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IanC View Drop Down
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    Posted: 26 August 2020 at 17:21
I have joined my local photography club and would like to enter their next competition, which is 'Mono'. The club rules allow each member to enter up to three images. As we are holding virtual meetings the judging will be PDI (Projected Digital Images) only.

I have selected 3 pictures from my archives and converted them to black and white using Paint Shop Pro.

Having never entered a competition before, nor have I seriously done any black and white photography (at least not since my film days) I would appreciate honest feedback and criticism on any or all of the three pictures below.


DSC02099 by Ian Chapman, on Flickr


Roof Tops by Ian Chapman, on Flickr


Swans by Ian Chapman, on Flickr

Thank you for taking the time to look at my efforts.
 



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Basil View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Basil Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 August 2020 at 17:26
Of the three, I think the last one has the strongest impact. I'm not familiar with Paint shop Pro or it's capabilities, but if it were my picture, I would try to darken the bodies of the swans a little to see if the lost detail could be recovered.

Good luck on the contest!
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Post Options Post Options   Quote addy landzaat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 August 2020 at 18:01
How did you do the B&W conversion? What I like about PSP is that you can use colourfilters to make the right parts of the picture pop.

Are there any rules? I would crop the bottom third of #2.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Fred_S Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 August 2020 at 20:13
Hi Ian, I agree with Basil about #3 with the strongest impact and was about to say the same about #1 as Addy said about #2.
There is not much happening in the water IMHO. A 16-9 frame ratio might work here to put more emphasis on the buildings which are full of nice contrast and detail with a good skye in the background. In the end though, it is your work and submission obviously.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote pegelli Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 August 2020 at 20:21
Ian, I think the 1st and 3rd are the strongest. The first because of the mood created by the sky and very crisp buildings at the waterline and third for the misty/dreamy mood. The second has neither of those impacts and is a bit busy for my taste.

I agree with Basil that maybe darkening or incraesing local contrast in the swans might work well, also the sky could be a tad darkened as it now can pull the viewer up in the image and you want them to look at the swans. Maybe a slight gradient from the top can "close" the photo on that side.

And for the first I find the body of water too large and dominating, maybe cropping some from the bottom (without cropping from the sides, so getting more of a panorama feeling) will balance the water more vs. the buildings and the sky.

Good luck and let us know how it all turns out.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote skm.sa100 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 August 2020 at 23:34
Ian, yet another vote for #3 as well. Perhaps you can recover highlights in that shot to get some details on the swans.

#2 isn't a strong image for me, sorry.

#1 has very crisp buildings and nice clouds but the foreground (water) lacks an object of interest. Typically here's where one would choose a boat, birds, rock etc to add an element of interest. Perhaps you could also increase contrast in the water. Or maybe crop out some of the water as well as the clouds so you end up with a wider image. Depends on the aspect ratio recommendations that the club has in place.

If you are new to B&W, perhaps you could pick up a book about that or read up a few online articles about what kind of pics work best for B&W converstion. Or YouTube videos, though I personally prefer reading over watching. You could go thru your library to see what would work for B&W.

Also you could spend some time in going thru the greyscale thread that we have to see which of those pics appeal to you and why.

That'll help in improving your eye in terms of greyscale and also help you shortlist a few pics. Convert them to B&W, present them here and solicit feedback again. You could use that to further cull to 3 pics. That might help in putting your best foot forward in terms of competition images.

I feel that would be a good learning experience, especially if you have a few days to go before the deadline.

Good luck and hope you have some fun!
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Post Options Post Options   Quote owenn01 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 August 2020 at 10:17
Hi Ian,

All good information above!

I think the three images, as a 'first time entrant' will be interesting for you to see how such shots are viewed and judged against other (more experienced Club) photographers. My experience of Club photography and competitions is that they can be somewhat formulaic in nature and you will quickly spot trends and tweaks that people add to fit into those. Examples: Vignette - simple (and hopefully subtle) darkening of the image corners to 'draw the eye to the centre of the image'; I'm not a great lover of this but it seems to work for some people. Highlights - judges tend to be quite critical of highlights in images as they 'draw the eye'. An example of this may be the bright, white framework in the bottom right of image 2. You may want to try and just tone that down a fraction as it would be seen as drawing the eye out of the frame?

Overall, thay are good first time shots for a competition that you have never experienced before and, of the three, then the third is possibly the strongest in terms of composition, though the whites of the birds could do with toning down and some detail recovered if that is possible (try working on the colour file first before converting - you may have more scope in that to recover the details before going to the mono version).

The first is a really lovely shot - the buildings are crisp, detailed and have lots of interest. I would crop the bottom off it to just below the second dark 'wave' up from the bottom on the RHS; that would act as a nice little detail and 'full stop' almost to the shot. The white line in the water from a boats wake adds a nice trail to the image and the water then becomes no more than a third of the image space - it rebalances the image and adds a great contrast to that heavy sky which is perfect (for me anyway!).

The second, if I am honest, is the weakest of the three. Why? It's because of that big gap in the middle of the frame. I can see why you took the image in the first place - lots of detail etc., but with those two dominant towers either side of the image, the eye doesn't know which one to rest upon in the image space and having nothing in the centre means you subconsciously don't spend any real quality time in that area which is a shame as it has some nice building details etc. You could crop from the RHS to make a more square shaped image (don't always adhere to the 'typical' framing conventions BTW - be dynamic! Something unusual may grab the Judge's eye and gain an extra point....). Try putting a piece of card over the image on the monitor (or on here as I did) and just move it over to the left until it just obscurers that white framework mentioned above and the tall tower - it makes the LH tower the focal point and the rest of the image more interesting for the eye to wander around. There is a smaller church tower on the lower skyline which stops the eye from wandering off the edge of the image so you still have a 'full stop' to the shot there, but it doesn't dominate and compete to the same degree as you have here at the moment. Shame about the street lights but they are what they are and I couldn't see a way of removing them without compressing the image completely.

I hope the above is seen as constructive and useful - and, please, don't take what the Judges say too seriously; it is purely their opinion on the night and a very personal one with all their own influences of what they like and don't in an image. Don't ever get into the game of entering images to suit a particular judge's interest or style - there lies destroying your own creativity and inspiration!

Good luck and, please, let us know how you get on!

Best regards, Neil.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote IanC Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 August 2020 at 15:00
Thank you Basil, Addy, Fred, Pegelli, Sashi and Neil.

Your feedback is appreciated, very welcome and incredibly useful.

Basil, Paintshop Pro is the poor man's Photoshop. I grew up with it many years ago and am fairly comfortable with it so I'm reluctant to start learning a new system. I've had a look at the RAW file and there doesn't appear to be any detail in the swan's bodies so not sure if further work PP will enhance them. The histogram doesn't show any blown highlights. A task for this weekend when I'll have a little more time on my hands hopefully.

Addy, for #1 & #2 I selected the Black and white option in the drop down menu, tweaked the image with a little tone mapping and gentle sharpening. #3 is a straight black and white conversion from the effects menu. I thought the detail in the bottom 1/3rd made up for the lack of detail in the sky?

Fred, Excellent points about image #1. See my revision below. I've adopted the 16-9 frame, moved the iconic Liver building centrally as it is a landmark building and reduced the amount of water. I think the Cathedral to the right of the liver building needs lightening a little still?

Pegelli, Image #3 is arty IMO and whilst I agree with everyone here that it's a good image I'm not sure how to bring out detail in the swans that's apparently missing. Interestingly of the three here which all appear on my Flick photostream #3 has had the least views. I considered a panoramic view for #1, but taking the earlier comments into consideration and my thoughts that they might distract from the Liver building I went for the edit below. I haven't ruled out a panorama yet though! No 2 is the most popular of the three images on Flickr!

Sashi, As above I'll see if I can improve on the swan's details, but that may prove challenging for my PP skills! However one of the reasons I'm here and entering the competition is to improve so I'll have a go and see what I can do. I've also reworked #1, which is below taking on board all the comments. I have another shot with a boat featured, but I felt it distracted too much from the Liver building which was meant to be the main subject. I have just bought Michael Freeman's book on Mono Photography. My competition deadline is 15th September, but as I am busy presently with family and work the book was intended to be some of my winter reading material. The competition has come a little bit too early for me to implement much learning from books and the greyscale thread into my pictures.

Neil, Thanks for the comprehensive and succinct reply. Hopefully the edit below for #1 is more in line with your thoughts? Part of my reasoning for including number #2 is that it is my local club so a local image might do well if it is a local judge? As mentioned of the three this has the most views on Flickr. My main criticism of the image is the lack of detail in the sky, although it was taken on a hazy day. If I have time I may go back and re-shoot it with the competition in mind to see if there are better views. I can't move the two towers closer unfortunately but as it is taken from the top floor of a multi storey car park I may get a better shot from a lower floor. I think your point about the gap between the two towers is very valid. As for judging, you are right. There will be one judge so it is likely to be subjective. Knowing my luck the judge will be a sports photographer and my pictures will not be to his personal preference. I agree 100% about not trying to shoot in the judge's own style just to win. I'm more interested in developing myself as a photographer within the limits of my equipment.

The comments have given me much food for thought. I will probably stick with the three I've selected. It will be interesting to see if the judge's comments. Thank you to everyone who has take the time to look and comment.

Enough from me. Here is my reworked version of #1


DSC02099 edited by Ian Chapman, on Flickr
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Basil View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Basil Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 August 2020 at 17:08
Ian,

I like the rework of #1. Thanks for posting it.

If Paintshop Pro has a doge/burn tool, that may help on the swans. Adding a little burn to the bright white may tone down the harshness. You might not get any detail if none is there, but it will help it be less of a distraction.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote owenn01 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 August 2020 at 17:25
Hi Ian,

Much improved on #1 - the loss of the expanse of water hasn't harmed the image at all and the cropping of the buildings at either side work out nicely here.

Good luck in the competition and let us know how you get on!

Best regards, Neil.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote skm.sa100 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 August 2020 at 21:20
I've never used PaintShop Pro so have no idea of its capabilities.

I do recommend DarkTable. It's a free/open source product with a rather intuitive user interface and easy to work with. Almost all the tools in this product work based on sliders and hence easy to learn/operate. Rawtherapee is similar. They're both RAW editors that also work well as JPG editors.

Other option is Gimp. A rather powerful tool with a strong learning curve, but simple tasks are simple. Use the Nik suite of filters with this and your pics will improve drastically.

Sashi
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Post Options Post Options   Quote angora Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 August 2020 at 09:29

my 2 cents? (for what it's worth? ;)). reading some very valuable advice here.
what I'd like to add is that it's a fact that people tend to have preferences, and judges too. ;) you'll see many examples of that on Dyxum with any presented set of equally strong images.
what strikes me though is that you say that the judge will be a sports photographer. (I read that he is a photographer, thus familiar with photography? ;-)).
however, the people that responded to your Q happen to be seasoned photographers and they all agree #2 is the weakest of the 3.
and Neil explained exactly why!
despite its popularity on Flickr... I think I can see why you obv. haven't ruled it out (yet? ;-)). I actually like it too, the buildings are very attractive. but... pls try to look at it from our PointOfView? bet your eyes will go from the tower on the left to the tower on the right. and vise versa. because you actually managed to create a very strong composition here, that forces the eyes to go directly to an 'empty' center, or the 'big gap' as Neil calls it. see it?
it doesn't 'work', because it makes the eyes wander. which is obv. the only way to view it.

I like the improved #1, much better! (because it simply showed too much Mersey, a river without interesting patterns, lines or anything surfacing. i.e. without anything to draw the eye).

you said you moved the building centrally... an improvement indeed! in this case. makes me wonder though to what extent you are familiar with the rules of composition? called 'rules' (are meant to be broken? ;-)), because they 'work'. not just for painters, photographers, they work for everyone. for every viewer you'd like to present your pics to. the only difference is that photogs know precisely why they work and how to apply them.
if I were you, I would go over the old dreaded rules of composition. the leading lines, framing, focal points, foreground interest, the rule of 3rds, the golden ratio and so on? and on. forgive me if you're already quite familiar with those, but going over them again never harmed anyone. yet?
and Dyxum could be a great help. viewing great pics, wondering what makes them great? you'll find masters of composition here!

great suggestions from Basil and Sashi! dodge and burn! made Ansel Adams famous!
not familiar with PSP (easy in PS, don't forget to set the new -non invasive- layer to 50% grey).
and the Nik suite! is free -and outdated ;) -. contains Silver Efex for b&w conversions. but most important are the 'control points' that will allow you to make local adjustments, based on colour(s). or to brush them in.
both will add drama to that sky, etcetera.

best of luck! hope you'll keep us posted!
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Post Options Post Options   Quote IanC Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 August 2020 at 16:06
Thank you Basil, Neil Sashi and Angora for your further input.

I accept that no #2 is the weakest image of the three presented. (It's now historic as the tower on the right has since been demolished!) My plan is to re-shoot the image so I can't include both towers even if I wanted too! When I photographed it I used an A200 and a Minolta lens. It was a hazy day too. I'll be using my A77 and a G lens this time. I'll take several pictures from different angles and perspectives.

#1 I'm reasonably happy with.

I can dodge and burn in Paint Shop Pro so I'll see if that improves #3. Paint Shop Pro can do almost everything Photoshop can do, probably not quite as well or easily, but it's a fraction of the price. I have had a go with Gimp, but I wasn't overly impressed. The learning curve did put me off a little!

I don't know what the judge's background is. I am assuming he/she is a photographer, but I don't know what genre. The point I was trying to make was no matter how good the entries are if they don't appeal because of the judge's own interest they may not do well.

I agree many great pictures follow the rules of composition. I've heard of most of the rules, but up to now I've tended to take pictures "for the record" or simply to please me. My reasons for joining this forum. and my local club is to improve. The comments I've already received have been useful and invaluable.

Regardless of how well I do, I'll post the final images I submit and report on how well, or badly, I get on.

Ian

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Post Options Post Options   Quote owenn01 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 August 2020 at 09:19
Originally posted by IanC IanC wrote:

I don't know what the judge's background is. I am assuming he/she is a photographer, but I don't know what genre. The point I was trying to make was no matter how good the entries are if they don't appeal because of the judge's own interest they may not do well.
Ian


Hi Ian,

By way of defending Club Judges, if the Club has selected then from a local or Regional accredited list then they will be up to a particular standard - by that, I mean they should not show any great degree of individual bias (though it is human nature to like what one specialises In I guess) and will demonstrate a good grasp of photographic standards and skills etc. They usually tend to also have some RPS Accreditation as well. You shouldn't worry too much about this for the moment! I did think of trying to become one myself but the amount tf time needed to train; show you are of a 'standard' and then get out to Clubs that need you wasn't compatible with working for a living!

Good luck and best regards, Neil.
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