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01/08/2012 - 4:09 PM

Bridal Veil Falls & Half Dome

Bridal Veil Falls & Half Domestunning view i have to say, made famous by Ansel Adams of course whose use of tonality and composition is the stuff of legend. that may be your biggest problem - its a known view and i doubt his could be bettered. have a look at his shots they are all over the interweb.

but taking what you have is all we can comment on because i dont know if its from a well known viewing platform or if you have to walk for miles to get a view.

the sky is blue and the air pretty clear and some nice clouds would have been a bit better. the one you do have near the half dome is a little blown out and if it were mine and i was hoping to print large, id be tempted to lose the clouds you do have and inport a few interesting ones from somewhere else. you may of course not agree or find that type of modification acceptable but i have no problem with helping what is there.

the bottom is a bit tightly cropped and it feels a little starved of foreground interest but the shapes of the mountains are nice and the waterfall adds a lot.

its a bit hazy down in the valley and a bit of local adjustment to contrast may help and id rework a bit with less sharpness, using localised sharpening only. i thing you overegged the sharpness a little. the white on the left rock wants toning down a bit.

i too would go mono on this but it woud be a waste of time if you do so without adressing the blown white areas because any conversion you make and it needs to be a subtle conversion would make these look much worse than in colour.

then in mono you could unload with dodging and burning to make a classic. but like i say its a classic already this would be your version and it would be better to try and put your own twist on it somehow. maybe you have other views that work too.

31/07/2012 - 12:37 PM

Out of the cafe window.

Out of the cafe window.well i see the idea, and i think it nearly came off. a little move to the left and you would have lost most of the white external column behind the window frame and the mans head would have been centred in one of the panes resulting a nice simple uncluttered composition.

zooming out a touch and a slightly lower viewpointwould have been better too. however the mans head cut in two, and the secondary head dosnt sit as comfortable as they could have. its just the overall fine detail of making the available elements all work together and they really could have in this instance.

i think it may well have been a good oportunity for a mono image too.

28/07/2012 - 10:54 PM

bodiam castle

bodiam castlehi,

the shot is interesting enough and the location looks excellent, in fact id like to see it myself. and given the latitude of the sensor and that a grad wouldnt have been too helpful here the exposure isnt too bad. overall its not as sharp as it could be and that may be the upload as i cant see the original but i think it looks as if it had a mid band exposure 5.6 to f8 where it needed a really small aperature say f11 to f16 to keep the whole thing sharp front to back. this is a classic for needing overall sharpness. if the original is sharper then try a secondary sharpening after reducing in size before uploading to web.

i can see the logic in the composition with the wide view on a walkway going up to the Castle, its a tried and tested thing, we all do it jettys bridges etc but for some reason its not singing. maybe a very low viewpoint with the camera just above ground may have been interesting and created a stronger perspective.

lighting wise its not too inspirational and i think that thats because you chose the viewpoint to suit the lead in instead of working with the light which looks to be fairly soft winter light, directional at 90 degrees from your right, shots like this need real quality light to set them apart and here its a bit lacking in contrast and any strength of light and with little in the way of interest in the sky in fact the sky is blown on the right side.

might be worth multiplying two layers and a quick blast with a S curve to inject some strength a fair bit of smart sharpening.

24/07/2012 - 3:13 PM

Winter Squirrel

Winter Squirrelwas always going to be a tricky one for you with the light falling on the far side leaving the snow with bright rim lighting and then the squirrel in shade. so exposing for the darker would blow the highlight or opposite would block up the squirrel. could really have done with being on the other side to average the light better. all down to being in the wrong place at the right time i guess.

otherwise the snow adds interest to the squirrel but his size is a little small in frame and perhaps places a little to central. a bit less of the left side and less of the fence would have made for a stronger composition but i suspect you had to use the lens you had fited at the time.

i would say its a nice record but having seen similar shots on here of squirrels in snow its a hard game to play to be up there with the best for using in natural history competitions etc. when everything has to be working for you to get the best result. but it comes in time. and sometimes it takes hours setting up things and waiting to get just one excellent frame.

24/07/2012 - 1:13 PM


derilecthello Billy,
i like the low viewpoint, adds to the mystery but to be fair i dont like the intrusion of the fence post, couldnt you have shot through the mesh or something or held the camera down over the fence. the shed on the right makes a good stopper too.

i think this is more a mono shot than colour and id be searching the channels for a conversion that gave some nice contrast on the foliage. also the sky needs strengthening either by duplicating up the layers and mutiply with a grad mask over the bottom or by direct replacement.

i know the tempation was to get a higher viewpoint and include more building but it wouldnt have had the same impact. the shot can be really good in mono with a bit of rework.

24/07/2012 - 12:27 PM

Forgotten & Abandoned

Forgotten & AbandonedThere is a great subject there within the image and i like the composition with the bit of diagonal line but in some ways its a shame because the grass dominates the strength of the image.

i suppose the grass is all part of the story but from a purely pictorial view, id suggest doing a bit of gardening first so as to rivet the attention on the cross and what looks like a puddle within the details. even if it were only the bulk of the grass that crosses the central area and they are not particulary pleasing to the eye anyway.

im jury out on the process treatment and im unsure but it looks like conversion in sepia but i think it may just be a desaturation. id prefer a contrasty mono or even an infrared but thats just down to taste.

Wild flowers on sand dune at Southporttechnically not much wrong with the exposure and basis of the subject, but i wonder if there is enough interest in the whole of the scene as taken . im not finding any particular area my eye can settle on for long. sometimes just taking a part of that scene as a smaller abstract view can be more rewarding.

im seeing interesting areas to the left like the clump of lights which seem quite graphic and im wondering if more could have been made of them within the composition instead of the whole dune.

as it stands the cable running across the sky and the lamp stand to the right need removal by cloning or similar to strengthen up the presentation.

nice sky and rendition of colours though and a nice sharp shot

11/06/2012 - 4:30 PM

Fulton's Crab House

Fulton's Crab Househi,
well its a super image and i guess its just as vivid as a travel book would like to see things even if its probably been pushed to the limit and is a great deal brighter than it originally looked.

there are some issues,

compositionally the horizon is very central and its very tricky to balance things around a central line. its a case of is it more sky and less foreground or the reverse.

its the boats in the foreground with a pale blue tint that stand out to me and id have expected them to be visually darker than they are.

i can see that the slight surface blur created by the noise reduction is present but stangely i like that effect in there.

i dont know the practicalities but a lower viewpoint with a one third water to 2/3 sky may have been stronger in this case. but overall if this is what you like then its not overdone because its not been done badly at all. its all about taste, it looks a bit Miami and some may have preferred a bit darker but that dosnt detract from a nice vibrant lovely toned shot of a trip you probably enjoyed.

07/06/2012 - 5:53 PM

Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbeyhi,
certainly it rains evertime i go to Whitby, Grin

good to play with these things but it would be really nice if you said exactly what you did so everone would know where you started, maybe even upload a second version of the originals.

compositionally its fine, i really like the lightening strike, so good i dont know if its real or false but i can see the white halo around the intersection of sky and buildings / horizon so i can see that there has been manipulation. its the flare balls im not keen on as they actually look artificial (and could be real) particularly te space age looking one near the horizon left side.

overall the saturation has been pumped up a bit high together with the contrast which is making the halo more noticable.

a good idea, a good location to use but a little rework would make a a stronger image, id suggest going more for a natural overall dark balance rather than pushing things but keeping most of the brightness brightness in the roof lines and outbuildings.

27/05/2012 - 9:32 PM

unwanted circles!!!

unwanted circles!!!hi, these flares are caused by the brighness of the sun which is in the field of view.

im unfamiliar with your camera but it may be a compact or a bridge camera and i dont know how much control you have over settings.

generally speaking the less elements the lens has the better things will be and the more complex a lens contruction is, the more elements you have for light to reflect around on and the worse things will be. you can often help slightly by stopping down to a smaller aperature and if you get small enough say f16 then the flare balls tend to change more into star forms as they become less out of of focus. aslo the shorter the focal length the smaller the flare balls become and the longer the length the larger they become.

the use of a well made lens hood or even shielding the lens with your hand can also make the situation better. in truth its best never to point a digital camera direct at the sun but to turn slightly until its slightly out of frame. its also better to wait until the sun just sinks and isnt so bright.

i wasnt sure if you meant how to lose them at the taking stage, or how to lose them from the finished image so i uploaded a mod .

in the mod, i straighten the horizon, in photoshop - ruler line, image-image rotation-arbitry

then i selected the sky tone from the top of the image with the eye dropper tool and overlaid a grad to lose the sunball.

then and this was done without as much care as i would usually take, i cloned over the central flare ball and the couple on the bottom of frame.

it isnt perfect but shows that given a few minutes and a little patience it could be brought back to a usable image.

hope this helps
16/05/2012 - 4:14 PM

The Maltese caracter

The Maltese caracterwell its a cracking portrait, dosnt look reinactment stuff, quite ethnic really and im not going to say much negative about it,

just compositionally the flap of his hat over his ear makes that side of the composition a bit heavy and it would have looked better over on the left side of frame but i guess he would have been tetchy if you had flapped his hat about his head.

the background is nice and out of focus and there are some nice textures here with his whiskers and hat fabric. his eyes are nice and sharp and i dont think i could have done anything really different. nice head shot.

29/04/2012 - 8:50 PM


adorationhi, just to give an alternative view, im saying i like the idea but the exposure would have been better based on the light passing through the window to hold some detail and blip some fill back into the figure with a large reflector or a small flash.

compositionally it needed a small amount more space on the left side and you need to decide at the taking stage if the face is either to be included in frame or cropped away, as it is presented now, its partially visible but creating a distacting white triangle between the arm and hair at the top edge of frame. maybe as taken, it would look better with a crop as i have uploaded. it would have been nice to include all of the feet but to have paid more attention to the arrangement of them to have them neatly positioned with soles facing upwards.

it was definately the right decision to make the image monochrome.

its nice but i think it could have been exceptional with a little more planning.
26/04/2012 - 9:49 PM

Eden #5

Eden #5hi,

i could take it over easy but im sure you wouldnt really want sugar coating, i will just give my honest opinion, if you dont agree, tell me so and we can chat it through, its better that way.

interesting model, lovely eyes, expression, added interest with the tattoo which IMHO you have not really capitalised on. the neck is pushed downwards a little and its usually better to try and gain a little extension to the neck to add elegance.

the lighting is quite flat, would have liked to see more info here, it looks unusually flat and judging from the catchlights looks semi frontal and low rather than the 45 degree downward approach. some modeling in the lighting would have given more impact particularly with the edgy appeal of the tattoo (Which is a real work of art)

compositionally im comfortable with the negative space and the use whites, but see below .

The way the arms are cupping the boobs is a little awkward and im finding the hand on view is looking out of place and not as graceful as it could be. the crop on the bottom across the underside of the folded arms is too tight and its bunching up the torso and by cropping the top of the head (which isnt always an issue) it compacts the whole body shape a little too much.

with an image like this, its best to ask what is the main subject or why is it being taken and what will it say or convey to a viewer. for me here its the tattoo and its this that makes a statement about the models character. for me the torso is too full on, the head direct on / eye contact is great but a more angular position with the arm taking a more dominant position in frame would have said much more.

clearly you wanted a high key sort of look with the strength of the whites but to balance that the models probably too saturated and may benefit from losing some of the magenta shade castes and desaturating the skin tones.
although im sure the whites were intentinal and may even have been pushed harder into purity, i think the left side is probably too bright and almost looks as if the canvas has been extended without colour fill.

thanks for an interesting image to critique, id be interested to hear your feelings on the feedback so far.

best regards
22/04/2012 - 9:46 PM

Never sigh for a better World

Never sigh for a better Worldthis is crazy - crazy good, it leaps off the thumbs and catches the eye from the get go.

i think the colours and the background are stunning, the downward head angle with the direct stare . however, for all that i like, there are some little niggles along the way,

the hair falling over the eye is distracting and a hair blower, blowing it back would have added to the look here. a minor niggle is the necklace, needed pulling back a little to separate from the bodice.

overall the corset isnt punchy enough and there is an overall sharpness, both of which are easy to address and has been well covered by willie above, the black on the lips, and the whites of the eyes would also benefit from the increase in contrast.

sounds picky but its not, these shots depend on detail perfection and this, well its really so close to being premier division.

04/04/2012 - 11:06 PM


Joythere isnt anything wrong with the shadows at all, they are quite interesting and the light on the face is even and the skin tones well exposed.

i think that the composition is a little cramped and some space could have been useful and left the face looking less compressed.

using the lens wide open was a good choice because this is the best way to throw the background out of focus, but it also difficut to control the limited depth of field that a wide aperature provides. here i think the focusing is slightly behind the face and more on the knitted hat. maybe the camera was a little too close to the subject for the lens to manage focus on the eyes

compositionally id be looking to place the subject in a position with less clutter in the background but given that wasnt possible, a slight move up and to the right may have lost those bright highlights at the back of the head.

01/04/2012 - 8:48 PM

Barcelona Airport.

Barcelona Airport.ok, there are things i like about this and things that dont work so well, but the real image is still in there.

after an initial look im brought back visually to the column behind the womens heads and the bright strip of sky below the roofline.

and then i realise that what attracts me is non of that, its the little boys juxtaposition and the fabulous shadows on the floor. its often like this with street photography, the whole scene distracts from the real point of focus and i think by paring down the elements by cropping just above the boys head it tightens the composition and becomes far more Bresson in its style.

i did a mod to show what i mean, maybe you totally dissagree but id love to hear what you think.

01/04/2012 - 8:05 PM


i love this too , i like minimal photography in general so stripping this down to simple tones and composition works for me.

if you like this sort of cpomposition you may like to google michael Kenna, he pioneered this type of minimal mono long exposure type of work, many years before big stoppers and to be truthful has many disciples.

the conversion to mono that you have used though has been pushed a little far in the centre of the water and the sky could do with a little crop or an overlaid grad to tone down the top a little to hold the eye down in the frame.

compositionally it may break rules but who says things should conform to thirds. full on central subjects often work well and it does so here.

this would look nice printed on textured art paperlike ilford fine art

09/03/2012 - 11:34 AM

portmuck at night

portmuck at nighthi, its a lovely scene and a nice sunset but it lacks the sparkle that a well balanced exposure gives.

it seems that the left side is overall a bit dark and underexposed and lacking the sparkle that a correctly balanced exposure would give. im sure it could be quick fix doctored with a layer, curve adjustment and a graduated layer mask right to left but i dont have photoshop on my pc here in the office to do a mod. probably grads would have helped at the taking stage.

09/03/2012 - 11:00 AM



only tips i can give you is patience, great light and consequently the fastest speed possible, or even fill in flash if you can get close enough to have an effect.

i have managed to get ok in flight shots at 1/2000 sec but its barely enough with really nifty birds and i personally find that at those types of shutter speeds, camera shake is less of a problem than retaining focus. from that perspective monopods and tripods may be a bit restrictive unless really heavy construction and fitted with top quality gimble heads.

looking at you example here, the branch in front of the bird is quite sharp and i think your problem lay here. your focus point has picked up that branch and the bird is just behind the focus zone. with long lenses the depth of field is going to be quite shallow in any case so getting everything in this shot sharp , especially with the bird moving towards you was always going to be difficult.

if you were spot metering on the bird and your camera was set to predictive focusing you may have achieved an exposure based on the bird and had focus on that too. if the bird has been sharp and not the branch, the small amount of movement would have been quite nice as its pretty much restricted to the wings. you could also try shooting in bursts of exposures and one may be sharper than the others.

put it down to a near miss, look into the focusing side of your camera better and stick with it,

Black-winged Stilt and reflectionhello,
its a fine image indeed, undoubtably one to be proud of.

however in answer to your question the following was put to me recently in connection with a proposed panel for arps nat hist.

in years gone by and certainly prior to the digital age, shots like this were difficult to achieve. consequently you could build a panel around images of this type. limitations of focal length, image stabilisation, iso, all limited the use and of available aperature / shutter speed combinations.

with high iso, x1.5 focal length on cropped sensor, better optics than ever with VR. high speeds become available. so now we need more activity, pulling out fish or food, in flight, mating, interaction with other birds or surroundings, --in short doing something other than pose.

just check how many kingfisher shots of stunning quality turn up on epz and then compare that to the number in flight or emerging from water, preening, hovering, or in any form of activity that come up.

so it seems international exhibitions and salons now tend to mark down non active shots no matter how splendid they are.

on top of that, consider how they are scored. 3 judges with an option to press a 2,3,4,or 5 buttons with instruction that 5 is only for an insistance that its accepted, 3 if its near but boarderline, and 4 if its a definate acceptance. (not all are exactly like this but you get the drift) then they will compare with similar shots and choose the better one.

given the rps standards im really not surprised at the difference. this in most salons is is 3/4 if you look at it objectively from that point of view so 12/15 would be really good, and acceptance in many salons, higher would be looking at an award or certificate of merit and 9 means all 3 judges thought it boarder-line and no one spoke out for it. happens to me all the time, you can read the scores after a while.

this dosnt mean that there isnt a place for lovely shots like this, id love it in my collection. but maybe its not the stuff of dreams it was 6 years ago. my only niggle is id have liked a little more space in front and water drips off the beak. but then hey, i havnt got one like it on my pf so what can i say.

hope this helps