortion introduced by the lens; rather, it's a feature of the point of view. Verticals will lean inwards with any lens, including your own eyes, whenever that lens is angled upwards. You can see it by looking up at a tall building, for example. It's also not really caused by the differing distances from the camera but, rather, differing horizontal distances from the centre of the image. A vertical line in the centre of the image will stay vertical when you tilt the camera up; verticals will lean inwards progressively more as you move towards the edge of the frame, regardless of how far away from you they are. For example, the lamp post is leaning by the same amount as the join between the red and black parts of the building behind it, because they're the same distance across the image from the centre: it doesn't matter that the building is farther back.

30/04/2012 - 11:57 AM

When the rain came

When the rain camePlenty of technical suggestions above so I'm going to address this more conceptually. Water drops make a great subject and flower photographers often use a spray bottle to add them indoors or in dry weather.

Here, I think you pressed the button too early. You've found your subject but not your photograph. Take your time to look around, trying different compositions, seeing what best shows off the raindrops on the leaf. Do you want to home in on just one drop or show the wet leaf as a whole? What patterns and shapes can you see that would be interesting to the viewer? We all know what wet leaves look like so you need to find something that makes this leaf special and interesting so that we can see why you chose this leaf to display for all the world to see.

So, what patterns are there here? The leaf itself has a nice spiral shape to it. You have the two big drops nicely lit up; maybe if you'd moved a fraction, the smaller one below it would have lit up to make a triangle. Alternatively, there's a row of four biggish drops in a straight line, including that third corner of the triangle. There's also a triangle of something else (a path or something) in the top right -- that has nothing to do with the subject of the photo so it's probably best cropped out.

For the best results, don't take quick snaps. Have a little think about how you can make it better. Unless there's some reason you have to take the photograph right now, wait thirty seconds and evaluate other options. Emanuel Lasker, who was world chess champion for longer than anyone else, said something like 'When you find a good move, wait -- look for a better one.' I think the same applies to photography, too.

30/04/2012 - 9:33 AM

white satin

white satinWhen you focus the lens close-up, you get very little depth of field so here, some of the petals are sharp but the central parts of the flower are getting soft. Really, you need a narrower aperture and a faster shutter wouldn't hurt for a hand-held shot. 1/100s at 42mm is fine for general photography but close-up work magnifies the movement of the camera. Unfortunately, wanting a narrower aperture and faster shutter means higher ISO or more light. Or, alternatively, a tripod.

The shot is well-exposed to get the full range of tones, though it still looks a little dark, to me. A small curves lift would help that; the rest of your editing looks good and sensible.

In compositional terms, it would be nice to isolate the 'main' flower a little more, though that's not always possible. It is quite low in the frame and right of centre, while it appears to be 'looking' down and to the right so I'd prefer to see it positioned above and left of centre.

29/04/2012 - 3:14 PM

Molly Malone

Molly MaloneKnown by the locals as "The tart with the cart"! Grin

She's a bit central here and could maybe have been moved to the right; a bit of a shadow would help anchor her, too. But the background works well and everything fits together nicely.

29/04/2012 - 2:05 PM


WelcomeThis is a nice shot of a very appealing subject. Black and white works well, as the scene has a timeless feel to it and colours might distract from the compositional symmetry. I think the composition is maybe a little tight and it might also have been improved slightly by getting down on one knee so you were more at the subjects' level. That might help the viewer to feel more involved in the scene.

pablophotographer wrote:
Quote: I am puzzled why the camera has chosen f10, which is not useful, at the case, since not much of teh background is needed to be recorded explicitly.

The camera didn't choose the aperture: the photograph was taken in aperture priority mode so the photographer chooses the aperture and the camera uses whatever shutter speed will give the correct exposure. This is as it should be: the whole point of using a DSLR is that you make the creative decisions (for example, choosing the aperture to control depth of field) and you let the camera make technical decisions that don't affect the shot (such as shutter speed in a scene where nothing's moving). In a photo where the primary creative decision is controlling motion blur (either creating motion blur or freezing motion), you'd want to use shutter priority mode instead.

In this case, I think the camera settings are sensible. You need to make sure the woman and the dog are both sharp and, really, it doesn't matter if the background is sharp or not because there's nothing much there: it won't look bad if it's blurred and it won't look bad if it's sharp. Shooting with a narrow aperture has guaranteed that the subject is sharp and the shutter speed is fast enough to avoid camera shake.

pablophotographer wrote:
Quote: I shall remind you , when you are shooting from top or from a high ankle down to a subject (as if you fly with a helicopter and you are shooting the trees below) you don't need depth of field, so you can use your widest aperture.

But this isn't shot from a high angle: it looks like it's shot from the normal eye level of a standing adult. Also, it's usually best to avoid the lens's widest aperture, unless you actually need to limit the depth of field. Image quality tends to improve if you stop down a little.

Quote: I would also be more careful to bring the camera just a bit to the right so the distance from the end of dog's leg and the distance from the lady's head to teh end of the frames is equal.

I think the balance is fine, there. The dog's head is about the same distance from the edge as the bench is and its leg is only a very small element of the photograph. I don't think you should make major compositional decisions based on such a small thing as exactly where the dog's leg is.

By the way, most of your tags don't match the photograph. There's no architecture here, it's not a close-up or macro shot, it's not a photo of flowers or plants (it just happens to have some grass in it) and it's not an abstract shot. Choosing the right tags will help people find your photograph; choosing the wrong tags will annoy people who are looking for architecture shots and find a photo of a woman and a dog sleeping.

28/04/2012 - 12:09 PM

Archers galore

Archers galoreStunning reflections and a well composed shot.

Dave (WhiteRose1) makes a good point about the sky but you don't actually need a cloudless sky to avoid the orange/brown, if you shoot at the right time. About half an hour after sunset, the sky is a glorious, rich blue, even when it's quite cloudy; later on (you were shooting about two hours after sunset), that blue fades and the orange glow of the city street lights takes over if there's any low cloud. If you learn to spot the blue time, you can get some really magical night shots.

28/04/2012 - 11:56 AM

frosty fern

frosty fernGreat subject, lovely light but, as has been said above, you need more sharpness. When working close up like this, depth of field is very restricted and that means that you tend to need a narrower aperture (higher f-number) than you might normally use. f/11 is a good place to start and you might even need to go to f/16 or beyond. Unfortunately, this slows the shutter right down so you either have to use flash (probably not a good idea in this case, as it'll overpower the nice natural light), higher ISO (but I'd be wary of going much beyond the ISO-400 that you're already using for fear of introducing unacceptable amounts of noise) or a tripod.

If a tripod isn't an option, you need to work with the depth of field you have. One way to maximize its effect is to carefully angle your camera so that as much as possible of the subject is parallel to the camera back -- if you imagine that the leaf is completely flat, you want the camera pointing straight at it, rather than at an angle. That means that as much as possible of the leaf is within the limited area of sharpness available. Alternatively, embrace the fact that you can't get the whole thing sharp and show a small area of the leaf, with the rest of it forming an out of focus background.

Looking through your portfolio, I see you have a lot of shots taken in interesting light. That skill for seeing when the light is good is invaluable as it can turn a mundane subject into something really special!

28/04/2012 - 11:34 AM

Sam II

Sam IINice one. His face looks a touch over-exposed to me and I'd prefer to see him farther to the right in the shot, since he's looking to our left and the extra stairs included would be more interesting than the floorboards lost. Being really picky, the hand holding the sax looks rather large and it might be better if he had his thumb underneath, with his fingers, rather than gripping the top. You could tone down the bright higlight in his ear, too. All minor stuff.

I've no strong preference between the two versions.

28/04/2012 - 10:33 AM


WINDSOR BUTTERFLY 03A nice view of this red admiral and a good attempt without a macro lens. It's well exposed, your shutter speed is nice and fast and f/8 will probably give you enough depth of field, though it might be worth going to f/11.

The down side is that the shot isn't very sharp. My guess is that this is because of a loss of resolution from cropping the image heavily. Butterflies are usually pretty tolerant of having cameras shoved in their faces and I'd expect to be able to get this sort of composition more or less full-frame with my 100mm macro lens, so it should be possible to get it at about a quarter of the frame at 55mm. Bear in mind that, when you're working close up, depth of field is shallow so it's crucial that you don't move the camera towards or away from the subject between focusing and shooting. In particular, that means you shouldn't focus and then recompose because you'll inevitably move backwards or forwards while you do that. Since you'll likely be cropping anyway, just use the centre autofocus point and shoot immediately after focusing.

28/04/2012 - 9:09 AM

Blossom Corner

Blossom Cornermickbee wrote:

Quote: I reckon your blossoms are a bit burnt out.Dunno if you check your histogram after you take a shot,but if you do,you would find out if the highlights had been clipped,resulting in your blossoms having no detail in them and being pure white. Quite simply,no pixels equal no detail.If you took another shot at minus one exposure compensation you would probably have got colour and detail in your blossoms.

Actually, if you look at the histogram for these shots, you'll see that there is only very minor clipping of the highlights, which is all in the red channel. There are only twenty pure-white pixels in the whole photo. You need at most -1/3 stop exposure compensation to avoid that. The reason there's no detail here is that the shutter speed was far too low so there's massive camera shake. At 17mm, you get lots of depth of field even at quite wide apertures so there's no need for f/11, here. f/5.6 would probably have been enough and would have increased your shutter speed to 1/15s. Pushing the ISO up to 200 would give you 1/30s which would probably be OK with the image stabilizer; pushing it to 400 would give you 1/60s and you're in business.

Quote: I reckon it is best to take ALL YOUR SHOTS at minus one compensation on a bright sunny day.Your shot may look dark but it is easy enough to lift your shadows through levels or the shadow/highlight command in Photoshop if you have it.

I disagree. Watch the histogram as you shoot and dial in exposure compensation as necessary. The problem with deliberately under-exposing all your shots and correcting later is that it reduces quality. Under-exposing by a stop reduces the number of colours your camera can record by about 20% and levels and curves adjustments can't bring those lost colours back. If you start with an image that only has the darkest 80% of the colours then, after levels/curves, it will still only have 80% of the colours: it's just that you get to choose which ones. But it's like tiling a floor: if you don't have enough tiles, all you can do is choose where the gaps are and hope that they're mostly under the furniture.

Also, from the total lack of shadows, it looks like this photo was either taken on a completely overcast day or the whole scene is in shadow.

23/04/2012 - 11:04 AM

The Maidens

The MaidensThere is a very slight curve on the horizon, which is a distortion introduced by the lens. All lenses do this to some extent; wide-angle lenses and lenses ith long zoom ranges are usually the worst culprits. This is barrel distortion (straight lines near the edge of the frame are bowed outwards); the opposite (bowing inwards) is called pincushion distortion but don't ask me why. Note that the only part of the horizon that would be expected to be straight is the part where the sea is meeting the sky; the coastline on the left is not the horizon. However, that coastline does make the horizon look like it's leaning much more than it is so it might be best to rotate a little to make it look level, even though it technically shouldn't be.

The photo as a whole is sharp and well exposed. I like the stairs leading into the shot and I like the islands and hint of sunset in the background. My only complaint is that there isn't really anything between the two. I think this would be a great location to revisit on a windy day with the sea white-capping and waves crashing on the rocks. Be careful not to get your camera full of salt spray!