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23/11/2015 - 6:10 PM

Sunset Spectators

Sunset SpectatorsA fraction heavy on the sharpening (or maybe some other form of processing) looking at the haloes - but a lovely and atmospheric image.

Clearly they were enjoying the sun, and the sunset - as you were!
The Woman in the Red Satin DressI'm with Nathan on this - a slight rotation (I've just done it, and it took less than a minute in Elements) would make this rock. Her pose is perfect, and the red light on the piano gives an atmosphere of a possibly slightly-disreputable night club, where she is singing among the drinks and the assignations.

As with your previous post, a touch towards underexposure... You spot metered this shot, and I wonder where you took the reading? (I find that reading from the face or skin, and adding a stop, works well with most European complexions.)
22/11/2015 - 8:32 PM

Man On A Balcony

Man On A BalconyWell seen, and well caught.

Big minus points for shutter priority and such a low speed, leading to a tiny aperture: the quality is OK, but I suspect much more by luck than anything else - on a tour bus, I'd say that 1/500 wasn't too far off, especially with a longer zoom setting! And I'd tend to go for aperture priority, myself, though everyone has their favourite way of doing things. IS is good, but it's best not to push it too much...

You're right: the chimney is ugly, and I'm really in two minds about it. This is, to me, largely a reportage shot, so the chimney is there, and has to stay.

I've done a mod, rotating and cropping. In taking, more space on the left would have been good, as the chap's looking that way.
22/11/2015 - 8:20 PM

Castlerigg Sunrise

Castlerigg SunriseMuch as I love black-and-white, the luminosity of the colour version is lovelier, I think. A bit of a glow in the shadows of the mono version would be interesting, but probably beyond my editing skills.

I think you will be hard-pressed to get a better shot, given the perfect positioning of the clouds. I was talking to an experienced landscaper today, and we were discussing the need for perfect conditions for iconic places (I mentioned Ashness Bridge). The conclusion is that it's important to be able to produce a good image whatever the conditions: otherwise we risk moving to Midsomer, where it's always sunny... (and the photographers die as fast as everyone else!)

Maybe arrive really early, and get in closer, so that the stones (one or two of them, anyway) can loom over the camera? Though you may risk strangulation with your own camerastrap at the hands of another tog who doesn't have such a wide lens.
18/11/2015 - 9:51 PM

surfs up

surfs upI think you have reached the edge of what the camera can do, as Paul says. The usual suggestion when automation fails is to go manual, and I think you may not be able to.

So you either need to operate within the limits you have established, or consider an upgrade. I hate to say this. And you may be happy to work with the limitations, of course.

One thing worth trying - even very automated cameras tend to lock settings on first pressure on the shutter button. You could, therefore, focus on the beach at the same distance as the surfer, then recompose while keeping the button half-pressed. Worth a try, maybe?
17/11/2015 - 3:59 PM

Rakher Upobash

Rakher UpobashThis is an amazing shot - what an occasion to be able to photograph!

I have two real suggestions.

First, in taking the shot, I think I would have tried to move to the right a little, to isolate the woman more from the figures (and bright areas) on the right. My mod clones and burns in to subdue them, but finding the optimum camera position is always best.

Second, once i'd got the very dark and mysterious scene, I would dodge and burn to make more of the tonal differences there are in there. Dodging highlights in the faces and clothes, and the fumes from the lights, definitely adds to the drama.
17/11/2015 - 3:49 PM

pond life

pond lifeGetting wet can be the least of it, Ivan!

I've had a quick look at the specification of your camera, and the really striking feature is that you don't have many options for manual control. This makes things simple providing you point and shoot - and immensely harder if you want to start controlling things fully.

Having said that, you have certainly improved things here, despite rather poor light. You may find it useful to take some shots when the light is both bright and looking good, to see just how well the camera can work for you when the conditions are really good.

A lot of togs (and I have done it, and still do it, from time to time) push their gear to the limits, then wonder why they don't get wonderful results.

It's like driving: bald tyres on ice makes life hard, but is satisfying if you manage it - but you need a lot of knowledge and a delicate touch to make it work.

Looking at this picture, the composition is the thing that needs work - you are aimed straight between two leaves, which are the obvious subjects. Concentrating on one of them, and making it the main subject (largely filling the frame, but offcentre) would be the next move, I'd say. As it stands, the shot invites us to look more at the muddy depths of the pond (which we can't really see) than at the leaves.
16/11/2015 - 9:28 AM

Drying in the autumn wind

Drying in the autumn windThis is a real poser, artistically.

On the one hand, the defining characteristics of the conditions you shot in are cool, dull light and a general feeling of a lack of life. You want to convey exactly that, i suspect.

On the other hand, a dull, blue picture tends not to be attractive...

So, for me, the trick will be to liven the image visually, without killing the atmosphere: so you would want to retain a degree of blueness (suggesting cold) and dullness, being true to the light, while making the whole thing sparkle a bit. Tall order. I shall try a mod - and I expect it to look less good than Moira's!

Technical issues as Moira says.
15/11/2015 - 5:43 PM

puddle leaf

puddle leafAnd welcome from me, too, Ivan.

Definitely a seasonal shot!

Can I add a theory about the lack of sharpness? It's not definitely, so, but I wonder if you were just a little bit too close for the camera to focus. Usually, camera shake gives a characteristic blurring that turns dots into short lines, rather than bigger blurred dots. The far side of the leaf looks a bit sharper than the nearer side, so I suspect extreme closeness contributed at least a bit to the problem.

I hope all of this is helpful, and that you will get what you need from posting in this gallery.
13/11/2015 - 5:52 PM


MUSKED WAGTAILWhat do you think is wrong with the composition? It's pretty much textbook - using the thirds (the points 1/3 of the way up/down and across the frame well, though it's facing out of the frame. Subjects on a third usually look stronger than those in random positions.

You could go for a smaller subject, against what's called 'negative space' - but there aren't too many other options with a plain background. (Though the background is often a problem by not being so plain, and this is fine, as Moira has said!)
11/11/2015 - 5:21 PM

Kimmeridge Bay 6

Kimmeridge Bay 6There's a lot to see here, and many, many different pictures to take.

I'm not sure if I could say one version is 'better' than the others. I like the rocks, and for me, maybe, they're more of a subject than the togs (I see tripod legs...)

However... This is quite difficult, because I share King Canute's understanding that Nature doesn't do what we want. He knew he couldn't stop the tide, and got his throne wet to prove it. And I know that I can't move rocks from one side to the other.

Nonetheless, all three versions look a little left side heavy. What I think I'd like is to see the people and the rocks reaching out on the right, with the foreground as it is. with or without the rocks, the foreground is reaching out and to the right, and having a line coming in from that side above it would add a surprise, a visual reversal, to the picture.

Long ago - I think he or she had stopped writing by the time I started reading the magazine - Amateur Photographer had a columnist who did critiques, and was reputed to suggest moving Alps across valleys for the sake of 'better composition' - though the digitally literate can now do that sort of thing, if they are so inclined. Memory fails me on the pen name (s)he used.
11/11/2015 - 9:40 AM


SHE'S NO STRANGER TO THE RAINKeith's said it, but I will be very brief, and (I hope) clear.

Higher ISO, to avoid camera shake.

No minus compensation, so it's fully exposed.

Closer, so it's not a crop ((it is, isn't it?)

Smaller aperture, to get optimum lens performance, and avoid focus error.
07/11/2015 - 4:04 PM


ConversationPaul is absolutely right in what he says about contrast, and how you can lose it.

And the wonder of digital processing is that you can get it back: I realised, not very long ago at all, that almost every scan I've ever done of a print has lost a little in terms of maximum black. That means that they look a little soft and dull: and ten seconds adjusting things in Levels will make the digital version as beefy as the silver print.

I haven't got the sharpness thing down so well - scanning prints works better than negatives (for me, and I think possibly for you, Pete), but it may simply be a question of using a good enough scanner. My Contax cost over 200 in 1976 (and my favourite 85mm lens another 200 in 1977), but my scanner cost less than 200 in 2014. It doesn't necessarily follow, but I suspect I know where the weak link is!

And, in the darkroom, one compensates almost by instinct: choosing the grade of paper to suit the negative is around the third essential thing you learn when you start printing! (And one of the two above it is 'Don't turn the light on with the box of paper open!')
05/11/2015 - 10:42 PM

I got Rhythm!

I got Rhythm!I had to read Paul's comment before I realised what thais has to do with a guitar! It's a switch on an electric guitar, isn't it?

From the thumbnail, I thought it was a weightlifter's weight... So I rather like the 'what is it?' element in the composition, and the limited depth of field adds to that.

So this sort of works artistically, but on a technical level, it's far less of a treat. For most macro pictures, you'd want more sharpness, more even lighting: if you were intending to achieve these, you failed. If you meant the shot to look exactly as it does, you did well in breaking a load of rules.

But your comment suggests that you had a go, and didn't particularly intend any special outcome, in which case, I'd suggest having a look at a few really good examples of macro work, and noting the common features.

Depth of field is tiny close up, so it's normal to stop down to f/11 or smaller, and to light pretty brightly to facilitate this. I often say it's fun to work right at the margins, technically, artistically, even socially. But in order to break the rules with assurance, you need to understand what they are, and how to follow them.

To sum up, then - this works - but I'd be interested to know whether you think it does, and whether you planned that it would look this way.
05/11/2015 - 5:39 PM

Cigarette break.

Cigarette break.Your EXIF settings are good for maximum quality, but may not be optimal for street work.

You obviously take good equipment very seriously indeed - you can't get better than your body and lens for quality. So what follows may appall you. It's what I'd do, though, whether with my A7r Mk I and 85mm Planar (so I have fewer pixels, a noisy shutter, and no IS), and it's what I'd do with your kit, too.

Set the ISO up around the 800 mark (for these conditions). Stop down to f/5.6, and set aperture priority. And shoot.

If you want particular effects using shallow depth of field, by all means experiment, lower the ISO, and open up the diaphragm (still using aperture priority).

And what a lot of street shooters would suggest is going a little further still - 24mm lens (or wider), set focus to around five feet, and learn to shoot from the hip. With a completely silent shutter (which you have), chances are that no-one will notice at all...

If you want to keep the more 'forensic' look of an 85mm, which I understand very well, as it's my natural tendency, just give yourself headroom for focus errors by using the A-f/5.6-800 ISO approach, and alter things when you need to. Don't be afraid of using stratospheric ISO settings in poor light. Classic reportage on Tri-X film is grainy, and none the worse for it!
05/11/2015 - 2:08 PM


ConversationI think Moira's mods have hit the spot, for me.

The blurred area on the right and the sunlit leaves are distractions, where you need them least, at the edges. There's a lot to like about the pattern of the paving, and the leaves on it. As it happens (and this may have been why you took the shot, subconsciously, or even consciously), the leaves provide a gentle and informal pattern, some diffuse leading lines, that take you, inevitably, to these two ladies. Are they discussing families, and the problems of children living far away? Or politics, or whether the vicar should move evensong? Whatever it is, they take it seriously.

As ever, there are questions about scanning (I have some old slides on my scanner at this moment, and Epson is not doing Zeiss lenses and Agfa film any favours at all...)

I'm sure this is where the problems lie, rather than with developers or darkroom technique: if it was otherwise, I'd be able to see the grain in my scans far, far better!
05/11/2015 - 7:50 AM


BlendedHi, Gene -

You've been a member a good while (with a very impressive portfolio), but I don't think I've seen your work here in the Critique Gallery before. I reckon you know what we do here, and that's why you have posted in this section. I hope we can provide what you want.

In terms of the things you were aiming to do, this has worked beautifully, I'd say. Way, way beyond my ability.

There are one or two things that could do with tidying up, compositionally, given the degree of technical perfection you've got here.

I checked the geometry, and I can't see anything wrong when I put a grid over the shot - but it looks as if it needs correcting slightly! Fairly recently, I learned that some pros leave a tiny bit of converging verticals in shots, because they look straighter that way. I think this applies here.

I think I'd want to go even wider, on both sides - to include all of the door on the left, and (very definitely) all of the plates on the wall on the right. The alternative is to crop them out (as I've done in my mod), and that looks rather spartan.

I'd also remove the chair, bottom right - crudely cloned out in my mod.

This is amazingly good and painstaking work, and it deserves every refinement you can achieve in it.
04/11/2015 - 6:13 PM

Its play time

Its play timeAlmost all of the subject is in a very narrow strip near the bottom, so i have cropped a lot in my mod.

I also used Levels to strengthen the shadows, and brighten the midtones.

Finally, I used the Skew adjustment to straighten the verticals on the right.

This is a beautiful picture, putting the cricketers in context.
Busker- print Scan as requestedThank you, Pete - it was my idea, so if it hasn't worked well, I should feel guilty!

I've got the two images open in two separate windows: flicking between them, and allowing for a slight change in composition and scale, I really do think this is a little better. Look at the detail in the busker's jacket, and the hair on the top of the bloke's head (he is scarily reminiscent of someone I know at church...)

I notice that you used a different scanner for this - so any difference may be due to the scanner's inherent properties. A real comparison would involve using your Epson.

Rather oddly, I've just looked out some 1969 slides, because of a conversation with another member about Malta. My Epson flatbed has just moved from reflective to film mode... Wish me luck!
02/11/2015 - 9:06 PM

The Busker

The BuskerI think the critical words in Paul's last comment are 'right equipment' - the ideal is a professional grade scanner, but most of us work with flatbeds that adapt to scan negatives and slides.

My own results suggest that sharpness is better scanning prints, though there can be other issues, including poor contact with the glass, and reduced contrast (which is easy to correct with Levels...)