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24/11/2015 - 3:11 PM

Castlerigg Sunrise

Castlerigg SunriseI'm going to be honest, and say that when I first looked at the mono V1, I thought the shadows had been added in after the event ... Blush And before you flip me the bird, or whatever, let me try and explain why I thought that ...

In the mono version, the shadows (particularly that second large rock/shadow in from the left) get darker as they spread out towards the edges of the image. I don't know if you did any work on them in the mono, but my brain kind of expects them to be more dense at the base of the rocks? (I might be wrong there, and there's a physical reason why they don't, but I'm just saying what I saw Smile)

Then I looked at the colour V2 (which is gorgeous, by the way) and realised that the shadows were in fact less dense before you converted it.

Which got me thinking ... (and which is usually a bad thing ...). So I tried a quick mod where I've darkened the shadows nearer to the stones' bases. And then I tried something with my first mod to create a mod2. I did a bit of cloning to that largest shadow, to foreshorten it a bit so it didn't run to the edge of the image. On top of that, I then used a black and white adjustment layer, set to 50% opacity, and used a layer mask to bring back the colour in the centre of the circle and just a little bit into the rest of the scene.

My Mod2 does, unfortunately, take away that beautiful blue of the sky and I don't know what you'll think of it, but I'd be interested in your thoughts Grin

Should have done my eyebrows as well.Eyebrows all look present and correct to me, so I don't see an issue there ... Wink

However, one thing that I do notice is the texture of the skin on the breasts. I'm not sure if it's the way the light's hitting that area, or whether the skin texture used is perhaps intended for a different part of the body, but it seems to 'large' and rough, if that makes sense?! (God, I hope so - I can't seem to string a sentence together today!)

Anyway, aside from that one small thing for me, the rest of it is brill.

20/11/2015 - 2:42 PM

woodland wash day

woodland wash dayThis one feels like I'm peeking in on a scenario; not part of it but not impervious to it either. Again, there's too much light on the things closest to the camera which have been over-lit from the flash firing. However, given that all these uploads look as though they were taken at the same time, (and using pretty much the same settings - certainly regarding the flash mode) then there's no point in me harping on about that each time Smile

I really like the rich red colour of the earth here. And yes, that washing line does indeed give the image an almost homely twist in what is definitely not a homely setting. Or at least 'homely' in the 'normal' sense. However, home is where the heart is, even if that setting is one that's not perceived as 'normal' by many who are lucky enough to have a physical roof over their heads; solid walls around them and luxuries like cavity wall insulation - it matters not Grin

Again, here, moving around a little to explore the area more would have been beneficial (although I realise also that's not always possible). At the very least, think about how the trees in front of the viewer can perhaps inhibit their visual 'journey' into your image. A small pathway in the ground would have been better if you could have found one.

Other than that, I've not a lot to say - yes, it's another record shot in some ways but the addition of the washing line gives far more of a sense of 'home' and, as you say, perhaps an element of safety. And that in itself tells a story ...

20/11/2015 - 1:56 PM

Heaton Temple 2

Heaton Temple 2Self-critique is always a good thing, and you're obviously well able to look at your own work reflectively and make decisions about what works and what doesn't (and, more importantly, take steps to improve upon previous versions) Smile While I could say that you've saved me a job (and in many ways, you have!) I do have a couple of observations which you may be interested in ...

Firstly, for me there seems to be a slight lean to the right in the building - I don't know whether that's an optical illusion or not, but I've corrected for that in my mod.
Secondly, as you rightly say, colour popping is a marmite technique. Done well, and sensitively, it can work very effectively (as you've done here). Done badly, however ... well, you know what I mean Grin
And thirdly, I've cropped in from the right hand side to remove that gap in the small wall - that lighter patch in the gap was really pulling my eye and (for me) taking my attention away from the rest of the image, which I found bloody annoying as I'm loving the rest of it a lot! Smile

As a final thought - presentation is everything. There's nothing at all wrong with how you've presented the image here, I'm not saying that. But you'll see in my mod that I've added a border - and it's taller than it is wide. I honestly couldn't tell you why I did that, it just seemed right so I went with it. It's probably more appropriate if you were going to mount and frame this image, but hopefully you'll see where I'm heading with it.

So my Mod incorporates a couple of the tweaks mentioned above. My second mod, however, is one where I've added a bit of subtle toning which you may or may not like. What I personally like about it is that it tones down the white of the building a bit, making it seem less obvious. It also gives it a slightly apocolyptic feeling, but do please remember that it's just my interpretation.

See what you think of the mods anyway, and whether it's given you any food for thought.

just a shanty in old shanty townMystery in an image is always a visual pull for a viewer, and this image is no exception.

Although you may be disappointed to hear that this is a good 'record' shot, I can completely understand what Moira's saying and why. Sometimes, just taking what's in front of us, without exploring the possibilities of alternative views is what will get you a 'record' shot as opposed to an 'artistic' shot, even if it's still a record Smile (And I really hope that makes some sort of sense, as I know it's not the best way of explaining what I mean!)

For me, there's one or two bits that I feel could be massively improved on, even as it currently stands.

You've used flash (red eye reduction? why?) which has, unfortunately, meant that the closest leaves to you and your camera have massively blown out. And they, sadly, is what the eye sees first as they're the brightest thing in the image.

Secondly, the overall lighting is okay but way brighter than it perhaps needs to be. I realise that the original scene was probably quite dark, given all the surrounding vegetation, but exploring ways of exploiting that is always worth a try.

I've done a very quick where I've tried to push back the lighter bits, and actually darken everything down overall. (I cloned the brightest leaves out on the left.) Giving the image a darker, more 'gloomy' feeling actually makes me want to explore it more! I've let the corners go back more to shadows but brought back the original light both within the structure and a little on the path leading to it. That lets your viewer progress further into the image - you're almost directing where you want them to go visually by just using light.

I also took the saturation of the greens down a touch, as for me personally they're way too 'in ya face' and also gave the whole thing a bit of a tweak on the sharpening side of things.

Have a look at my mod and see whether you agree with what I've tried. Does it give more interest and oomph?

20/11/2015 - 10:46 AM

Here Comes The Sun...

Here Comes The Sun...My first thought was "I wonder what it looks like upside down?" and then saw V2 and Moira's comment Grin

I think V2 would work more if the whole top bit (with both the sun and the upside down rock) was removed altogether. Okay, it would make it a completely different picture which kind of isn't the point, but I find that bottom bit lovely. Like a mountain rising up out of the sea and misty clouds, somewhere far far away. Add a couple of birds into the sky somewhere, and hey presto ... there's enough of the submerged stones in the 'sky' area to make it visually puzzling, too Smile

There's something almost Japanese art-like about that bottom half, and I'm really liking it!
19/11/2015 - 12:48 PM


ReflectionsDo you mean 'Mirror mirror', and in what way did the club judge criticise it? I know from my own experience that overtly creative stuff doesn't always go down well with the more traditional judges, but I'd be interested to know what he/she said.

For this one, I like it. I like the way the 'real' girl's direction of gaze is slightly different to the reflection's direction of gaze (at least, that's the way it appears to me - I could be wrong though, and it's just the angle of the mirror?)

I like the soft pastel tones throughout the image too, and the diagonal made from the different level of the two pairs of eyes. Also the corresponding line on the reflection's back of hand and the underneath of the chin on the real girl.

There's a line of something just down from the friendship band on the upright arm - I think it's a strand of windblown hair, although it could be a thin chain bracelet? Either way, I find it a little distracting but not massively so.

There are some defects in the mirror's surface (inevitable) which are then showing up on the reflection's skin (left hand side of her face as I'm looking at it, three parallel lines down the outside of the cheek next to the eye). While in some ways this is part and parcel of using a mirror in an image, and all its inherent flaws, I do wonder if a swift bit of cloning would lessen their effect? I suppose, as well, that it's also something you could go with as it's what was there in actuality ... ?

Other than that, the only thing I might personally try if this were my image is to make one or the other face was far less 'there' (gaussian blur somehow?), perhaps the real one, to try and give the sense that sometimes reflected life is more 'real' to a person than the reality they live with every day Smile (Yes, that's a bit convoluted, but it's the way my mind works with stuff like this!).

But in terms of the impact of this image as a piece of creative work, then I actually think it's got a heck of a lot going for it and the judge should maybe have gone to Specsavers before criticising Wink

12/11/2015 - 2:00 PM

Boy On A Bike

Boy On A BikeI agree with Karen in that my favourite of the two is the previous version, and for the same reasons.

With this version, the one thing I do actually prefer is that the bikes themselves seem to be sitting more 'naturally' in the ground. In the previous version, although the spacing of the boys is better, there's no shadowing underneath the wheels of the bikes - so they seem to almost be floating and 'stuck on' if that makes sense? The other thing that contributes to this stuck on feeling is the edges of your selections ... they're just a little too crisp and clean. You could try feathering the selection once you've made it, only by a couple of pixels, but that's normally enough to soften the edges and help them blend into the background scene more.

The other thing I find more intrusive in this version is that branch coming across the image from the right hand side. Previously, it was further back in the scene so wasn't so dominant.

So yes, it's actually very hard to choose between them as they've both got merit but in different ways. What I would say, though, is that the idea is very creative and well conceived on your part Smile

12/11/2015 - 10:39 AM

Very Hot.

Very Hot.Hi Keith - lighting, pose and skin textures are absolutely superb. But then I don't expect anything else from you with this kind of work.

The only bit that pulls my eye too much is the white triangle of the pants ... I think that because of that faint shadow on the front, it almost looks as though she's packing a little more down the pant area than a lady should, if you get my drift?! Grin

So as you've enabled mods, I've done a really quick one where I've toned down the bright white of that area to a darker grey. I did try black to start with, but for whatever reason it looked odd, so went with a slightly reduced opacity in the end (about 70%).

As always, it's only my personal opinion but I'd be interested to know what you think?

11/11/2015 - 10:26 AM


GEYSERWell it's a brave image, I'll give you that! Grin I like what you're trying to do here, and I like the sense of negative space above and around the figure. Though I do admit to struggling a little with the fact that it's all blurred. I'm wondering whether something in focus would give the viewer's eye a point from which to explore the rest of it? The shoes, maybe?

I don't know if this is how you took it (i.e. deliberately making it out of focus) or whether it's something you've introduced in post processing, but I do like the idea. It explores the concepts of reality/non-reality rather well ... which is another reason why I say about having just one thing in sharp focus, even if it's small. It would be a tiny point of 'normality' for your viewer, which may well help them connect better with the overall image.

Something to think about?
10/11/2015 - 4:56 PM

Boardwalk sunset

Boardwalk sunsetThe mood, and the overall composition, are beautiful and I can definitely understand why you wanted to photograph it Smile However, as has been said above, the dynamic range is well beyond what can usefully be recorded in a single exposure without making some compromises, somewhere along the line.

So, one solution is to take two images - one exposed for the sky, and the other exposed for the shadows - and then combine them in post processing so you get the best of both worlds.

Another solution is to use a graduated neutral density filter at the time of taking, in order to balance the difference in dynamic contrast throughout the whole of the scene.

Post processing wise, I've added a mod for you to have a look at. As well as going with a square crop (to remove that bright sun altogether) I've also used Photoshop's Shadows and Highlights feature to play around with ... well, the shadows and highlights Grin The other things I did was to (a) slightly reduce the intensity of the red in the image and (b) do a bit of noise reduction to minimise the graininess of the sky area.

See what you think anyway. I don't know what software you use (other than Lightroom) so the Photoshop Shadows & Highlights feature may well be unaccessible for you. However, hopefully it'll give you some other ideas and/or ways to achieve the effect you want?

09/11/2015 - 2:10 PM

B&W Lonely Tree Loch Lomond

B&W Lonely Tree Loch LomondWell, your revamped journey is off to a great start!! Grin I think this scene is beautiful - I love the toning you've done; it really does give a very different atmosphere to the whole thing.

Compositionally, there's times when a central horizon line works (which it does here - it feels harmonious). It's always a choice which is often dictated by your actual subject and how large you want it to appear in the image. One possible way of changing this would be to shoot from a lower height, and shoot more upwards. That would enable you to move the horizon line down a bit, which could well change the dynamic of the feeling. This 'feels' as though you shot it from a standing position? (I might be wrong there, and you might just be a very tall person, even when kneeling down ... Wink)

Would I also be right in thinking you've done a little bit of work on the tree's trunk, in order to bring some detail back into it? If so, then you've got the slightest hint of a halo along the trunk's edges (it shows up most where the portion of the trunk crosses over the mountain range behind it). Apologies though if that's not the case, and it's just a case of the way the light was hitting the trunk from the sun behind it!

AND, having said all that above, I still don't think I'd change it at all ... it really is a beautifully processed image of a gorgeous location Smile

04/11/2015 - 2:53 PM


RosyI don't think the skin tones themselves are too bright, but I do agree with Colijohn (in his mod) about the pupils needing to be blacker. Perhaps reduce the level of highlights in that one area?
31/10/2015 - 2:00 PM

Happy Faces

Happy FacesThe distinct lack of any kind of skin texture is the first thing that hit my eye, if I'm honest. To the point where it becomes a real shame, as the spontaneous moment you've captured is actually wonderful. Kids just enjoying themselves, free from the burdens of adulthood that they'll have to assume at some point in their lives.

You don't say what you've done to this in terms of post processing, but whatever it is it's too much for me personally.

Having said that, and the issue of skin textures aside, the image itself (pose, exposure, the hint of movement in the front wheel of the bike) is super.

23/10/2015 - 2:11 PM

The Guy from B'Kara town.

The Guy from B'Kara town.It's extremely good Smile Such a superbly captured expression on the man's face, as though he's seen a thousand lifetimes and suffered love and loss throughout all of them. It's incredibly poignant.

Like Willie, I've lightened the midtones overall in the image, but I've also done a little dodge work at a low opacity around the eyes, just to try and bring them out a bit more. They don't necessarily need that, as the dark hooded expression suits the rest of the image, but I did it anyway Smile

I've also cropped in from the right hand side, and a little upwards from the bottom, to place the man's eye closest to the right side more on a vertical third. Again, not a necessity by any means; just an alternative.

Very well photographed indeed, and it's a wonderful companion image to your lady from Wednesday Smile

21/10/2015 - 3:34 PM

Years passed

Years passedLike Willie, there's not a lot I'd do to this. I don't think I'd even crop the left at all as I quite like the lead-in it gives visually, and places the lady's face on roughly the right hand third of the image.

I think the toning is beautiful - a lovely deep, rich, slightly warm mono - and this suits the mood of the image very well.

The top half of the face (forehead and eyes) seems soft compared to the lower half of the face, but I don't know if that's as a result of the point of focus being in slightly the wrong place, or whether it's something that's been introduced in post processing?

Either way, as a portrait it works, simple as that Smile

20/10/2015 - 4:53 PM

In the middle of nowhere.

In the middle of nowhere.Hi Mario

It might be your first manipulation, but there's a haunting quality about the whole thing which tells a story for me. Yes, there's a bit of finesse needed in some areas, but the individual elements are all necessary in my view, including both the crow and the skull Smile

I've done a mod for you. It's probably a complete polar opposite to what the others have done, but this is the kind of image that I love. For me, it speaks of love lost, a feeling that the world has lost its colour because of that, of life slipping by in the other direction while the heart grieves ... so my mod has tried to capitalise on that a bit.

I've first of all removed that black bit on the large tree branch, as I spent a while thinking it was another bird before realising that it was a twig of some sort. It distracted my eye, so I got rid of it by cloning it out (a little clumsily, perhaps, but hey Smile).

Then I added a graduated colour filter, going from left to right, and using an orangey to darker violet/brown range. This was set to Soft Light blend mode.

On top of that, I added a black and white adjustment layer, played with the sliders a little (I can't remember exact values, unfortunately) and added a layer mask which then had a black to white gradient put across it, going again from left to right until the 'split' between colour and mono ended roughly where her face started. This had the effect of making the whole thing part coloured/part mono.

Then I added a Levels adjustment layer, darkened it down quite a bit and used a layer mask and a large black brush to bring back detail and emphasis where I wanted it (mostly around the facial area).

I then created a stamped copy of the layers (hold down Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E) which gave me a 'virtual' copy of all the layers, as though they'd been flattened.

A brightness/contrast adjustment layer on top of that, with a layer mask and a soft black brush, enabled me to lighten the facial features even more, while keeping the rest of the area behind her head darker.

Oh, and I very slightly blurred the outline of the crow, just to help it blend into the sky more.

I know that sounds like a lot, and you'll probably hate the mod, but I was kind of feeling my way through this process. I sort of knew what I wanted to achieve, but I'll admit it was a bit experimental! The key thing to do with this kind of composite image is to play ... until you get what you want, the feeling that you want and so on. And don't be afraid to experiement ... a mistake isn't a mistake if you like the way it turns out ... Grin

So anyway, enough of my waffle. Have a look and see what you think. It's fine if it's not your cup of tea ... that's what the mods are for, in a way - another possible way of seeing an image through someone else's eyes.

18/10/2015 - 12:14 PM

Triplet trouble

Triplet troubleWell, I don't know what they want (other than perhaps someone's head ...) but I'd personally like to see a wee bit of shadowing directly underneath their feet!
Other than that though, superb rendering as normal Mr Casey Grin
18/10/2015 - 12:04 PM


JourneyWell, I'm another one who can't get my head around why you'd deliberately want to introduce that effect. Okay, I accept that you did and that obviously you like it, but it really does spoil what is otherwise a superb shot.

I've offered up a mod, just for the hell of it Smile As well as cropping in from the left hand side as well as the top down, I've deliberately reduced noise in the image to the point that there's a dreamy effect, and blurred the upper sky where that posterisation effect was. I've also added a soft graduated colour gradient across the image, from left to right, just to see what it might have looked like in colour instead of mono.

08/10/2015 - 11:42 AM

Night Portovenere.

Night Portovenere.One thing I've come to realise with you, Alexander, is that when you 'do' colour you really 'do' colour!! Grin

Normally, I find the warmth of some of your shots too much but oddly for me, in this instance I quite like it. I think that's because of that gorgeous, inkly blue sky and the way it balances and complements the warmth of the rocks. Yes, technically, the rocks are way too red but I don't think I'd take them back that much - maybe just a tad.

I find blues one of the hardest colours to post process as they're prone to breaking up easily. However, here the blue in the sky is like velvet - smooth and deep Smile In fact, I could look at that sky all day long and forget the bottom half of the image Grin

But as an overall scene, I think it works rather well.