All of the images that we selected to share with you today, we've imported into a dedicated Lightroom catalog and now we're going to go in deep. Besides the images themselves, I also have the benefit of notes that were submitted by the photographer and I'm going to be referring to those as well periodically because it's not just about looking at how we can improve the images after the fact technically. I really want to be referring to what the photographer saw and what he or she tried to accomplish in the field. The photographer who made this image kind of talks about his attention being drawn to the boulders and then the shimmering of the water and then the boulders that are peeking out above the water surface. I agree with all of those things. He also mentions that your eyes are drawn towards distance, but if you do end, end, end, it may be just a little bit too much. Personally I find the most interesting parts of this image are the boulders underwater and the boulders above water. ...
By having the mountains there, it looks a little bit more like a postcard. Now if you want to create images that look like postcards, totally fine. But I'm going to drive it more a little bit more abstraction. So Ross is already nodding. So my suggestion is that we crop out the skyline and we bring it in from the bottom as well a little bit 'cause there's enough water shimmering here between the boulders and if we do that, we get a more compelling composition and now we're going to selectively depress the highlights here because they look a little bit overexposed above the water and if we make those a little bit darker and we pull out a little bit more shadow detail in here, then we're going to equalize the tonality here and then everything is better expressed. See, we're looking into the water. Now the photographer does not reveal that he used a polarizing filter, but that is something that I would definitely recommend you do in a situation like that. A polarizer helps you penetrate into the water and reveal more details. So Ross, what do you think?
I think looks look really nice.
It has a nice color to it and the highlights are not blown out here at the top.
So kudos to the photographer for having seen this. Nice, clean execution, but in a few click adjustments, I think we've made the image more personal. So it's gone from embracing a subject to establishing more of a point of view. Less is more. Should we look at the next image?
The previous image was made in California. This one was made in the East Coast from Acadia National Park in Maine. The photographer's wondering. He says, you know, he found it immediately pleasing, but then he started to dwell a little bit more on its flaws. What could he have done differently? That's the question he asks. I don't think there's anything wrong here. It's beautifully exposed. It's beautifully composed, but it looks a little bit generic. The lines that draw you in from the bottom left and the bottom right converge very nicely upon the center of the image, but this is a little bit open. You know, my eye wants to go into the all the details here. So I wonder, Ross, if we, maintained the native aspect ratio and we crop a little bit from the sky, and we crop a little bit from the bottom, whether we can make the scene a little bit more intimate.
So this is the original frame and then we can crop in and...
So what do you think? Should we try to go a little bit further?
Yeah, we can certainly.
Or is the risk that we lose the openness that is part of the appeal of this image? This is where things become very subjective. I don't think there's a good or a bad solution here. You know, you pick what feels right to you. Let's try this. Personally, I like this better than the original image the way it was submitted to us. We still have that nice space in the foreground, but now we're a little bit closer to the rocks. The rocks here surrounded by the negative space, kind of our nice stepping stone to a middle ground. Then we have the beautiful cliff face here and then the clouds give the sky texture. And I'm not sure that we can do much better with this here. If we look at the histogram in develop mode, it looks like we have a really nice tonality there, right? What could we here? Pull out a little bit more shadow detail? Make the image a little brighter by creating better light? Any comments or do you agree with what we've doing? Cid.
I feel like maybe that it doesn't have to add the exposure. We don't have lift the exposure too high because it's in, this is during golden hour and I feel like that with less light, you are directed, like there's already like a lot of the light on the rocks and light on the trees and you're forced beyond instead of what's in front of you and I feel like with less light, that you know, these things shine more bright.
So in other words, you would pull the exposure down a little bit
To make it a little bit darker?
Yeah a little bit more.
Let's try that, Ross. It's a little bit difficult for me to perceive that standing here kind of at an oblique angle to the screen so I'm going to come closer to the laptop here. Yeah, if we darken the exposure a little bit, the attention shifts more towards the, you know, the distant cliff face, yeah.
Now that you've darkened the trees, I think that's an improvement, but now the rocks are a little bit too dark. So bring them up a little bit.
So what's the solution then? We make a selective adjustment. We apply a graph filter, but let's save the application of the graph filter for another image because there are several other examples of that. So what we did here, we've tightened up the composition a little bit, but we did not kind of impact anything of the original intent of the photographer, I think. Let's look at the next image. This is interesting. At first I thought that the effect created here was the result of a slide in the clarity of the image, but no I learned that this was a result of a double exposure. It's a very interesting technique to get a little way from a literal reality to something that is more impressionistic, more of a personal interpretation. So the photographer here receives kudos for scoring in the point of view department. There is a subject, but by the particular creative decision made here, it becomes a more personal version of that forest, see? So by layering two exposure on top of each other, you can blur the contours a little bit. So there's some technical issues here in the image that I wonder if we can make any improvements in. First couple of the other good things. I like the blurring of the foreground. That dappled nature with the green really works very well with the impressionistic vision overall. I also like the highlights here. It also fits with the overall concept and this line is a little bit disturbing because it's dark and it doesn't fit so well with the high-key nature of the image. Of course, we can neutralize that by making a selective adjustment so it becomes more neutral gray rather than dark gray. Another thing we can try to do is to see what happens if we crop in selectively on the lightest part of the image. Do you want to do that, Ross?
See now we've moved that branch a little bit to the left. There's a little bit less green. There's more yellow and more white. The alternative would be to take the whole image and to work more with the greens. Any preference?
No, I was just thinking that those two, the one that you mentioned that's going off to the left.
And then the one that's angled off to the right are both kind of just distracting to me. It's just the particle line of the trees are fine, but the ones that go off to the left and the right.
This one here and that one there?
Yeah. So I agree with you. If the overall concept is one of softness, then you want to do anything and everything you can to stick with that theme alone. As it is, because this is how the image has been delivered to us, I suggest we can make adjustments here by lightening this up. There's not that much we can do about that fallen branch so it is what it is. One more point about the technique that makes this image so interesting, most of our cameras, most of the DSLR cameras that we use have an easier multiple exposure feature. All you have to do is put it in multiple exposure setting and then you can layer as many frames on top of each other as you want and the camera's light meter will automatically adjust the exposure so you don't even have to think about it very much anymore and doing multiple exposures is definitely something we like to experiment with during our workshops. Let's go to the next image. Now this is something very different, right? The photographer mentions that he worked with a friend and he planned this shoot out during that last episode of the blood moon which was at the end of January. We all knew that was going to happen. Were any of you out in the field to do that too? I see several hands going up. And you get one crack at it, right? So you better have a plan. So you know it's going to happen so you know you'll have a subject, but what do you do with the subject? In this case, the photographer decided to use his companion to create what I call a forced perspective. Of course they're not that close together, but you can play games with perspectives especially if you use a telephoto lens because if you had a telephoto lens, you can compress the perspective and make it seem as if things that are close to you are at the same distance as things that are very far away. Wide angle lenses do the opposite. With wide angle lenses, you can stretch the perspective and we'll see an example of that later on in the program. But back to this image. So the companion had to scramble up the rocks and then at he magic moment, the two of them intersected. It's very well-planned, very well-executed. The exposure is beautifully blended, but I wonder if we can add a little bit more emphasis to the central part of the image by darkening the foreground a little bit and the way we can do that is by not opening the shadow details, but actually blackening out the shadow details. Let's see if we like that effect there. There's a few stars visible so one other adjustment that we could possibly make is darkening the exposure overall. That'll make the image feel a little bit more nocturnal. What do you think? I'm going to look over Ross's shoulder here. So I think we're on the verge of it here 'cause there's something to be said for maintaining some shadow details in the foreground, but you get the gist of it here. Anything else, Ross, that we can do better here?
I like that the subject's here, but I would also like to come in a little bit closer with a closer crop.
Yeah, let's try that as well. We do not want to go too far because then we lose that spacious feeling. So we want to obtain this nice line because that really connects the landscape bit, the observer catching the moon. So this is how we can anchor it at the bottom and that's how it stays anchored at the top right. So normally we try to keep subjects away from the exact center of a composition, but in this case, it's such an unusual image, it just kinds of confirms that everything is coming together. So I would accept this. What's the first thing that comes to mind when you look at this image? Give me one word. (audience member speaks off microphone) Light, you've got it and remember how I introduced the image with you? I talked about subject, point of view, composition, light, moment and meaning. This is about light and that is what the photographer talks about as well. It was captured near Lake Ontario in Western New York. It's a swampland. She loves the contrast of light and dark and she describes a feeling of mood. So it's the light. There's something mysterious in this scene. It's almost a little bit spooky. So let's see if we can enhance those two ideas. Light and spookiness. So if we darken the scene a bit, then I think the light will become more pronounced and we're also going to lose a couple other details that don't really matter so much, especially here in the foreground and all those branches are not totally in focus and I think that if we bring the bottom of the frame up a little bit that you'll allow the viewer to connect better with the light that is shining through and the reflections in the water. So when I do crops, I try to maintain the native aspect ratio as much as possible. Of course, you can be making adjustments there as well and we may try to apply a couple of custom crops here, but I try to be respectful of the photographer's original equipment and the original decisions. So are we still in that native aspect ratio? But let's crop it up from the bottom even more, just a touch more. Let's stop right here because this tree trunk on the left anchors it nicely and maybe we should pull back a little bit on the right. So in other words, widen it a little bit because then we have this other tree trunk as a bookend to the one on the left and now let's darken the exposure a little bit more. So maybe we can darken the image selectively a little bit, Ross. What if we apply a graph filter from the bottom? Normally we apply graph filters to tone down the sky that is typically over lit in most landscaping images, but in this case, I'm going to focus more attention on the sun that is coming from behind. How does that look to you all? Oh yeah.
You can see a before and an after.
Much moodier, huh? Now you really have that feeling of a fading light in a swampland.
You said you tried to maintain the native aspect out of respect for the photographer. Do you do the same in your own work in terms of native aspect of the camera you were shooting or do you use more freedom in your own work in terms of shapes and sizes?
That's a good question. I do most of my work with DSLR cameras, which have a 2:3 aspect ratio and Ross knows that we try to maintain that because we have so many images and if we deal with custom crops for every image, then it can look a little bit chaotic. So we have one default setting, which is a 2:3 aspect ratio. I also do quite a bit of panoramic photography using my iPhone first of all and I do pano-stitching with my DSLR and for that, our default setting is 1:4, right? So those are the two basic settings. Periodically, I find that, you know, square crops are relevant as well, but you know, that's a minority. I think we have, what, 2-5% of square crops in the collection. So let's look at this image. The previous one was a mood. It was not so much a specific rendition of a landscape. This is the other extreme. This photographer has done everything right when it came to capturing all the details: the texture, the color, you know, the perspective in the situation. Let's look at the camera settings here 'cause of course in Lightroom, you know, all the metadata are preserved, are transmitted via the camera's files to the catalog and we see here it was done at 1/800 of a second at f5. ISO at 200. So a bit of a surprise to me, actually because in a situation like this, what I would've done is I would've extended my depth of field and ensured the optimum sharpness in the image by moving my aperture from f5 to f8 or f11. Between eight and 11, most lenses are at their optimal sharpness. If you push the aperture even further towards closing it to f16 or f22, you get a longer depth of field, but you lose a little bit in sharpness so the photographer here was able to still achieve a depth of field from the rocks in the foreground to the mountains in the distance just using f5. The shutter speed at 800. I would've probably moved my settings from 1/ at f5 to something like 250 at f8 or f and if I have a tripod with me, I would've put the camera on a tripod to ensure, you know, the maximum sharpness. You know, the settings do not reveal if there was a tripod involved, but back to the image in question. I really like this. It looks really plain, but it reminds me a little bit of 19th century photography when the first landscape photographers went around the American west. The composition's really nice. I like this first layer of rocks in the foreground and then this incongruous human element in the middle ground and then we have the rest of the mountains there and then the beautiful wispy clouds. I think this is picture perfect. I wouldn't change a thing in the composition. I wouldn't change anything in the crop and I'm not sure that we can improve anything in the settings either. You know, highlights, shadows, details. Everything is there.
I was just wondering if you would've focused on the bridge or just figured out the hyper-focal distance on that shot?
That's a good question. If you heard that all, the question was about hyper-focal distance. Hyper-focal distance is a concept that you can utilize to optimize your depth of field at every setting. You know, technically speaking, you get the most for every setting by kind of focusing your lens 1/3 of the way into a scene. It comes into play, especially when you use wide-angle lenses and when you want to achieve, you know, your maximum depth of field. In this case, I don't know if the photographer actually thought about that. When I look at the settings, I think it may have been a pretty casual decision there, but you know, when I cannot achieve all my goals with respect to depth of field, that is when I begin to think of hyper-focal distance applications. So this image was delivered to us in two different ways. We received a dark version and a light version. Let's flip back and forth. This image was made in France in the Alps region and this looks like the way it was captured and then let's flip to the high-key version and it shows kind of how quickly you can change the settings, right? Personally, I like this version better. You know, it's a snowy forest. If you go back to the darker version, you know, the effect of the snow is kind of suppressed a little bit by that darker exposure. So let's see if we can build on the lighter version of it. So yeah, nice rhythm in the trees and a slightly misty atmosphere creates a very nice kind of sense of distance there, but it's a little bit literal. When you start looking at the details here, you know, there's a bit of rubble here in the foreground, to me, the most interesting part of the image is here in the distance. It's not at the foreground. So that leaves me to think of you know, pulling the image up a little bit and in this case, let's try to maintain the width of the image and just kind of lose some of the details here in the foreground by pulling it up. Maybe go kind of right around here. Go up a little bit more. So let's see if we can anchor this tree in the forest floor by chopping those two off and now let's see what it looks like. I find this a little bit more interesting to look at. It goes one step beyond finding a subject and more towards making more creative decisions. Now if we want to enhance that panoramic feel, we can also pull a little bit from the top because this is a repetitive pattern and we're not losing anything crucial here. So let's close this up. Different. We haven't changed anything in the darker areas, the lighter areas. All we've done is enhance the vision of the photographer who I think was probably also looking into the distance, but he didn't take the next step in personalizing the composition. What else can we do here, Ross?
I think this looks pretty good.
Let's look at the histogram. It's a high-key image. You can see that the histogram is really peaking towards the lighter area. That's why it's high-key. If we would want to distribute the tonality into the darker areas, then we would go back towards that other rendition and I'm not sure that that's the right thing to do because then it becomes more of an average, see? So. I'm going to walk back a little bit so I can see it from your perspective. I think everything is there. Well done. This is a landscape underwater. This is not my field of expertise, really 'cause I'm from the Netherlands. You know, in Holland, you're always struggling to stay above water. (audience laughs) So, but I could sympathize with the photographer who was explaining that she was in the Galapagos Islands and she spotted this turtle sleeping and then she also saw that other fish down there at the bottom and then she tried to make sense of all the weaving corals. Of course, there was lighting added to that. Without the flash, it would've been way too dark and she talks about the land-based behavior from marine wildlife. So let's see how we can interpret what the photographer was seeing and see if we can make it even better. It is indeed a landscape with wildlife in it. I like that idea, but you know, there's some technical imperfections here. Here on the left, the corals are out of focus and the same thing on the right so if we crop the image a little bit from the, you know, we maintain the same aspect ratio, but we crop it in from the top a little bit and then we try to get a little bit more shadow detail in here, we don't want to get too close to the blenny because then it begins to look almost incidental. So I would go down a little bit more, just like that. See, we're a little bit tighter. We could tone down the highlights on the turtle a little bit, but then we're beginning to lose that central focus. That turtle is so hidden that we do want him to pop and same with that little blenny fish down there at the bottom. So what else can we do, Ross?
Yeah, it looks pretty good. You could even use a selective brush to just get rid of some of the highlights here in the corals. I like the colors, but obviously the main focus is the turtle so you could use that to draw them in closer to the turtle.
Yeah and maybe we can bring out a little bit more detail here in the body of that blenny so that he becomes a better juxtaposition with the turtle there. So for that, we use the brush. So it's a surgical way to, you know, darken or lighten details in an image. So there we go. What I like about the crop we've made here is now we're getting a peek of the water, but it's not as prominent as previously. So now the emphasis is much more on the two subjects here but your eyes can still escape to the distance.
I realize that you'd change the aspect if you do this, but what about making it a vertical so that the turtle and the fish are more obvious?
Yes, that would be possible, but then I'm afraid we would lose the spaciousness of the seascape and then it becomes more of an image of a turtle and a fish in juxtaposition. I'm trying to be respectful of the photographer's vision so when she talks about kind of the openness, we don't want to lose that, but yes that would be one other solution. Let's take a look at the next one. Chris, are we getting any interesting comments or questions from our audience around the world?
Yeah I mean we have people who are eagerly awaiting their image to be critiqued so stay tuned if you haven't seen your image yet. As Frans said, we have so many submitted. You know, we did get a couple of questions that came in about the cropping. I think this one, you kind of touched on a little bit, but Cohen had posted this and a few other people were curious to get your take on it. Why do you always crop with the same aspect ratio as the original. I know you touched on this a little bit, but is it sometimes not better to have another aspect ratio when you're cropping?
I mean, you could always play with that a little bit, right?
Yeah, but in our studio, as I mentioned before, I try to stick to a couple of default settings 'cause otherwise it'd become such a chaotic mix of custom decisions, but cropping is a very personal decision.
We did hear from Garreth who said, "Hi Frans, I took that snowy pine woodlands "shot that you were critiquing. "I like what you did with the composition. "I'm very happy with how you received my image. "Thank you." That comes from Garreth.
Okay. Thank you.
Let's take a look at the next image. This is an interesting scene and Holly made this along the Washington coast and let's remind ourselves of these key criteria that I've referred to before. I think we have a good showcase here for composition. There's definitely interesting light and there's also a momentary quality to this image kind of with that foam kind of flowing back into the ocean. The light's interesting. There's a lot of good things going on in here so I think we only have to do a few things to express the vision of the photographer better. I am a little bit bothered by that kind of white-ish white here at the water's edge so I think it won't take that much to depress that white a little bit because I would like to see more attention go to these flowing lines in the foreground because that is what brings your eyes towards the middle ground and then into the distance. So we're going to adjust that. What do you prefer here, Ross?
I think in this instance, we can benefit from the highlights being depressed just so we can get some of the cloud detail in the background as well.
Yeah. So you see how quickly that can be done? Then should we try to bring the sky down a little bit more so that we kind of do more kind of with the ominous clouds there above the island?
Yeah, we can.
Apply graph filter.
Apply the graph filter.
Bring the exposure down a little bit, make it a little bit more moody.
Yup, yup and then what can we do with the whites of the foam on the foreground?
We can probably bring it up just a hair. I'll also bring up the shadows just a hair too.
So it's all there in the image. We're not changing anything in substance. We're just kind of bringing more of the good aspects of the image to enhance the photographer's vision. So Holly, I wish I'd been there that evening. That was a pretty nice situation.
Do a before and after after you have finished adjusting the images so we see.
Let's do it.
So this is the before and this is the after.
So you see, they're subtle adjustments and let me make another point about this image because I feel really drawn to these situations. I live in Santa Cruz, not far from San Francisco and I'm playing at the tide line a lot and I love doing this. You're playing with waves. So you stand there and you watch what the waves are doing to a beach cape and one of the keys I find is you start looking for the pebbles and the little rocks because those are really your anchors in the foreground. Those shape the retreating nature of the waves. So this is what I look for and then I race in with my camera on the tripod when the waves come in and I set the camera down 'cause you want a somewhat long exposure for this. Let's see what, yeah we haven't even looked at that. You have one second at f18 so the depth of field goes from the foreground to the horizon and that one second exposure is a perfect use to visualize the flow of water here. Be prepared to get your feet wet. This image was made at a scenic hotspot. Lake Louise in Canada and the photographer, Robert. He's very succinct. He wrote us, "I like lines, textures and colors." Well he did that, right? We're seeing lines, textures and colors. This looks like it's been made using a moderate telephoto lens. What are we seeing in the settings, Ross?
Yeah so it shows, you know, how much of an effect a subject even when it's portrayed in the distance can do to pull your eyes in. One, two, three, four red kayaks and those are the counterpoint to the immensity of that mountain side, but something in me wants to pull a little bit more. You know, crop it a little bit more from the bottom. What this does is bring you a little bit closer to the kayakers and you know, we could also experiment by bringing the top down a little bit. See we're not losing anything essential up here because this pattern continues. This is the strongest line in the whole composition and now this becomes even stronger. So this is an example of a custom crop. I'm not calculating or turning this into a 1:4 pano because I would see, I think we would lose too much of the space here at the top of the image. So we've made a cropping decision. I like the way this looks. Now can we express the color any better? Maybe we can darken the water a little bit. Just a touch. Gives it a little bit more density. Where else can we go, Ross?
I think the rocks here are a nice texture, but they're getting a little bit blown out from the exposure so we can also add another graph filter and bring the exposure down on just the rocks a little bit.
Or we could do it selectively by just kind of painting the three slopes here with our brush 'cause you know graph filters are used for maximum effect in compositions where you do have a strong line either at the top or the bottom of the image. This is another situation where the use of a polarizer might have enhanced the colors a little bit. It would've darkened the water a bit. It probably would've reduced the glare that comes off the rocks on that hillside too. Jessica told us that this is made in California and she chose it because she was really trying to work with a different composition than she normally applies. Let's take a look at the settings. 13th of a second at f22. ISO 1600 and a 16 millimeter lens. So this is a super wide angle lens and that enabled her to create, you know, such a stretched perspective. Remember what I shared with you earlier on? Kind of telephoto lenses we use to compress perspectives. Wide angle lenses we use to stretch perspective and this is a perfect example of that. By closing the aperture all the way, you know, the image is sharp from the bark in the foreground to the horizon and another thing that that f22 does is it maximizes that Starbust effect of the sun kind of just shedding or rising above that hillside there. So it's really beautifully seen, beautifully executed. I love this photograph. I hope that the photographer used a tripod because at 13th of a second, that's a little bit marginal. You have to be ultra-steady in your hands to pull that off. But presumed that that happened because it looks pretty sharp here in the foreground. There's only one thing that is less than perfect in the image and that is that little hole right here. You see that little peek-a-boo effect? I'm a stickler when it comes to making sure that nothing sticks in or sticks out of the composition that detracts from the central goal that the photographer was trying to accomplish. So you see this is beautiful. So at the top, yeah you could say we could bring that out, but I would leave that in. I'm a little bit more bothered by that. So if we crop that out, then we have nothing but bark in the foreground and then the bark goes up towards the upper right. Yes.
But you're also missing some of that vertical over there so if you just took a tiny touch of that void, then you have the full vertical on the right.
Let's see the pros and cons for both solutions. Yeah, I see your point. So you have one compromise. Yeah, you have another suggestion?
I was just wondering if you could vignette out the corners?
You get it. Selectively darken you know this corner. That would be one local solution. You could also apply a vignetting to all four corners, which is not a bad idea to do here 'cause it will focus the attention more on the center of the composition and that is where all the eye-candy is. You want to try it out, Ross? Vignette towards, yup. Yeah so in that case, just go back to the original composition. Not so visible. Beautiful. Daneev wrote us from France. He likes the location and the painterly look and I subscribe to that statement. This is a really nice open scene and there's a lot going on. There's a lot of eye candy in this frame and his composition has got so many possibilities in it. I wonder what kind of other decisions he made before he arrived at this particular framing, but it's interesting to contemplate how many other compositions are possible just within this frame and I can see slicing this into a vertical and the right hand part of the image is a composition in its own right. This is also an example where you could crop, you know, this into a square. There's half a dozen different possibilities here. Now I'm not saying that any of them are going to be better than what Daneev realized here, but I think it's just an indication of the complexity of the lines and the shapes and the texture in this image. So I would leave the composition exactly like he did it, but I'm intrigued by seeing the clouds here and the reflections in the water and this might be a good case where we can apply that powerful dehaze capability in Lightroom and you have to go all the way down to the bottom of the right panel to be able to find it. I don't know why they put it there. It would've been better to put up at the top because it's really quite useful as a tool. But you see how quickly you can start to see more texture in the sky and texture in the water. Now Daneev, if you don't like this, if you wanted to keep the water and the sky pale that's fine by me, but now it looks like the central composition is surrounded a little bit more by additional texture in sky and in water. So not sure what else we can do here. Just as an interesting possibility, let's turn this into a black and white. It's just a push of a button. I'm going to come forward a little bit and look at it from your perspective. I like this just as much and the color is pretty pale in the original so that pale color, if you turn it into black and white, leads to a very nice tonality, you know? You step through all kinds of gray tones from highlights down into the shadow. So I think this is equally interesting. There's a lot of other things that we could do here to do more enhancements in the sky, but then we might lose a little bit of that open quality that Daneev refers to. There's only one thing that I'm wondering about. There's two birds in there and you know, I wonder what would've happened if that first bird would've been here and if that first bird would've been in the lighter part of the water, no? Manuel made this image in Peak District National Park in the UK and I like the fact that we're getting submissions from all over the world, Chris. It's not just a grandiose landscapes of the American West where you know, you only have to aim your camera to have a sublime landscape. In Europe, it's not quite so easy. You have to do more with less and I think the image that Manuel submitted is a very good example of that. This is a really moody scene, which you know, he refers to, he sent us quite a bit of information. He chose it because there's a man standing right there in the center of the image that gives it a sense of our relative size inside nature and then he waxes on more poetically. He describes that he made it with a telephoto lens. I agree with everything he said here. You know, it's interesting as a landscape by itself, but anytime we can add a human element or small animal or something else that draws your eye into the distance, then you really add a sense of depth and that is what is happening here. It looks pretty grainy. Let's see if there's any information about the settings. Look how grainy it is. 750 at f4 at ISO 200. Normally, at ISO 200, you don't get a lot of digital noise, also known as grain. I'm not sure what Manuel may have done here. I personally like the effect of the grain here. It pushes it more towards a moody rendition rather than a literal capture of the landscape. Could we do anything else here to enhance the mood? Since it is a black and white, you know, a logical thing to explore is increasing the contrast, but I'm afraid that we might lose the mood there because the tonality really goes from dark gray towards light gray here. If we start increasing the contrast, we're beginning to move towards whites and blacks. Yeah, I don't like that too much. Now could we make it even lighter in the darker grays and might that kind of emphasize that human figure a little bit? Let's try it out. So what have you done here, Ross?
I brought the exposure down and I adjusted the blacks a little bit to make it a little richer.
So let's now and try and take it in the other direction. Let's kind of bring the blacks up. So in other words, we're losing the blacks and it becomes, you know, a higher key rendition of the image and that might add a little bit more emphasis to the person in the middle because that person's a little bit hidden. Yes, you have a question.
I wonder, what if we could add two graph filters? One on both bottom corners because there's already, with the grain, it already looks like, it's kind of rainy so and there's a lot of light and shadow coming from above towards down onto the person.
So you're suggesting bringing a graph filter in from the top.
One from the bottom corner, from the left bottom corner and then another from the other. So not just one, but two graph filters. Yeah, like that.
Okay I see that, yeah. So in other words, it's the same as vignetting.
Vignetting but just applied to the bottom. You like that better?
Now let's try to apply a little bit of vignetting to the top as well. I'm going to come a little bit closer to you here. So this is beginning to look a little bit artificial. We would have to feather in the vignetting more to make it believable but... I think there's quite a few possibilities here. What I might suggest is instead of vignetting the upper corners is just to apply a little bit of a graph filter from the top and then the lightest part of the image is going to be right here and any details that are in the top will be better revealed. Can you go back to what we just had a few seconds ago, Ross?
With the two vignettes?
No, with the graph filter. So I think we're seeing a little bit more depth in the image now. What do you think? Yeah.
I'm just curious if maybe that, if the photographer's listening, what effect they were trying to achieve with that because it's pretty obvious they added a lot of grain at that ISO 200 so I'm curious if they were trying to achieve a certain type of effect. Obviously they may not be listening, but just for you. What do you think?
Yeah, we haven't seen Manuel post right now, but we can go off of what was given in the original submission is really all we can gather.
But it is a good question because as I pointed out as well, at ISO 200, you normally don't see this kind of pronounced grain.
Manuel says he is listening. (audience laughs) Just a little bit of a delay there.
What did he says?
He says he's listening, but I'll jump in if Manuel gives us anymore commentary.
Alright, then it's interesting. From this really moody landscape made in kind of a little bit rainy, slightly snowy situation to the grandeur of the American West. You know, this image kind of steps into the great tradition of western landscape photography that was started in the 19th century by Carlton Watkins and then elevated to a level of artistry by Ansel Adams and all the photographers inspired by him. John Chico who made this image made it in Yosemite Valley which is one of the temples of landscape photography in the United States if not the world and he says it's one of his favorite spots so clearly he's been there before and I think the image shows that. You know, when you go to a famous landscape for the first time, you can't help but replicate what everybody else has done, right? You go to the overlooks and you indulge yourself in the amazing scenery. What I find so interesting about this image is that it doesn't dwell on half dome. It doesn't dwell on the gorgeous waterfalls. It's just an exquisite balancing of landscape elements and just like that previous image that was delivered to us by Daneev, this one too, has a composition that is so intricate that I can see four to six other compositions in this frame and that makes it possible to just kind of feast your eyes. You can go around and around. You can sample different portions of it. To the right, if we would slice this in two, to the right, you would have a very interesting composition and an equally interesting composition on the left. You could slice it into four pieces and each of the surviving four pieces would be adequate on their own as well. So let's see what else he says. He loves winter scenes and then he just goes on. Yosemite's a magical place. Well, I don't think anyone would argue with that, right? And this is picture perfect. The photographer clearly knew the place. He knew what he was after. It's exquisitely captured and executed. The only thing, I'm always thinking of ways in which we can enhance what is submitted to us. The only thing I could think of is to see what the effect is if we toned this black and white image a little bit. Let's see if we can bring it a little bit closer to the spirit of Carlton Watkins from the 19th century. What do you think? Now it's like a vision from the past. I see some of you nod. Now, John, you may like it better the way you captured it and that's fine. In fact, I like that as well, that really clean black and white. It really is a wonderful image. I hope you'll print it for your walls or for somebody else's walls. I know this spot. Alabama Hills in the east side of the Sierra Nevada. I see several of you here in the audience nod. There was a time when only a handful of photographers knew where this was, but times have changed. Photography's become so popular in this era of digital photography and GPS way points and publications that kind of share the knowledge that was once established by a handful of naturalists and explorers and photographers and now it's commonplace. So it's wonderful that so many more people now have a chance to experience the same thing, but here's the downside. It pushes every one of us to take the next step going from subject to interpretation and I mentioned that earlier, right? It's all about your personal point of view. So this is beautifully executed, but I would argue that the photographer found the subject, found a nice moment when the light was illuminating the peaks here and you're also getting reflected light on that arch. It's all beautifully done, beautifully composed, but it's a little bit generic and I would suggest that the most interesting aspect to this image is that peek-a-boo effect that comes from looking through the arch, right? So if you agree with me on that, then I would say let's zero in on that a little bit more because I think the foreground didn't really contribute as much to that one idea and that this is a better expression of it. See now the composition's becoming more dynamic. These lines are kind of really wrapping around really nicely and by eliminating the foreground, we got rid of a little bit of noise and now our eyes are going towards the distance. Yeah, you had a comment. (audience member speaks off microphone)
The way the streaks go right towards the sky.
Yeah, see that?
No, you've lost it by cropping it this much.
Oh, okay so thank you for pointing that out. So we can bring more definition in the sky, but if we go up a little bit, then we have both earth and sky. Is that your point? Okay, do you agree with cropping the foreground out?
Up to this point, yes. So I would say leave the bottom where it is and expand up to the upper right.
So go back a little bit?
Yeah, there you go. That looks good.
Okay. Let's try it out. So now... This looks a little bit over-exposed. So what we could do is express the sky a little bit better because there are some kind of really subtle feathering in the clouds and let's bring down the highlights on that first light 'cause it looks like, yeah, we're east of the Sierra so this is sunrise, right? Are we seeing more of what we're hoping to see now? Ross, what else can we do with the sky?
You haven't gone into this tool, but you can also go into a hue and saturation and bring out maybe some of the illuminance of that particular color to make it pop a little bit more.
Yeah so it's more of a surgical adjustment. Of course this is an image that you can spend a lot of time on at home because the adjustments are really subtle. Unfortunately we don't have that much time here so the simplest adjustment is let's start by darkening the exposure a little bit, see what happens here 'cause it looks a little bit bright on the rocks on the foreground. See now, our eyes are really lured into the arch and beyond to focus on the east side of the Sierras. Yes.
I know we can spend hours on this image, but one thing, I like the fact that we kept the lines going into the center. My challenge is now the mountain is smack in the middle of the frame and when we first cropped, there's almost like an exclamation point in that the end of the arch in the lower left.
And I just wondered what happens if we move it so there's, it's not so cut off or not so properly cut off.
That's a fair point. So what could we do?
I think that's pretty much what I was looking for.
Yeah you kind of want to see a little bit more of this kind of rock anchored.
Without the whole foreground.
Okay. That's fair, yeah. I like really graphic images. It's part of my signature so I often move towards kind of decisions that are more radical than what other people would apply. So it's good to have a conversation like this. So I don't know if Rob is tuned into us, but I'm curious what he would say about the adjustments we're making.
Nothing from Rob yet, but we did hear a little bit more from Manuel who did confirm that noise was added for effect in that image that we were at a little while ago and we also had John who had submitted the Yosemite shot and John says thanks for the kind words on my Yosemite shot. So good to have people following along while we critique.
Alright. So now for something different. Rosemary wrote that this is Niagra Falls at night and she says it's an amazing place. Totally agree with her on that and she says it's beautiful at night, especially with the colored light and that is what we're seeing here. As if the falls aren't enough, whoever's in charge there added flood lights. A little bit of green, a little bit of pink and so of course, as a visitor, as a photographer, you have to take that at face value. You can't just go and turn off the lights, but we can do that after the fact because I think this is such an amazing scene that it doesn't need the hues of pink and green that we're seeing here and the color has been added and you know, in Lightroom, we can switch off the color. So let's see what happens if we go from color to black and white. Very simple flip of a switch and now we're not distracted by the color anymore and now we're really looking at the shapes, you know, the lines, the textures. So I'm seeing some details here beyond the falls, the twinkling of lights. Of course, it's a very busy environment. It's not exactly a pristine scene. When we start looking a little bit more into the details, can you pull out some shadow details here? I'm seeing that the effects of, you know, a pretty radical suppression of highlights and I would suggest to the photographer that a, you want to be a little bit more careful with that. If you applied that kind of radical adjustment, kind of feather it out a little bit more because otherwise it looks more like spot work, right? But I think there's a better solution in this case 'cause even after the lights have been removed, the top part of the image is not that interesting to look at, you know? All the eye candy is down here so my response would be to crop the image all the way down from the top and in somewhere in here, and now that we brought up shadow detail, it's much better anchored along the bottom and now I really have relished everything I'm seeing here. We can play with enhancing the lights a little bit more. We can selectively darken the blacks a little bit more. That would really stretch the tonality or we could keep it more compressed in the gray tones. Let's try both ways. I'm going to look over Ross's shoulders here 'cause I get a higher resolution rendition of the image by looking at my laptop. So give us your opinion. Let's look at a high contrast rendition and let's look at a softer rendition. So. High contrast kind of mimics the effects of the lighting a little bit more. A softer rendition plays more and follows more of the idea of the flowing water here and the rocks covered by the snow. So it becomes very subjective. So now we've kind of softened it. That's really dreamy, isn't it? Now let's switch back to the high contrast rendition. What's your response? (audience members speak off microphone) Low contrast? Are we getting any responses in online? (Chris speaks off microphone)
Both the color and the black and white version. They're both quite different, but nothing yet on high contrast, low contrast. But yeah, it's a beautiful shot.
So let's switch back to the colored version one more time. I'm going to come up front. Yeah, in the high contrast rendition, this is beginning to look a little too radical for me. (audience chuckles) Ross, do you want to switch to the low contrast color version? Yeah, it's subjective. There's not one right solution. Personally, I like it better as a black and white then soften the contrast. I always try to ask myself the question. What is it that I'm looking at and what appeals to me in the situation? I try to get a dialogue going with myself and it's a very simple mental device that forces me to be more explicit. You know, we're all making these automatic decisions in photography. You happen to have a camera with a particular lens and you see something and you click. It's a visceral response, but I find that if you start thinking about why it is that you have such a visceral response, that you're getting a step closer to having a dialogue with yourself and having a dialogue with yourself and the subject. Graham Colts was in the, I hope I pronounce this right. He was in the Badlands in Canada and he entered a restricted area where there's lots of dinosaur evidence and he talks about the light and the frost and the impressions left by another member of his group and he was left at a feeling of something strange and a previous time. I think that shines through in the composition. We're seeing some footprints here. I don't know what's happening here. It looks like someone was dragging something, but yeah. Where's the eye candy? Where's the real eye candy in this image? What's your reaction? (audience member speaks off microphone) Here, the Badlands. I see several of you nod. Any other eye candy that somebody's latching onto?
The upper right, kind of in the middle where the sunlight hits the yes, right there.
Here, the effect of light in the distance. I agree with both those things. So there's a feeling of loneliness. There's a feeling of space and I find the foreground a little bit incidental to tell you the truth and there's not much happening here that relates to what we're seeing over there and if you want to do something with those footprints, what I would've done is I would've changed my orientation and I would've done more, something like this. I would've come down really low and enhance the footprints and I would've photographed in that direction 'cause that's clearly where the most interesting part of the scene is so I'm going to suggest something radical here. Let's get rid of the entire part of the image and let's also bring it down from the top a little bit because it's all about what's happening here in this bit. So if I referred back to Graham's remarks, I think we still retain the light and the frost. The only thing that we have cropped are the footprints by one of his companions, but I think it brought us much closer to the feeling of the landscape itself. Yes.
I like the, in the sand or in the frost, the lines that seem to mimic the lines on the mountains.
These lines here?
Seem to mimic the lines on the mountain.
Have we lost too many of them? Should we pull down just a hair?
You might pull down a little.
Okay, stop right here so now see those marks. So I think we're stepping into the scene a little bit more and now we can make some selective adjustments to reveal a little bit more detail here in the middle and I think the sky is dark enough as it is. Ross, a little bit. Now I'm seeing a flare here. That wasn't so noticeable at first. Yeah that's a technical detail. The sun is right there, but you know, with our brush tool, we can get rid of that very quickly. I like the color, weak color. Yes, question.
There's a halo now on the mountain.
Where do you see the halo?
Between the mountain and the sky, especially--
To the right?
Yeah. (audience members speak off microphone) Yeah, all along.
It's the effect of a masking. I see some digital artifact here as well, huh? So some work has been done in a way that becomes apparent when we start looking at the details. So. So a bit more caution in the processing would be good, but I wanted to do one more thing. Let's turn this into a black and white.
I'd lighten it a little bit.
Yeah? Let's try that.
As in brighter or darker?
So this would be a candidate for toning as well. So what do you think, Graham? Are we doing justice to your vision on the lower right? So we should tone that down or you want to change the crop a little altogether?
Yeah, my eyes want to go to the lower right now instead of to those nice mountains.
Okay, that's easily done. (audience laughs) So Lucia takes us to the Big Sur coast. There's actually a small town following the Big Sur coast called Lucia. She writes that she finds it peaceful and that her friends really like the image when they come and visit her. I love the Big Sur coast myself. I don't live that far away and it's not just peaceful. It's awesome. It's totally awesome and we are lucky to live it in a couple of hours and, but it's just like Yosemite or any of these other grandiose landscapes. You come there and if you've never been there before, you end up making images that are not that original and I'm not saying that this isn't original, but I see some heavy processing going on in here that enhanced the contrast. I would argue that Big Sur is a blending of sea and land and that there are two images here. There's one composition that I think we can enhance if we emphasize the land more and then there's another one where we can emphasize the sea more. So if we crop in from the right and we turn it into more of a square, something like that. We could come in a little bit more still. Something like this and this gets me a little bit closer to those hillsides. I wish that that road had been completely included in the composition 'cause now that curve looks a little bit incidental. But I think this is a more interesting composition than what was delivered to us. However if we go back to the original frame, I think we can also go in the other direction and kind of crop it in from the left. And now we're emphasizing the ocean. So Lucia, I think that you didn't create just one image. You created two so let us know what you think about it. Amy made this image over the Grand Canyon. We're going from one powerful landscape to the next. She took this from a helicopter after she went through the canyon in a raft and I want to make a couple of points about aerial photography and I don't know if she was shooting through a window in the helicopter. If that was the case, Amy you did really well and the trick in aerial photography is to overcome the reflections if you're shooting through windows and you know, there's a couple of tricks you can apply. One is to use a polarizer that can reduce some of the reflections. The other one is to apply a small hood that can, if you can put your camera through and then you eliminate all of the reflections. It's a little gizmo and we demonstrate that during our workshops. As it exists, the image, I think we can deal with some of the issues here. The highlights are looking a little bit too bright. I think the composition is beautiful, but I think we can restore the balance better between the highlights and the darker areas. So Ross, what do you think? (Ross speaks off microphone)
It does look a little flat, so we can probably add a little bit of contrast.
Another key in aerial photography is to keep your shutter speed up. Let's see how she did on that front. Do we have the settings?
Unfortunately not on this one.
Okay keep your shutter speed above 500th of a second. So let's move onto the next image. Antonio captured an impression of the fleeting light conditions over San Francisco Bay and that's where we are and gosh we've seen some fleeting light conditions today, right? So this is all about mood. This isn't very substantive. There isn't great subject. It's all about the light and you know, I can say we can reveal more details by applying that dehazing filter, but that would go against the mood of the image that Antonio tried to capitalize on. I'm not sure there is anything I would do to this image. I accept it pretty much as it is. You know, a couple of sailboats here in the lower left and another one there in that kind of highlight. We could kind of enhance the rays of sun a little bit as they're shining through. Maybe just kind of suppress the light in the lower left, in the upper left a little bit. There's almost no color so this could almost be expressed as a pure black and white, but I kind of like that limited light effect, that limited color effect, I should say. Alright, Mike. He was in Washington State and came across this little red house in the middle of the snow and I would say that is well-seen, but I'm a little bit bothered by these prominent branches here on the left and what's the essence of this image? It's a little red house in the middle of a snowy scene, right? That's the kind of dialogue that I told you about that I would build up with you know, of any subject. So if you like that concept, then I would say make it a bit more intimate. We crop down from the top and we crop down from the left. A little bit more. Let's keep the bottom anchored right where it is and now bring the whole thing down. And now it's more intimate. Scott. Scott likes how this image highlights the dance of the flowers in the prairie breeze in Indiana. He describes the flowers as free-thinking dancers, unconcerned with the observers. (audience chuckles) Yeah. He's a poet. He's a poet with a camera and I love this. This comes from applying a slow shutter speed. Let's see if that information was reported for us. During our workshops, I like to ask people to judge what kind of shutter speed is used, are used because there's a big difference between a 15th of a second, an eighth of a second, a quarter of a second and so on. So you want to play that game with me? What was his shutter speed here? Half a second. (audience member speaks off microphone) Ooh, smart, smart. Any other suggestions? 10th, 15th. Half a second. It all depends. I would say, unless the wind was blowing really hard, it was probably more towards a quarter of a second than a 10th of a second, but let's see if Scott can reveal his secret. Beautifully done. I really like that effect. The only thing that is less than perfect is that gap right in here and this flower head is just partially visible so what I would do is kind of crop a little bit from the top and then maintaining the same aspect ratio, we crop it in a little bit from the left as well. But other than that, I would say this is beautiful. Scott, dance on. (audience chuckles) Tom wrote that he made this panorama along a 17-mile drive in Pebble Beach in California. It was composed of five frames captured at 100 ISO and I think he did a beautiful job. How many of you have been in Pebble Beach? Virtually all of you. I guess we're the lucky ones. We live here, right? So I love panoramic photography and it's one of the things that is so much easier now thanks to the capabilities of Lightroom to stitch together panos in a seamless fashion. So you just do five overlapping frames and here's one key that I've learned from practicing panoramic photography. It is not so much about what you see in the foreground. It is what you see in the background. You start looking into the distance and the other thing that's important is if you want to look for how you bookend your image on the left and on the right. And I find that typically it takes me a couple of passes to swing from left to right or from right to left to you know determine where the best way to begin or to end my pano and Scott's done that really well. I think this strong mass is the bookend on the left and then he's got another Cypress there on the right. Beautifully done, Scott. Sorry, it was not Scott. It was Tom. Sorry about that, Tom. Chris went to Namibia and he found himself in Sossusvlei, which is a beautiful place. I went there on assignment for National Geographic so I had quite a bit of time to explore that place and I made an image that Chris Was also referring to. We call it Ghost Trees. It's become quite well-known and I played with the juxtaposition between those dead trees and you know, those enormous sand dunes in the background and Chris did the same thing. He said he was inspired by image and I can see why. So you have a clay pan at the bottom and these enormous dunes that are catching the first light. Chris, you did a great job with your composition. The light is fantastic there in the early morning. So look, I especially like what he did here, this peek-a-boo effect. You know, the trees that are framed by the other trees here, but the processing that happened after the effect in the trees, you know, you may want to have another look at this and dial back from that a little bit. Because if we start looking at it closely, it, you know, we're beginning to see some artifacts here. So I don't know exactly what you've done, but have another look because in a situation like this, you know, nature's done all the heavy lifting for you. You really don't need to do too much and the last thing you want to do is undermine what nature delivered to you in your own creative decision making by doing the kind of things that people then come to you and say was that real or did you do that in Photoshop? So sometimes subtlety gets you there. Penny was outside Prescott on Watson Lake and she was there by kayak and she was saying wow the whole time and then she made one more turn and then she sat there in her kayak for several minutes before she pulled out her camera. It was absolutely still water so the reflections were perfect and just as with some of the other landscapes that we've seen before, this is such an intricate composition that we can slice and dice this into subcompositions that survive equally well. So I could see something framed this way with those two trees as a point and a counterpoint. I could also see this sliced and presented as a square on the left, but my eyes are especially attracted to this area right here. If we, yes. So Ross is doing one particular crop. Let's lock this in for a minute. Now what we're doing is we're creating, you know, more of a sense of depth by going from this tree to that smaller tree in the background, but now let's pull to the left and now let's bring, yeah, let's try that. Now it's about symmetry, right? Then we can begin to play with enhancements in the sky. We can apply a dehazing. So it gets dramatic very quickly, but no we're losing a little bit of that transparency that was delivered to us by Penny. So in other words, there are many different possibilities here in this image. Penny, gotta work on it and create some subsets of your original composition. I couldn't pass this one up. I'm from Holland. (audience laughs) So what did I tell you when we started? Everything is subjective, right? This, you might say this is the Yosemite of the Netherlands, yeah? This is Windmill central. Bus loads of tours come there and it looks great in all kinds of weather, but what struck me is about this real moodiness in it. It rains a lot in Holland. It's kind of gray a good part of the year and for some photographers, that is a reason to stay inside but what Fritz did was he was out there and I really like that kind of that feeling of solitude, of openness. Normally we try to avoid putting our subject in the center but by putting the skyline in the middle, you know, we're emphasizing this feeling of symmetry and serenity. I like this image a lot. I wouldn't change a thing about it, Fritz. So and it reminds me that the next time I go back to Holland I should really pay another visit to Kinderdijk. (audience chuckles) We have one more image before we take a break. John made this image near Sag Harbor, which is in Long Island, right? Yeah? So, and he says he chose this image because it's what he likes to do in photography which is just to make people see an everyday thing in a different way. He liked how the rippling water made the foliage look more like water color painting than just a plain shot of the foliage and I agree. But I think we can take the next step. I'm going to refer one more time to, you know, my criteria going from a subject to a more personal interpretation. So we have a subject here. What is the subject? Is it light? I think that is part of what John was seeing. He was seeing that light ripple across the surface of the pond, but I think he was a little bit casual about the way he framed this. I think we're seeing a little bit too much and the essence of seeing is to leave out what you don't want to see. So I would suggest that the background isn't really relevant. I see a lot of eye candy in here and if he's referring to the painterly effect, then I'm thinking of Monet and I'm thinking of these impressions of small details with ponds and colors and light reflected in the water so while I'm talking, Ross is making the adjustments. He knows where I want to go. So now we are where we want to be. So the rest of the world doesn't matter anymore. You know, we've turned a very small literal situation into something which through the art of the Impressionist painters has been elevated to almost a universal way of looking at everyday situations. So there's some technical issues here. You could argue whether this was deliberate, this blurring on the left and whether that should be balanced by something that is equally blurred here on the left. I don't know. We only have the image to look at the way it was delivered to us. What I would do is soften the contrast a little bit, tone down those highlights a little bit. Because we want to get even closer to those colors here.
Go ahead, question.
Just for grins, maybe flip it upside down too. Yes. Just for grins, flip it upside down maybe too.
Flip it upside down. Yeah now we're getting really abstract, right? (audience chuckles) So I would do, so as soon as you're taking out horizons and external references, there's a lot of things that you can get away with because you're creating an abstraction. It becomes your universe. So what I would like to do here is warm the image a little bit 'cause the white balance is a little bit on the cool. The temperature's a little bit on the cool side. You know, this is an example too where we can apply saturation. What are we thinking? John, go back to that pond and this time, be a bit more deliberate in your decision-making too whether you want to create a blur in the foreground or whether it is really the reflections of the light and the vegetation in the water that you are after and then send us another image.