Image Critique #8
Tagerty River Cascades by Robert Page
Hi and welcome to the July Image Critique. Thanks Robert for sharing this fabulous image to be critiqued.
Robert has mentioned to me that this was one of the first images he made after buying some filters, for this image he used a Lee Little Stopper (a 6 stop ND filter) and a Polarizer.
Here is the Metadata I pulled from the image
Camera Canon 6D (Full frame DSLR)
16-35 f2.8 L series Lens set to 18mm
Shutter 30 seconds
I'm not sure what editing has been done in Photoshop but here is the raw adjustments from the metadata and a Levels Histogram
First lets look at the technical detail and then we will delve into the composition.
This image has plenty of punch, which it gets from the contrast that is apparent. Unfortunately there are some blown out highlights which can be caused when we add contrast. Also looking at the Raw adjustments we have:
Exposure @ +1.2 (an increase of 1.2 stops)
Highlights @ +36
Contrast @ +27
and Clarity @ +57
All of these settings will be contributing to those highlights being blown out and I am guessing that in the untouched Raw the highlights would be well within the Histogram. I couldn't get hold of the Raw from Robert to confirm this which is a bit of a bugga. If we did have access to the Raw file I would revisit it and pull back those adjustments to the highlights. When I do this I make sure I am looking at the Histogram and keep the Highlights inside the graph.
Looking at these settings I also think the initial image was under exposed as the Exposure is at +1.2 and the shadows have been pushed to +61 and Blacks to +28, so make sure during capture that you are reviewing your histogram, especially when using ND filters as sometimes our meters get a little bit confused.
ND filters for those unconverted are a sold dark filter that sits in front of our lens, being darker it lengthens our exposure which in this shot has given us an exposure of 30 seconds, this makes the water nice and silky smooth. Without the 6 stop ND the exposure would have been 1/2 second, remember that a Polarizer was used as well and these slow our speed down by 1 - 1.5 stops.
When we use the Lee Little Stopper Lee advise us to set our WB to 8000K, Robert has his set to 5150K, it may have been on Auto or Sunny. 8000K will be a lot warmer and in this case I think it would be too warm. When using the Lee Little Stopper I have found that 8000K is not always the best, it really depends on the light at the time, so if you are using one then experiment to find the sweet spot.
Another tip for WB when shooting waterfalls and streams like this one is when the scene is very green most cameras won't like being on Auto WB, I always use Cloudy.
Using a Polarizer in this type of landscape can be a huge advantage so well done Robert for making that choice. A Polarizer will cut glare and reflection which can results in more COLOUR, especially Blues and Greens !! It can also help us see through water which can make some images look very cool. A Polarizer will also help us slow down the shutter speed a bit as it has a factor 1 - 1.5 stops.
Lets talk about Speed, when I shoot these scenes I aim for a speed of around 2 seconds, this is enough to blur the water. Quite often the problem we have is that if there is any wind around then a 2 second exposure with make the trees blurry too, perfect conditions are dead calm and overcast. I can normally get a 2 second exposure by using around f16, 100 ISO, a Polarizer and a 3 stop ND filter. Roberts image is nice and sharp, so he is lucky that it was very calm conditions where normally a 30 second exposure could be a lot different.
The image is beautifully Sharp from the foreground rocks to the distant trees so again well done here Robert. If you are unsure of where to focus then get familiar with your lenses, wide angle lenses have lots of natural depth of field and you will be quite surprised how close you actually focus when using an aperture of around f16 to obtain maximum depth of field.
Robert has nailed a really good composition here, he has positioned himself well, the large rocks in the foreground are a good choice and there is some natural depth and flow to the image due to how our eye travels into the center of the image, lets look at some other elements and then I will make some changes to strengthen this composition even more
Here I have highlighted three small distractions in the image, the area circled at the top of the image is quite a bit lighter as the sun is stronger there, this is tending to pull us out of the image, where we should stop at the cascades. This area could be selected in PS and darkened down to match the tones either side. It seems small but it is the small things that make a big difference in an image.
The two other areas circled are highlights that are on the edge of our frame, because we are lead to lighter areas of an image then these are subtly pulling us out of the frame and away from the focal point. I try and be very critical of this when making an image, there is a composition rule you may have heard of that says "Check your edges" So when you think you have the composition right, run your eye around the edges and look for distractions, I think shooting film taught me this, we can tend to forget all these important factors when shooting digital
Can we make it Better
Cropped and Adjusted Image
I really like this cropped version, the foreground rocks are now nice strong shapes that are bold but not to overpowering. By darkening that patch at the top has helped hold our eye in the center of the frame as we head to the flowing stream. The tones are well balanced now by removing some of that darker area over to our left, and I'm loving that Tree Fern overhanging the cascading water.
I can also visualize this image with less colour saturation and printed on an Art Paper , I can see the detail of the moss on those front rocks really jumping off the page.
Thanks Robert for allowing me to critique your image and for sharing it with everyone.