Print Critique #6 by Lee McDonald
Hi and welcome to this months print critique.
Thanks Lee for allowing me to critique your image and for sharing it with us all.
Here is what Lee had to say about her image:
It was taken in Mt Field National Park, Tasmania, upstream from the Horseshoe falls. I arrived there at the wrong time of the day with the sun directly on the waterfall. So I decided to head upstream. I find myself always focusing on the waterfall and downstream of it that I actually miss beautiful spots like this. As for the composition, I tried horizontal & vertical. I liked both however at first sight I think I enjoyed the vertical more so. I just loved Mt Field Nat Park and wish I had more time there to track up and down the river streams :)
OK so lets look at the technical settings first.
When I shoot waterfalls or images of this nature I try to never go above f16 as an aperture and the shutter speed will be determined by how calm and still it is. We need a shutter speed of around 1-2 seconds to create the nice blurry water effect. The problems we have with speeds that are in the seconds is that any slight breeze and all of our foliage is blurred as well. And the reason why I don't go over f16 is that our lens quality drops off at its max aperture. So even though f22 will deliver more depth of field [ where and when our focus starts and stops ] f16 will be sharper.
So in Lees case f16 would have given us around an 8 second exposure or at f11 around 4 seconds. It must have been quite dark in there Lee, unless you had a ND filter on as well.
Speaking of that, I generally use a 3 stop ND filter when shooting waterfalls, this slows my shutter speeds without having to stop down to f22.
I also always use a polariser filter, this will punch some saturation into the greens and it also takes the sheen and reflection off the water. This can allow us to see thru the water, if you have submerged rocks in your foreground then this works a treat.
Here would be a good place to set your focus
Looking at this image enlarged in photoshop I noticed that the foreground rocks are pin sharp yet the background that is static is quite soft. There could be two reasons for this, one is the use of f22 which I have talked about, the other is where the lens has focused.
Auto focus lenses can be a pain for Landscape work, you must be very conscious as to where the lens is focusing. So in this case if the lens focused on the very front rock, then at 40mm f22 may not be enough to have the background in focus.
I now solely use manual focus lenses for Landscape work, I find them much more accurate and easier for focusing than Auto focus lenses.
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Lets also look at the tonal range of the image as my initial reaction is that there is a lot of contrast which could be compromising shadow detail. The easiest way is to drop the image into an image editor and look at the histogram, this will tell us where all the tones lay. If you are not sure how to read a histogram then an easy way of understanding it is that it is a graph of all the tones with the darkest on the left to the lightest on the right. The height of the graph refers to the amount of that particular tone. When the graph climbs the wall then we have what is called clipping. So we can see that we have a lot of pure black tones- a lot of very dark tones- and very few mid to light tones. As a small image viewed on the web this would still look really good, it is a strong punchy look that attracts the eye. However if you were to print to say around A3 then all that beautiful shadow area that could be holding lovely subtle detail would be pure black.
I knew Lee would have shot this as a raw file so I asked her to send me the original raw as I was keen to see what our starting point was. After some internet madness the file jumped the Tasman and was there in my drop box. Here is how the original capture was and how I would fine tune it.
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From the initial capture I can see that Lee has done a great job and probably shot via her histogram on the camera. These scenes can be hard to capture and retain the shadow detail and the highlights of the running water. But we can see that the histogram is nicely inside the side walls so there is no clipping. The settings you see are the default ones and no adjustments have been made to the image at this stage. I have just upgraded to CS6 from CS4 and I love the new exposure sliders. Six sliders in all and I am finding they are a lot better than the old set.
Have a look at the next screen shot for the Raw adjustments I would make to the exposure and colour tones.
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After Raw Edit
So you can see by the histogram that we have introduced more tones to the image simply by tweaking some of the exposure sliders. This is pretty much all I do in the raw converter and then do more editing in Photoshop, if you are working in Lightroom or Aperture then everything is done on the fly. Just keep an eye on the histogram as you edit and try and keep all tones within the graph
Can I start by saying that I think waterfalls are one of the best places to practice and learn composition. I say that as you generally have very little room to set yourself up, sometimes it can be impossible to move to the left a foot and and there is always a rock in the wrong place.
So in saying that I think Lee has smashed this one, the composition is fantastic and is well balanced. I love the flow of the image, our eye moves naturally thru the image, this is helped by the placement of the rocks. Have a look at the image below and I will point out a few things that make this work.
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Some Composition Points
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Can we make this composition better
The only thing I would look at doing would be to crop a bit off the top and bottom, the rock in the bottom left hand corner can be a bit distracting as it is hanging out of the frame. This is typical of a situation where it can be hard to move to crop it out when we are shooting. My choice would be to place it in the corner to see if it strengthens the image
Thanks for reading this critique and I hope you have picked up some tips from it.
Lee I love the way you have composed this image, its balance and flow work really well together. It is also good that you are exploring and not just photographing the main waterfall, I always force myself to make at least one image that is not the main waterfall when I shoot these places, this helps me to see things that others don't and its also a good way of feeding the creative juices, think outside the waterfall so to speak . And thank you so much for allowing me to critique it on this blog and share with others.
Please feel free to have a look at Lees work on her Facebook page HERE
And please leave a comment below, thanks.