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: 996
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: 8324
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.

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: 17905
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: 443
Country: United States

I like this one with a little burning and dodging.

Registered: Dec 17, 2002
Total Posts: 1406
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: 148
Country: United States

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