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Old 8th July 2012
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Re: The Drystone Walls of Pine Hut Road.

Originally Posted by Cathrine Spikkerud View Post
Hi, Lyn! Since you've posted these in the looking for improvement section, and it's a place you visit often, I'll focus on improvement points, as these are very nice images which deserve comments.

First of all, I see you say you've used a compact, the C-760? This limits some of the options you would have for making the most out of a daylight landscape photo. You have a lot of very bright light in Oz (I bet your winters are twice as bright as our summers ) although I've only been Down Under in November, March and April...

Next time, bring the E520 and that super landscape lens, the SWD 12-60 and a tripod if you have or can borrow one. That lens is great for landscapes. I hope my screen is still well calibrated, but I am commenting on what I'm seeing on the screen, so you need to take my comments with that in mind! I would like to see a bit more depth in the colour tones in the images, they lack a bit of saturation and contrast. This can be done in post-processing, by using the levels or curves tools. What I would do on a landscape shoot is use filtering of the light and shooting RAW. I see the C-760 can shoot in TIFF format, uncompressed, this would also give you some more options for post-processing improvement than just JPEGs. I have stopped taking JPEGs althogether. A polariser is great for bright sunny days, it brings out the colours better, and does wonders for clouds. In conditions where highlights are blown in the clouds, I use a graduated neutral density (ND) filter to make the camera see the landscape more like our eyes do, often in combination with the polariser.

The beauty of photographing in RAW (E520) is that in the RAW converter, you can add a graduated filter in the processing. I very rarely do anything in Photoshop anymore, if I need to adjust the exposure because the conditions in the field were outside the capabilities of the equipment I brought, I adjust in the RAW converter. In the field I expose to the right, and bring it down later if necessary, then I lose as little as possible.

But - for the images you have here, I would add a bit more saturation, and bring out the tones a bit more in the program you have. Most programs will have a function for this. I have had a play with them i Photoshop, and adding a warming filter (10 %) gave them a nice tone without being too artificial, I also deepened the tones using the curves tool.

Composition and perspective, first photo. This scene has a lot of potential and I think you've got a lot of things right. You have a line formed by the wall, and the horizon nicely on the upper 1/3 of the image. But the dry wall leading line leads to a tree that is partly cropped, which disturbes the composition. Suggestion for a slight different positioning and composition would be to stand in the same place, but frame the scene by aiming the camera a bit down (very little - just to give the wall more drama) and to the right, to include the whole tree. There seems to be a bit of branch in the far right of the image, indicating that there is another tree there. To leave this one out and get a clear view of the tree we want whole, you could move a bit closer to the wall if possible. This might also make the leading line stronger and give a more dramatic perspective if you use 12 mm and get the closest stones bigger. You could even try standing on the wall for a different view. I've played with it to indicate what I mean. As you can see, to get this without visiting Lyn and taking the image, I used content-aware fill in Photoshop and some rather quick and dirty cloning to make a sketch of the composition. I've also added a 10 % warming filter and deepened the tones using the curves tool. Just a bit, it's a daylight photo and you don't want an artificial storm...

In the second image, the same tips for exposure and post-processing, including increasing the saturation a bit. The composition has a lot of elements and you need to decide on what are the main elements and what are the supporting ones. The tree to the left is a bit disturbing to me. If it had been in front of the wall you could have used it as a natural frame for the sheep somehow, but I'm not too sure. Experiment!

One option you could experiment with is to skip the tree and focus on the other elements: Wall, hills and sheep. Maybe you could move away from the wall a bit and frame them with a short telelens or the 60 mm. (OK, maybe bring that 75-300 mm and a tripod). Full depth of field! Using a telelens and shooting from a distance is sometimes a nice effect in scenes like this where you want to bring hills in the background closer (compressing). This of course depends on whether there is a raging bull in the field where you have to stand moving away from the wall This calls for another day out in that favourite scene.

Another suggestion involves just simply cropping away a bit of the sky and the grass in front of the wall to simplify a bit. You could stand a bit higher if possible to lose more sky and gain more field with the sheep. In this crop I've included the tree, because now we've lost two unnecessary elements, the grass and most of a blown-out sky.

In the last one, I really like the odd stone out! I would give it more focus by moving closer to it and making it stand out. I've cropped your image to illustrate what I mean, also, deepened the tones in Curves, added 10 % saturation for a bit more drama and a warming filter (20 %).

The warming filter illustrates what you could get with a warmer evening light, I guess. You'd just have to get out a bottle of wine and wait a bit... It's the Barossa Valley, right??

Anyway, just some suggestions from me.
Hi Cathrine! Thank you very, very much for such a great cc. You have addressed so many of the thoughts and doubts that I had when doing the photos, and thank you for taking the time. I am sure your comments will help others as well as me.
Photo 1 - I hadn't picked up on the leading line going to that tree at all, so simple when you pointed it out.
Photo 2 - I should have thought of using the 70-300mm to bring the hills closer, and will try and remember this for next time. I see what you mean about the many elements, and like what you did by keeping the dead tree branch in.
Photo 3 - This was my favourite shot and it is great what your crop has done.
I wanted to make that odd stone the star, and it is amazing what lowering the sky with a crop has done.
I tried some closeups of the walls, but dismissed them all as in the end they just looked like a heap of rocks!
I have never shot in RAW, but will give it a go.
I always seem to err with the saturation, so will be bolder!
You made so many good points and I appreciate it. I find landscapes very daunting, but we love to travel, so I am determined to get better at it.

Your final idea about a nice bottle of Barossa Red sipped on the top of the range sounds pretty good to me! Could guarantee some OOF shots though!

Thanks again Catherine.
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