What would you do differently

Bill Ley
Registered: Oct 04, 2005
Total Posts: 173
Country: United States

I recently bought a new Canon 5Dmkii as an upgrade to my Rebel XT. I went out the other day in hopes of learning more about the camera and of course I was a little intimidated by it. It appears I still have lots of reading and experimentation to do. I also just bought Lightroom 3 (the $99 BF deal) and as with the camera, I have a lot to learn about this program. Right now, there really is no PP on these, and I'm hoping for some criticism on camera settings and composition and maybe what I should and shouldn't do in the future

I really would like to get into landscape photography, so what would you have done differently in these photos? Should I have composed them differently? I thought the waterfall should be the center, but looking at them now I'm not sure. I tried different crops, but these shots are uncropped. This was an overcast day, and I was really hoping to have the sky a little bluer. Can this be accomplished with Lightroom?

Registered: Nov 09, 2005
Total Posts: 994
Country: United States

I don't think there is much wrong with them, might try a lower perspective though? slower shutter w/polerizer?

Registered: Aug 05, 2008
Total Posts: 8290
Country: New Zealand

What to do is a rather open-ended question and with a wonky thumb I will need to be brief. Notice that in the second the water looks better? The slower shutter speed allows the running water to motion blur. The effect would have been greater if you'd used a lower ISO and shutter speed. A lower ISO would also maximize potential image quality. I would also suggest sharpening for the size to be displayed. For this forum, I'd suggest 800 pixels on the longest dimension so that we can better examine the image/s.

In terms of composition, sometime a center position is effective. Sometimes composition works better with water flow positioned differently. Rules have a reason, but they can also lead to boring. If you shot with a wider view we could possibly suggest and illustrate alternate crops.

Registered: Feb 02, 2009
Total Posts: 16987
Country: United States

Well, you probably couldn't have chosen a more challenging scene to start with.

The dynamic range (brightest area vs. darkest area) of this scene ranges from the sky to the deep shadows in the canopy and stream.

It is a mixed lighting scene for WB in that part of scene is illuminated from only the reflected light of the overhead sky (one color) and other parts of the scene illuminated from sunlight at a different angle (a different color) and some areas where they mix together (creating a third color).

Additionally, the significant amount of green being reflected off the subject adds another element of reflected light color.

With all that going on, it is really not possible for a single image to get it all right as you saw it / remember it. The camera (or you) are going to have to make some decisions as to what areas of the scene to favor ... and what areas to 'let go'. In the case of your sky, it is basically overexposed as a result of getting more exposure in your darker areas, which in this case is probably the better choice since the sky makes up very little of the scene. That's why you sky isn't blue like you saw it.

Our eyes/brain have adaptive capability that is far beyond what the camera can capture. So while we can see (and enjoy) such dynamic range in person, the camera just isn't up to the task. That being said, you've done a nice job of capturing it working within the limitations of the camera. Also, our eyes/brain makes adaptive accommodation for the different colors of mixed lighting that is present. The camera again can't make such selective adjustments within a given scene.

So, to that end, we have to turn to alternate methods of dealing with it ... i.e. PP, filters, lighting, multiple exposures etc. I've tried my hand at some PP to deal with various aspects ... not to suggest my tweaks are right, but to show that changes can be made in PP.

I colored the sky, just to show a rough idea of what you might have seen in person, as well as trying to get the water balance closer to white and remove the purple cast around it. Again, these aren't anything that you've done wrong, per se ... it is just a fact of nature in this kind of mixed lighting. Very challenging to say the least. I didn't go over it really well, but hopefully you can see some of the variation.

Compositionally, I might have considered shooting the first one in a portrait/vertical orientation and the second one I might have shifted my perspective so that the stream is off center to the left ... I find the lines on the right more interesting, so I'd include them a bit more.

Welcome to the wonderful world of landscapes ... they can be very challenging, but you are off to a good start.

Bill Ley
Registered: Oct 04, 2005
Total Posts: 173
Country: United States

Thanks for the tips. I know one thing I need to do is make sure of my camera settings before each shot. Just before this shot I went to 1000 ISO to try to get a shot onto a 'cave' between two huge boulders, and of course forgot to check that when taking this shot. I need patience I guess no patience and trying to learn all of the settings on this new camera will take some time to get some decent shots

I tried making some adjustments in Lightroom, but like I said, I'm just now trying to learn how to use it. I've only had it a few days. I guess I should start with some less complicated scenes. I just liked this when I came upon it, and it didn't turn out as good in the photos as I hoped.

Registered: Feb 02, 2009
Total Posts: 16987
Country: United States

One nice thing about digital is that as you learn to get better with processing, you can revisit some of your earlier work and try again, and again, and again

As to the ISO 1000 "ooops" we've all done that and worse. When dealing with complex gear, I've found that using manual settings can be refreshingly simple ... food for thought.

Registered: Nov 18, 2002
Total Posts: 9376
Country: United States

I compose shots I take and edit by first identifying the focal point in the shot which is the "punchline" at the end of the story where I want the eye of the viewer to come to rest initially and keep coming back to. A key factor in that eye movement dynamic is contrast. What contrasts most tone, color, sharpness, relative size, etc. will tend to demand more attention from the viewer.

After identifying my focal point I zoom in tight on it, literally, mentally, or by create a frame with my fingers and slowly expand the frame, moving the focal point around in it. I'll try the four "thirds" nodes, centered top, centered bottom. One of those six compositional "sweet" spots usually work. If not it's a clue the final result probably will not be very good. There are exceptions, but landscape shots usually look more balanced when they are either 2/3 foreground and 1/3 sky or the opposite because it provides a clue to the viewer which is the more important content they should go look at. Also in a landscape the eye will seek out details, searching for the answer of what was so interesting that you stopped to take the shot. That's why it helps to have a destination in mine for them before raising camera to eye.

The logical focal point for your shot is the the origin of the waterfall. It contrasts well but the problem is the sky contrasts even more as the crop expands upward. But how important it the sky to the overall story in this shot of the waterfall. Not much I think. So the simplest solution is to crop it out. You might not be able to do that at capture but you are not constrained by the 3:2 proportions of the camera...


Cropping down and eliminating the sky gives it a more panoramic feeling and but to my eye gave it an unbalanced look because their is a lot of detail on the right side of the creek but a big boring rock on the left. Again the simplest way to eliminate boredom / distractions is to edit it out with the crop...


In addition to the crop I did some tonal adjustments, keeping them as simple as possible:

1) Opening the image in Levels I moved the middle slider right, lightening all the midtones

2) Then I burned the edges of the frame to darken then back to where they were.

The net effect is to make the central focal point areas of the photo lighter. That's actually closer to how you would typically see the scene than the camera records because in person the pupils of the eyes dilate when concentrating on detail hidden in shadows.

Another difference in seeing by eye and what the camera captures is that the brain filters what the eyes are seeing, "tunneling" in its concentration on a very narrow 2 arc in the center of vision and tuning out the rest until something on the edges which moves or contrasts some other way attracts attention. That "tunneling" of concentration can be mimicked in PP by blurring the edges or any content in the photo you want the viewer to pass over en route to the more important things you keep sharp. Below I re-visited the first crop but blurred the boring right side, left edge and top to send a subliminal clue to the viewer to pass over it. I've exaggerated it here more than I normally would so it is easier to see.


The final perceptual tricks are the rule, sampled from the leaves, and black mat. In photos we are conditioned to equate tone with shadow detail. Surrounding a dark background shot with a 0,0,0 black border will make the shadows of the photo, by comparison, seem like they have more detail because they are lighting. This is due the way our brains adapt on the fly to contrast and color balance. The color of the rule sends a subliminal clue that color is somehow important, which triggers the brain to look for and notice it more.

The entire photographic process is just a combination of perceptual magic tricks starting with the "big con" of convincing the viewer the 2D photo is a real 3D scene. Magic works by knowing what the audience expects to see then using that knowledge to manipulate what they notice. Taking the photo is like the empty hat seen at at the beginning. Post processing is where the hat gets switched and the white bunny jumps out. Here it's a white waterfall.

Registered: Mar 16, 2008
Total Posts: 441
Country: United States

I like this one with a little burning and dodging.

Registered: Dec 17, 2002
Total Posts: 1403
Country: United States


I very much like the rework of cg in this third picture. Nicely done and explained.

tom lozinski
Registered: Jul 14, 2011
Total Posts: 137
Country: United States

Good suggestions above, the one thing that this really screams for though is some ND grad filtration.