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11-27-2010, 06:19 PM   #31
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Paperbag and Cats_Five have alluded to the fact that there is a strong subjective drift in photography and I have found for myself that this determines the technical part of photography too.

QuoteOriginally posted by Manel Brand Quote
... There's another solution for this problem which is the use of ND filters, as you know.
Hey Manel,
on we go and thank you for your detailled answer. I guess you are referring to Gradual ND filters and you have used one in the first pic. I find the texture of the cloud interesting, like in old oil paintings.

I like your second pic (the lizard) much more, quite excellent imo. You have to tell me honestly if this was really in full midday sunlight or some shading was involved.

Thinking about this discussion I realize I am an old-school image-taker and I am always looking for the best picture right out of the camera, be it film or digital. The reason I am doing this is to concentrate on transferring my personal vision into the pics and spend not so much time with postprocessing. This is a good and a bad thing for me, as it does work most of the time but it sometimes backfires also.

Here's an example of high dynamic range in a technical picture, and it was the best that I could get: A good angle from the sun (from the back with a lefty angle), getting me a near 90° to work with the polarizer. I worked very hard for pics like this and it is a long way. Manel would probably do better in this. This is basically the baddest high DR scenario, high altitude landscape pics and you are dealing with severe haze problems at midday too (moisture in atmosphere).

Kitlens on K100D, 21mm @f/13 + polarizer, probably JPG. Contrast-pushed and gradual filter in pp.

Here's another pic rather demonstrating Manel's Mantra to know what you're exposing for and it'll be allright, if you have the nice camera and the knowledge of PP. My camera is OK but I did not do any pp and this is jpg again. Nearly gotten away with slightly blown highlights.

Yashica ML1.4/50 on K100D @f/1.4 no pp jpg

Finally here's an example of how bad I got it already. I actually use limited DR with patches of blown highlights and sunk shadows. Not the HDR look obviously.

Jupiter MC37A 3.5/135 on K100D @f/11(?), no pp jpg


Last edited by georgweb; 11-27-2010 at 06:25 PM.
11-28-2010, 03:45 AM   #32
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QuoteOriginally posted by georgweb Quote
Hey Manel,
on we go and thank you for your detailled answer. I guess you are referring to Gradual ND filters and you have used one in the first pic. I find the texture of the cloud interesting, like in old oil paintings.
Hey Georg. Good to hear from you.
Right, I meant gradual density filters, and I didn't use one on the exposure. In fact, I tend not to use filters anymore (and most certainly not, the so important UV filter the seller made compulsory with a new lens) .
Please refer to the post where it says Because it's a raw file, one can merge 2 versions of the same image.

QuoteQuote:
I like your second pic (the lizard) much more, quite excellent imo. You have to tell me honestly if this was really in full midday sunlight or some shading was involved.

Thinking about this discussion I realize I am an old-school image-taker and I am always looking for the best picture right out of the camera, be it film or digital. The reason I am doing this is to concentrate on transferring my personal vision into the pics and spend not so much time with postprocessing.
Georg you will have to take my word for that. Take it or leave it. I can't send you the raw file. OK, not a situation like 12 o'clock in Dead Valley dry season, but the shot was taken in last year's August at noon. Now, the original raw file as little to do with the final product, so the image was post-processed, no doubt. Lets address that.

I'm fun of old school too Georg, but I try to keep an open mind for other stuff available. I do prefer to differentiate photographers in two kinds: hard workers and lazy ones. I hear old school guys discard a HDR image because is a fake. Does that, flat or blown-out jpeg of the scene more real? No doubt HDR can go over the top, but don't throw away the baby with the water. BTW, K-5's ability to do that on camera is certainly a good reason to upgrade from older bodies.

As a rule of thumb, I shoot in raw format and post-process my images and I'm being old school in doing so. What changes is the tool, not the philosophy. We should be all well acquainted with Ansel Adams work, but some may ignore that he was not regarded as a much better photographer than the others folks involved in photography at time. What puts him apart from the other guys is the outstanding skill he achieved in the dark-room. Ansel Adams it's alright for a old-school greatest, don't you agree? So, Georg, if you are serious about photography and want something beyond that snapshot of your neighbor's new canon, guess you have to dig that dark-room as Adams did. You may say there are photographers with perfect shots on camera. OK, go check their gear and the other commodities they have and see if you can afford that.

So the point is: photography, today as before, goes in two steps: capture the light and post-process the exposure. You may not agree with this and that's perfectly acceptable by me. If the image you can make out of the camera pleases you, by all means, stick with them. They look fine to me. Not fine art, but perfectly adequate to transmit your personal vision, memories and so on.

Again, nice to hear from you Georg and looking forward to appreciate the pertinence of your remarks.

Cheers
11-28-2010, 08:03 AM   #33
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QuoteOriginally posted by Manel Brand Quote
George, You can take a photo at 12 o'clock in the summer on the middle of Dead Valley and come home with a perfect shot (on account of composition and exposure). That's all there is to it.
I would disagree slightly with this because yes, you can find 'A' perfect shot under those conditions but undoubtably it will be one that exploits the quality of light and situation you find.

Recognizing (or creating) those ideal situations (in terms of light and subject) are also part of being a good photographer but they are somewhat harder to teach because the rules are so fluid. I think one of the best ways to learn is to look at a lot of photographs (preferably in many different ways and no just web-quality images) and recognize what grabs you. Once you recognize what grabs your attentions try to determine why. You don't need to go out and imitate the photo (although you can) the mental exercise will begin to attune your brain.

Then when you're shooting, shoot whatever "feels right" without to much thought or judgement. When you review your own images, THEN judge them compared to that amorphous standard, or even side by side with your favorites from others. What did you do right? What are you unsatisfied with? Try to figure it out in very technical terms, but don't get to caught up in the technical mumbo-jumbo while shooting.

That's my suggestion, but then I'm largely self taught and having to re-learn a lot of things after giving up serious photography for a few years.
11-28-2010, 09:19 AM   #34
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If you want a place where you can get some good comments and critiques, this is one of them - it's not your average 'cool shot' Flickr group:

Flickr: Photography Critique

11-28-2010, 11:16 AM   #35
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QuoteOriginally posted by joelR Quote
I would disagree slightly with this because yes, you can find 'A' perfect shot under those conditions but undoubtably it will be one that exploits the quality of light and situation you find.
There are qualities on the 12 o'clock harsh light that you don't have with the soft/sunset/difuse light. Basically, high contrast in luminosity and color which can make an image compelling. Of course, this is a matter of personal taste and I don't discuss that.

Sorry for the cliché, but rules are not to be taken so seriously; it's not because everybody says that you can only take photos at dawn or at twilight that it becomes true or desirable; personally, never felt discouraged to shoot regardless of what light is available. Hoping you may take this in consideration. Thanks.
11-28-2010, 12:34 PM   #36
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QuoteOriginally posted by georgweb Quote
Here's another pic rather demonstrating Manel's Mantra to know what you're exposing for and it'll be allright, if you have the nice camera and the knowledge of PP.
OK. I did find the time to come up with some sense to my words.

The image bellow was captured in last August with the Sun already high in the sky; you can check this by looking at the shadows; very harsh light, deep shadows and hopeless white shirts all over.

The first version of the file is a straight raw to jpeg conversion, similar to what a consumer camera should produce as a jpeg file exposed for midtones. The second version was processed on a PC with Pselement8 that came bundled with my Wacom tablet. Some dodging and burning, some contrast and color adjustment; no noise reduction or sharpness applied. Ten minutes work-flow! (to me, no image is worth more than 10 minutes of post-processing, unless you have plenty of time and nothing to do, or running for the 1st prize of the local photo contest).

BTW, she's a German girl, in a very a good mood, like you Georg. She was joking with the play of Pied Pipe of Hamelin, guiding the flock to the City Hall for a snack; she was in a hurry to get to the food!

Now, a subtle difference but which one do you prefer, Georg?

Cheers

(Pentax K10D, FA50mm f/1.7)

Last edited by Manel Brand; 02-13-2011 at 08:50 AM.
11-29-2010, 03:53 AM   #37
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QuoteOriginally posted by Manel Brand Quote
... which one do you prefer, Georg?
Second pic does look easier with the contrasts but in this case I would say the first pic is quite usable because you still have the white shirts and the shadow details within the dynamic range. Colors are better in the first pic. I understand the message in the pictures though. German women always know what they want.

For me this thread has made me rethink my workflow and considering something like getting Lightroom and a faster PC. My K100D is not the fastest camera in the world so that is something to consider also.

Thanks for the insights,
Georg
11-29-2010, 04:11 AM   #38
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Thanks Georg. My pleasure. I will catch later as I'm already late for work. Bye.

11-29-2010, 10:16 AM   #39
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Hello Georg. Back from work. Let's move on.

Georg, don't think you can get away that easily. I always end what I start.
Well, not quite and rest assured that I'm not bothering you anymore and since this topic appears already forgotten by the original OP, I can call it quits for now.

As a final note, I just want to tell you that I intended to post a third version of the Hamelin girl, fully processed in raw format, so you could evaluate the real power of raw processing, particularly, in what recovery of highlights and shadows is concerned. The two versions of the Hamelin girl, as stated before, are jpeg conversions; the first one from raw without any processing, the second, that same jpeg lightly processed in PSE8. So, if you did understand properly, even a jpeg straight out of the camera can benefit from some processing. However, if you shoot and process a raw file, the benefits from doing some post-processing are by far much more significant. Bye for now.

Cheers

BTW Georg, the shirts on the first image are gone, blown-out, no detail, not good!

Last edited by Manel Brand; 11-29-2010 at 10:21 AM. Reason: typo & some more words
11-29-2010, 10:25 AM   #40
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QuoteOriginally posted by Manel Brand Quote
Not quite the same. I've told the OP that, in order to use his camera well he needs to know how to compose and expose and that is basically what he needs to know and improve. I believed the OP wanted a simple answer, not an in-depth, know-it-all, photography lesson (which would make him even more confused than he is already).

Perhaps you, paperbag846, are willing to provide us, and the OP, a more appropriate answer to his question. Let's hear it.
I was trying to help the OP how to expose a digital image for maximum DR, suggested two good RAW developing programs (ACR and GIMP) which will really open some doors. These are specific things that are a good place to start at, I think. Composition is something that is best learnt by observing photographs and practicing. Exposure takes practice too, but it helps to realize that the best exposure in digital might look different than ideal on the back of the LCD.

In any case, one important difference here is the JPEG processing engine. I do not know the ins and out of the Nikon, but I would not be surprised if those two camera's had very different JPEG settings. If you want your images to look less digital:

A) Avoid blown highlights (outdoors moreso),
B) Slightly desaturate your pictures. Digital is too colourful.
C) Pull the shadows up in post, or turn down the contrast. Blacks are too black in digital.

My friend described it to be perfectly: "Digital looks too good. People like my photos better when I make them look s***ier!"

So he desaturates, pulls up the shadows (something known as "fill light") and changes the white balance to resemble the look of film. The end result, though, looks like it is out of a magazine.

I think that might be one thing you are noticing... that your images have too much colour and too much contrast (aside from the blown highlights). If you get that under control by tweaking the jpeg engine, you might get results that look more professional to your eyes.

I still prefer RAW so I can worry about the "total look" afterwards... but it's not impossible to get it right in the camera.

Last edited by paperbag846; 11-29-2010 at 10:35 AM.
11-29-2010, 12:38 PM   #41
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Hello Paperbag846

So, you did come up with an answer to the OP's questions. Unfortunately, you didn't comment or corrected your first assumption: I think exposure and composition are really "all there is to it" but each one has so many variables involved that it's sort of like telling someone "in order to take a good picture you need to use your camera well.

I was hoping for that but it's alright, no big deal.

As for the 3 main tips you pointed out, I wouldn't say that they are wrong but rather generic and misleading as well. Guess you are right when you say that one has so many variables involved. I'm tented to point out the flaws of your guide/tips onto the professional look jpegs, but I don't find any valid reason to proceed with that, unless you are up to it, which I doubt for the same reason that I do. Anyway, let's hope the OP did find what he was looking for, as that is the one and only reason we are here discussing these matters, right?

Cheers
11-29-2010, 01:39 PM   #42
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QuoteOriginally posted by Manel Brand Quote
Hello Paperbag846

So, you did come up with an answer to the OP's questions. Unfortunately, you didn't comment or corrected your first assumption: I think exposure and composition are really "all there is to it" but each one has so many variables involved that it's sort of like telling someone "in order to take a good picture you need to use your camera well.

I was hoping for that but it's alright, no big deal.

As for the 3 main tips you pointed out, I wouldn't say that they are wrong but rather generic and misleading as well. Guess you are right when you say that one has so many variables involved. I'm tented to point out the flaws of your guide/tips onto the professional look jpegs, but I don't find any valid reason to proceed with that, unless you are up to it, which I doubt for the same reason that I do. Anyway, let's hope the OP did find what he was looking for, as that is the one and only reason we are here discussing these matters, right?

Cheers
Have at it then!

Well my major recommendation would be to work in RAW and spend many hours finding what works best for the look one has in their head. While it is not necessary, I believe that "professional" quality is most easily obtained with the flexibility of raw.

The problem with discussing composition here is that you can really take a course on it. It also requires a large number of example photographs, which would be tedious for us to put together when there are excellent websites like Luminous Landscapes that cover the topic on a basic level pretty well. There are also many, many textbooks written on the subject.

I suppose one of my points was that suggesting "oh, well your composition is off" is not going to tell him what is actually wrong. Since composition is an artistic tool, there is no one right answer to "how should I compose this image"? Well, it depends on what you are trying to show. It's a huge topic that we aren't going to be able to figure out for the OP.

Second, exposure is much easier to "figure out" in that a good exposure retains the maximum detail of the subject. If your subject is a scene, then you must avoid blown highlights. If it is a part of a scene, then blown highlights are acceptable. However, beyond these general tips, there is not much we could tel the OP without actually being there, with him, to analyze the specific scene in question.

However, when you limit yourself with JPEG, there are all sorts of ways you could get "poorer results" that have nothing to do with the exposure per-se. I don't like how my k20d spits out JPEGs by default, but again, MY settings might not work well for the OP.

You will notice my suggestions are all things that the OP should try and experiment with. In the end, he needs to find his look. The settings (be it raw or jpeg) will depend on this look he decides is best for him. If we were to tell him to set it up according to OUR look, then it might not really satisfy.

Exposure and composition are incredibly important, but we must discuss more specific things if we are to be of any help, imho. However I would love to hear your criticisms of my beliefs .
11-29-2010, 08:32 PM   #43
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Hi Manel.

It is interesting the German girl photos you posted being processed. It is sort of an example of what I was asking. The first shot looks very digital to me, typical of what I would shoot yet your second post processing shot seemed to make for a smoother, more pleasing image to me. I like it a lot.

Paperbag does bring up recent points about too much color and tweaking contrast which I can do in post or in the K-7 find my settings.

I have tried a bunch of raw converter demos when I first got my DL a few years ago. Capture one, Bibble, Silkypix(still the nicest, smoothest color out of the box), the one that got bought out by Adobe and a couple of versions of Lightroom along with Picasa.

Because it really has only been the last month that I have gotten back into photography I haven't really looked at post processing beyond my quick Lightroom 3 demo, which I do like. I will look at the other products mentioned in the thread.

Thank you all again for a great discussion, seems like I still have a lot of learning to do.

While this is sort of off topic, I brought my 50-200 and K-7 to a local parade and fooled around with a shot I took. They were in a moving car and I used continuous focus/shutter for multiple shots. This may not be the most focused but the best with the dog. It was a moving car, I cropped from a wide shot, straightened in and figured out I could use the brush in Lightroom 3 to brighten up the half of her face in the dark. Lots of dynamic range to deal with dark car, light outdoors...not sure the proper way to expose that under the existing conditions. Perhaps too saturated, and my first attempt at the photo. Kind of looks like an Xmas card with the crop and colors. I kind of like it for some reason.

11-30-2010, 09:36 AM   #44
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QuoteOriginally posted by Corvairfan Quote
Thank you all again for a great discussion, seems like I still have a lot of learning to do.
Hello Kevin
Please note that the second image of the Hamelin girl is a processed jpeg. Again, you will face serious limitations trying to recover blown highlights with a jpeg file. Still, some tweaking is possible without making the image look weird. That was the point of that comparison.

Paperbag does bring some good points to the discussion regarding both exposure and composition. No doubt about that. I encourage you to read them thoroughly. I was being a badass with him just to see what he would come up with.

Regarding exposure and post-processing, please note what has been discussed previously, particularly in what concerns to the advantage of shooting raw vs. jpeg, multiple exposures and so on. For instance, with some of your landscape shots from that trip to the canyons, you have no other option but to use a gradual ND filter or (better) go for multiple exposures of the scene and merge them in PP; with one single exposure it's almost impossible to retain full detail, both in the highlights (sky&clouds) and in the shadows.

As for the photo, I like it too; it´s funny, it has that Xmas card mood and the composition is alright, although I find it (perhaps) a little too tight. Again, it's a tricky shot as you say, due to high contrast of the scene you are dealing with. As already been said by me and Paperbag, in this kind of situation, you should go for raw format, as is near impossible to recover the highlights in her face (shadows suffers from the same problem too). Obviously, you can't bracket (multiple exposures) on a situation like that (panning), hence the importance to shoot raw due to the enormous power it provides to recover from exposure problems.

You said: I could use the brush in Lightroom 3 to brighten up the half of her face in the dark, therefore, I presume you haven't done it. So, I've edited your photo, trying to recover highlights and shadows without making it too obvious; basically, some shadow/highlights recovery within the limits of what can be done with a jpeg; some color tweaking (reds slightly shifted to yellow, the car color shifted to balance with the red tones, some de-saturation in blue/cyan tones, some noise reduction on the shadows of her face (5 minute work when you get trained with this sort of skills). Finally, a image like this one (a bright colorful edge with a dark middle area) is more pleasant to see on a black frame (stroke) being more balanced as a whole, if it's to be displayed on a white background; that's a matter of personal taste and you may not like it (I'm counting on Paperbag's disapproval). Also note that the editing was done on a low res file and the final result is compromised by that.

If you are after a generic rule on how to expose in digital photography, I would advise:
1. expose for midtones; 2. watch the highlights (don't let them blow out - exception to specular highlights) and 3. forget about shadows, they will fall in place.

To be able to apply this simple rules, you should read about the Zone System. When you fully understand that theory, you will be able to evaluate a given situation and expose accordingly. If you are not familiar with this, check it out on the web; there's plenty of info on that (you may also understand why I did bring Ansel Adams to the discussion).

In what concerns to composition, you will be alright most of the time, if you follow the Rule of Thirds (again, if not familiar with this, check it out on the web); bear in mind that rules can be broken and sometimes they should to your advantage. You can follow this ancient rule either by framing in camera or by cropping in PP. Remember also that composition and exposure are not separated; on the contrary, they are interrelated. For instance, sometimes a simple re-frame of the subject can help minimize potential problems on exposure; in other words, look through the VF and if you see a bright area that could blow your highlights, or unbalance your composition, try to re-frame the subject removing that from the composition. Sometimes this expedient don't apply, as is the case of your photo.

Feel free to ask further questions.

Cheers

Last edited by Manel Brand; 01-18-2011 at 02:20 PM.
11-30-2010, 09:46 AM   #45
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QuoteOriginally posted by paperbag846 Quote
Exposure and composition are incredibly important, but we must discuss more specific things if we are to be of any help, imho. However I would love to hear your criticisms of my beliefs
Hello Paperbag

Now you say incredibly but I wouldn't say that. I think they credible, fundamental and thus important, that's all. As for criticism, I'm not in the mood for that, sorry. All I want is make you a better photographer and save us from that limbo where Pentax shooters haven fallen. You see, I'm used to cause humiliation amongst CanoNikons shooters who don't even know what Pentax is about. Let's see if we can bring Pentax to his former state, so we can have more affordable and better gear.

Cheers

Last edited by Manel Brand; 11-30-2010 at 09:49 AM. Reason: typo
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