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18/05/2011 - 4:23 PM

Rush Hour Roundabout!

Rush Hour Roundabout!Hi James,

Yeah, late comment, but anyways...

Quote: Would cropping out the skyline, making it more panoramic, improve the image?

Well the simple answer is that it depends on what you want and what the image is for. If the image was to help illustrate an article about night driving or roundabouts etc., then the crop would be appropriate. As a picture to stand by itself however I wouldn't crop the image, in fact I'd want to have the sky somewhat lighter in order to get that rich deep evening blue which would complement the red/orange colours of the light-trails.

The first option at doing this would be to simply use a longer exposure. However the street lights are already rather bright and tending to swamp the light trails, and a longer exposure would make this worse. So my suggestion at achieving the result in-camera would be to use a hard ND Grad filter upside down, along with a larger aperture and a shorter exposure time. Of course you would have to wait for a reasonably busy moment to get lots of light trails. My guess would be an ND4 grad, together with opening the F-stop from F22 to F11 and reducing the exposure time from 30s to 15s. This would double the exposure for the sky, half the exposure for the street lights and keep the same exposure for the light trails.

The first alternative out of camera method would be to shoot two frames - one for the sky and one for the light trails. That way you could get the same effect as above but without a filter, after which combining the two images in PS and indeed most image processing software is trivial.

Another more interesting/creative alternative for the light trails (forgetting the sky for now) would be to shoot multiple images and combine them with an image stacker such as the excellent (and free) startrails. What this essentially does is layer all the images you give it (even 100's) on top of one another and for each pixel select the brightest one to make up an output image. This means that every light trail would come through, being bright, but the street lights, which would be more or less the same brightness in every image, would effectively be taken from just one image. To get a lighter sky with this method would most easily be done as a separate image, as in the previous method, combined in PS with the output from startrails.

Have fun!
15/05/2011 - 9:41 AM

Exeter Cathedral

Exeter CathedralJ,

There's a nice feel to the brickwork here that has come out of the HDR without looking unnatural, and you've controlled the resulting halo's reasonably well too. That's not always easy to achieve, so well done. However, I just wanted to comment briefly on a couple of aspects of this image....

The fringing is CA and as you are probably aware is down to the lens reacting to different wavelengths of light slightly differently, for example having slightly different focal lengths due to variations in the refractive index of the various lens elements. And there are few, if any, ultra-zoom lenses that don't suffer from this- it's simply one of the compromises to get the zoom range. However, there is a lot you can do in software....

You say you are shooting RAW, so your RAW processing software is the first (and generally best) place to deal with the issue. Using Photoshop-CS and ACR, you can simply dial out the CA by going to the lens tab (in ACR) and adjusting the two sliders- one for Red/Cyan and one for Blue/Yellow. Unfortunately this is one of the parts of ACR that you don't get if you are using Elements.

Most third party raw converters also have similar controls and some such as DxO 'know' about lens and body combinations to try and automatically apply these and other corrections, although in my experience you still need to adjust the CA sliders anyway.

There are also both free and paid for plug-ins for PS and similar programs that either give you correction sliders or claim to give one-click wonder results. I did use one of these a while back with good results, but I now correct in the RAW processing.

Another method I have covered previously is simply to de-saturate the fringes themselves. Although in reality this is simply modifying the distortion, it works well because the edges in question have, by definition, high contrast and therefore generally appear close to black-on-something anyway. The trick is to desaturate only the minimum and affect the background colour as little as possible. Of course, this isn't a one-click fix, but it does work very effectively.

One last note- DO fix the CA before ramping up the saturation and sharpening controls, otherwise you are juat making things worse and DON'T, if possible, apply saturation and sharpening 'enhancements' to the corrected areas! Areas such as leaves against a sky often fall into this category.

I'm not sure if you used an ND Grad or it's a fall-out of the hdr processing, but the top of the church is unnaturally darker than the base. You can correct this very simply by first selecting the church (select the sky and then invert the selection) and then applying a graduated levels adjustment to lighten the upper section. It's trivial enough so I won't bother to post a mod.

There are some halo's in the sky round the upper parts of the church which you could argue are appropriate to the type of building and you might say are artistic. Personally I find them small enough not to have an artistic aspect, but large enough to be dstracting. So I would remove them.

28/12/2010 - 2:42 AM


dawnHi Krystal,
I really like this Canna series of variations with their changing moods and warmths, as well as for their simplicity and form. In fact the concept strikes me as very viable commercially as you could literally make images to fit in to any colour scheme, and also have other forms and shapes. Even placing two of these images side by side, with one flipped horizontally, would give a completely different mood.

27/12/2010 - 9:22 PM

a book of SORRY

a book of SORRYGreat in mono... and good timing. The third person completely makes this image - imagine it without that figure.
20/11/2010 - 2:40 AM

n e w d r e a m s

n e w d r e a m sAlways always impressed. Visual art is about expression, not about technique, and the light trails are a tunnel into your mind - a 'navigation' you call it. That's why I don't really care that you haven't reflected the trails.

Great vid too, so appropriate...

18/11/2010 - 12:27 AM

where the stars don't shine

where the stars don't shineDiana,
Do like the effectiveness of the HDR in this one, you have nicely sharp details with no sign of halo's or the noisy gremlins. My only real crit would be to watch that the reflection of the sky is much brighter than the sky itself in places.

From a compositional viewpoint it's true that the windmill breaks the 'rule' that objects should look 'into' the frame, creating a slightly unsettling feel to the composition, but actually that complements the bleak colour you have here. And the perspective distortion and skew horizon I couldn't care less about- it's entirely clear what we are looking at and this isn't a record shot.

Most importantly, for me, is that you've used HDR to help tell the story in the image, not as the point of the image itself. Sumptuous.

12/11/2010 - 5:43 PM

Roadside weeds

Roadside weedsXiaoli, As you are asking for 'comments and criticisms' you can probably already guess what I am going to say...

It's a pity that one of the seed heads breaks the edge of the frame, and I would have removed the leaning telegraph poles and roofs. I'd have darkened and/or cropped the road which is a bright area at the edge of the frame too. Also, it's not particularly evident at this scale but the focus on the closer seed head is quite soft.

However, it's a nicely captured sky which lights the seed pods really well. Perhaps a closer image of that alone would work well too, as the light is so nice.

03/11/2010 - 4:48 AM

I Feel pretty

I Feel prettyHi Alan,
Fabulous capture with that wonderful sense that you can almost feel the softness of the feathers. For me (at the size presented here), your posted original is the best - I want nature pictures to look natural, not 'popped', and I personally don't find the broken area of the perch particularly distracting, the most I would do is suppress the brightest highlights.

For the bird itself my only crit would be that lifting the facial area slightly would possibly help lift the image overall, and also lighten the catch light slightly. I personally use a selective curves adjustment for these. However, these adjustments are slight enough that they may be completely unnecessary in a full size competition image, especially if you're working in print rather than PDI. I've posted a mod to illustrate what I mean, but I have to confess that having copied the large version to work on I did apply some sharpening to compensate for reducing the image back down to post the mod.

So, brilliant images, and good luck in competition. Bear in mind for competitions that judges see many bird and indeed many Kingfisher images, so to stand out, at least at a regional or national level, you need to present images showing natural behaviour, like this one, rather than the more common static 'bird sitting on stick' images. The bar at the moment for kingfishers seems to be pictures of the bird emerging from the water with prey in beak, which I guess is the sort of thing you mean when you say you have 'some way to go'. For internal club competitions I imagine you'll already know how your work compares to others in the club.

ps what a shame you're not nearer my club, we have some very strong wildlife workers.
23/09/2010 - 11:07 AM

Cusworth lake

Cusworth lakeHi Xiaoli,
Do you have a wider view than this? The crop round the gulls at the top of the frame is too tight, giving the picture an overly restrained, straight-jacketed feel, but the swans are too small and too over-exposed for it to be a picture of swans too.

So as this is a picture of "Cusworth Lake", you really need more environment and habitat to both do the lake justice and make the composition more dynamic.
20/07/2010 - 10:44 AM

On the wooden bridge(Luzern)

On the wooden bridge(Luzern)Xiaoli,
Your perspective correction was fine, no worries there. Sadly I can't give you any 'formula' for mixing RGB channels in a mono conversion, but what you are normally aiming for is first to bring out the textures in the image as much as possible, and then to adjust the tonal values of various elements in the image to maximise the qualities you are trying to express. This can involve Curves adjustments, Levels adjustments, Dodging (lightening) and Burning (darkening), not to mention the use of layers and blend modes.... all of which can be controlled with selection masks, so that's the subject of a rather longer tutorial!

Conceptually it is important to discard the notion of the result being entirely realistic - after all we don't see in mono - but rather to aim for an expressionistic rendering of the image.

Here, with your perspective correction and crop, you have returned to framing an image within your picture and it works really well with parts of the bridge forming both the frame and the subject. In the context of a mono image, the overexposed areas outside the bridge are fine - you want a full range of tonal values after all and as they aren't part of the subject itself (the bridge and the people), having no more than a hint of detail in them works well.

And lastly, personally I don't have any objection to the bright sliver on the right- and that's largely because if I were printing the image it would be on a white background, and so the bright edge would simply fade into the background without causing an issue. Conversely it might be something to worry about if it were being used as a PDI (Projected Digital Image). On the other hand, I might want to do something about the bright areas of decking on the bridge, just by brushing in a slight bit of detail using the clone tool, in order to break them up a bit.
the silent solitude  of passing strangersIan,
Somewhat agree with Phil that extreme processing becomes a distraction and a mask in itself, but on the other hand it can become a style- or perhaps more a genre. I've posted a mod that brings back some of the contrast in the scene and, for me, importantly darkens the reflection of the sky so that it isn't so unnaturally brighter than the sky it is a reflection of. I also removed some street clutter which I felt was rather too distracting- two wall signs, two direction signs, a waste bin, some bits of litter and the handrail which kept drawing my eye.

I feel the figures, especially the one on the left, are also too obscure, at least for your title but I haven't made any changes there.
19/07/2010 - 11:40 PM

On the wooden bridge(Luzern)

On the wooden bridge(Luzern)A fairly similar result to the one in my mod is given in PSP as follows-
After perspective correction and cropping, go to Adjust>Color>Channel Mixer... and use settings of red:33%, Green:0%, Blue:100%, Constant:-15% with Monochrome ticked. Then you need to run round the image with the Burn Brush to bring out the contrast.... be quite bold!
18/07/2010 - 11:51 PM

On the wooden bridge(Luzern)

On the wooden bridge(Luzern)Hi Xiaoli,
The textures in the wooden bridge make this a good subject for a B&W conversion, although I think using at least some of the red channel would have been good. Starting from your image as presented though, you could give the image far more 'punch' with a curves adjustment to increase the mid-tone contrast and darken some areas, especially round the periphery, to enhance the textures. I'll post a very quick mod under 'Taking off' to illustrate.
27/06/2010 - 1:41 AM

Family out

Family outXiaoli,

Quote: I know "adjust > color > Reg/Green/Blue,"could you tell me what type of this photo, and why it should be avoided?

In this image a reasonable balance is obtained using this control by just setting RED to -9, but often this sort of simple adjustment can lead to a greenish tint instead of a reddish one and potentially a darker image too.

The problem is that we are trying to un-compensate the camera's own compensation for what it perceived as the colour temperature of the light- and that is a mixture of RED, GREEN and BLUE adjustments- so a corresponding white level adjustment or colour temperature adjustment generally gives more balanced results.
23/06/2010 - 5:29 PM

Family out

Family outXiaoli,
There are several ways of correcting a colour imbalance. Which you use rather depends on both what the problem is and of course what result you are after. After all is said and done, we are trying to achieve is a both a realistic and believable image AND, very often, a particular mood [note 1].

In this case I opted to use the advanced color balance control. In PSP this is found at:
.... adjust > color balance > advanced options, where you simply click on place in the source image that should be (but isn't) a neutral colour. The control then immediately adjusts it to be neutral. The problem is finding something that should actually be neutral- for example the shirt of the distant figure looks like it is probably a white shirt, BUT it won't appear as white in this scene because it will be being illuminated by warm light reflected off the buildings. In this case I opted for the 'white' patch just in front of the central figure in the foreground. In reality it's often just a case of trying various points until the result is what you require.

You can also opt to simply adjust the colour temperature slider until you get the desired effect. Sometimes this can be the best way to get a balanced compromise.

Alternatively you can adjust the colour channels directly with:
.... adjust > color > channel mixer or:
.... adjust > color > Reg/Green/Blue. The issue here is reducing one colour bias without simply introducing another. So these are best avoided for correcting this type of colour imbalance.

There are other methods also, such as using a photo filter. In PSP:
.... effects > photo effects > film and filters...).

Slightly off-subject, but if you shoot RAW, you can set the colour temperature and tint in post processing rather than having it fixed in camera.

Finally, sometimes you will find you need to use layers and masks to control different parts of the image differently, in order to get the desired overall mood.

[1] As an example, my image Unit 3 - Under New Management was taken in fairly flat light at mid-day whilst out shopping for groceries. The 'evening' lighting and illumination on the sign were all artificially created in PSE.

23/06/2010 - 5:31 AM

Family out

Family outHi Xiaoli,
Nicely seen street shot, and I particularly like the distant figure that gives both a conclusion for the viewers exploration of the image and a sense of scale.

I'd correct the colour balance a bit as already commented and remove that rather modern looking street-lamp which is rather distracting, especially as it's so light. And also consider a crop to remove some of the clutter at the top of the image.

The perspective is a natural result of you pointing the camera down and not quite how we would perceive the scene, but correcting it is a personal choice, although I would say the image needs a small rotation to the left also.

I posted a mod under bursting buds that corrects the above just as a reference
21/06/2010 - 5:14 AM


Your treatment makes the picture look like a scan of a faded chemical print, so if that's what you intended and/or wanted, well and good. However I don't see that either the sepia toning or the reduced tonal range has added to the portrayal of the dogs in any way- They don't add to a feeling of speed or energy for example. So personally I'm not keen. This is not to say that adding noise or removing information from an image can't be extremely successful at creating a feeling or an atmosphere in a picture, just not in this example.

I've posted an alternative mod for interest - although it may not be what you are looking for....
21/06/2010 - 4:54 AM

Bursting buds

Bursting budsHi Xiaoli,
The 'bubbles' are not a lens fault it's true, but bright highlights in a picture always grab the viewers attention, so if they're not part of what you are trying to portray, or add to the setting of the shot, they are still a compositional fault that is best avoided. For that reason, I personally I don't much like them here, especially the brighter and more distracting ones in the top right corner area.

The same goes for the two yellow flashes on the top edge of the picture- bright areas actually ON the edge of the frame often lead the eye OUT of the frame.

Sorry to be blunt and tell it like it is, but I'd hate you to go down the path of ruining every picture with artefacts like these.....
13/06/2010 - 3:56 AM

Newgale beach

Newgale beachHi Maria,
This is a nicely seen and composed picture certainly. As commented above I too feel I would have preferred the figure slightly larger, but as you say you have other images with the figure closer/larger and this is one works the best, I will trust you on that. Personally I would also be tempted to crop some of the sky to emphasise the landscape.

However, technically I'm bothered about the colours in the image, especially the magenta halo in the sky. You say this is a monochrome image (sepia) but it looks to be more like muted colours with some ugly post processing effects I'm afraid. Because of this I would prefer a pure mono image, either in B&W- which I think enhances the isolation of the figure, or if you prefer a warmer image, toned with sepia.

I have posted two mods for your consideration. The first is a reasonably simple mono conversion to B&W with some additional emphasis on the light on the beach. The second is slightly less processed but has a sepia tone added and is also cropped as mentioned above. Hope they provide some helpful thoughts-
12/06/2010 - 4:46 PM

Building facade in Leipzig

Building facade in LeipzigXaoli,
You're probably going to hate these notes, but I just keep thinking it's such a shame you didn't get all of the word 'Sport' in the picture to give it a narrative and even a couple of interesting passers-by for contrast.

As far as the perspective correction goes, I wouldn't go as far as trying to correct the horizontal perspective because you end up with an image where the perspective suggests you are in front of the building but the figures and shadows suggest you are off to one side (which of course you are). Without a good visual explanation this just makes the image 'wrong'.

As far as a simple record of the architecture goes, there's also nothing wrong with the vertical perspective distortion, but I would have tried to ensure the central verticals were true, and not have worried about vertical perspective beyond that.

However, you should always check the edges of the frame, and in this case the stature on the left is too near the edge of the frame, and the half completed word acts as a distraction because you just have to read it and speculate what the whole word is, but it doesn't contribute to the image. This is why there is a 'rule' (so called) about not including text in your images.