After-Before Friday Forum — Week 21

The After-Before Friday Forum, sponsored by Stacy Fischer of VisualVenturing is an opportunity for photographers to exchange ideas on various post-processing techniques they use to achieve their creative vision. After all, when the shutter closes, there is still work to be done.  All of the submissions can be found at  the Forum Week 21 posting here.  Anyone can participate and the guidelines can be found in Stacy’s Forum post each week.

My submission this week was taken a few years ago at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, DC.  The cherry blossoms had peaked a day or so before and a night rain had knocked a lot of petals off the blossoms giving the appearance of a pink snow flurry.  I was fortunate in that no one had yet walked through the petals.  When photographing cherry blossoms in low light, I always use an on-camera flash to provide some fill light.  Just a touch is all that’s needed so I typically dial the flash back 2 or 3 stops.  In addition, I use a magenta gel filter on the flash so the white light doesn’t blow out the color of the petals.  (Technical data: Nikon D700 on tripod with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens extended to 24mm; exposure: 3 sec. @ f/16, ISO 800) This produced the RAW file shown below.

Robin Kent Before  Week 21 FDR 01

Original RAW Image

The exposure was OK with the cherry blossoms, the twilight blue of the sky, and the display wall.  The chief problem areas are: the overly hot flood light (upper center) and the uplights along the base of the wall; the underexposed pillars; and the foreground with the pink petals.  The image was opened in Adobe Camera RAW as the first step.

 Robin Kent Before  Week 21 FDR 02Adobe Camera RAW Adjustments

Only four changes were needed here (red arrows). The “Highlights adjustment was moved to -53 to tone down the hotspots in the lights. The “Shadows” adjustment was maxed out to +100 to open up the dark areas which helped improve the pillars. Some “Clarity” was added (+26) and just a smidgen (+13)  with the “Vibrance” slider.  The image is well saturated already and doesn’t need much more.

This was followed by moving the image into Photoshop (see image below). The first step  involved the pillars.  The underexposed sections were selected (red lines) and a Curves

Robin Kent Before  Week 21 FDR 03

First Curves Adjustment for Pillars

Adjustment Layer (blue arrow) was opened.  It required a fairly push  up with the curve to get the desired detail.  The blend mode was left in the default position of Normal.The final step was to brighten up the foreground a bit.  The pink are was selected (red line in the image below) and a second Curves Adjustment was made (blue arrow).  The blend mode

Robin Kent Before  Week 21 FDR 04

Second Curves Adjustment for Foreground

was left at Normal again and only a modest push was made to the Curve.   This produced the final image which is shown below.

Robin Kent After Week 21 FDR 01

Final Image

Once again, many thanks to Stacy Fischer for keeping this Forum up and running.  Please check out the submissions by the other participants at her post for Week 21 here.  And stay tuned for a special edition coming soon that is based on a suggestion from one of the participants.

26 thoughts on “After-Before Friday Forum — Week 21

  1. Definitely you did a nice job on the blossom and background, as well as in the wall Robin. Though, for me, the greatest effect is on that cherry blossom carpet in the foreground floor; beautiful!
    Even so, I have a reservation with the process on the pillars. And this has nothing to do with the edition process but with appreciations on the image reading. Ok, you’ve gotten many details in them, since it was a very dark area, but having the main (or the only one) and evident source of light coming from the back, it looks kind of fake that pillars face so illuminated. Do you get my point?

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    • Thanks very much for the thoughtful comments, Jaime. I do see your point. You are correct that the main light seen in the photograph is coming from behind the pillars, and while there was a secondary light source (the flash on my camera), one doesn’t want to make that obvious in the final result. So the question comes down to this: what did the camera see vs. what did the human eye see? And here you will have to trust the photographer. As you know, there might have been other sources of light that are not in the range of the camera lens. and if there were they would have provided the equivalent of fill light on the pillars that would would make them more visible when the human eye looked at them. My eyes could see more detail on that pillar than what the camera produced in the original RAW image. You raise a long debated issue, namely what are the ethics of manipulating the results of what the camera delivered? Should the photographer reproduce what she or he saw/felt? Or should he/she make no changes in what the camera decided should be seen?

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      • Good pint Robin, I like that of trusting on the photographer because, in fact, we need to! Precisely, that’s the basement of my approach. It’s not about ethic (we’ve had previous agreements on that), it is about making the image believable. I really enjoy having this opinions exchanging, they are much more enriching and effective than simply likes and good jobs!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, Jaime. Great points you made in the comment above. That is one of the best parts about Stacy’s ABFriday–there is an excellent exchange of ideas and comments among the participants and readers.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Adjusting the foreground and the pillars in my opinion is need compositionally to draw the viewer’s eye in; the blossom forces the eye down and the highlighting up to the middle. Great work and an interesting idea for a picture.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful image Robin. Bringing out the foreground has really helped frame the shot, with the petals on the ground mirroring the blossom on the tree. I can’t decide whether I prefer the pillars to be darker thus creating more contrast or lighter providing more detail. I can say that looking at them individually, I think they both work.

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  4. Thank you very much for your comments. It has been very interesting to see the different interpretations of this image. As I mentioned in one of my replies to Jaime above, this forum has been really good in provoking good discussions about interpreting an image.

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  5. I just love the exchange going on here, Robin. Jaime always asks thought-provoking questions! Personally, I love the illuminated pillars and the glow the “added” light adds to the middle of the image. As Ben said, the it pulls the viewer into the photo from that glorious bed of pink petals. Just a fantastic shot! Was this dusk or dawn?

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    • Thanks very much, Stacy.Yes, the questions and comments have been very interesting. This was taken a little bit before sunrise. As I recall, it was still raining when I arrived, so I waited a few minutes in my car until it stopped and then walked over. But one nice thing about the FDR Memorial is that there is a spot that can give you shelter if the rain gets too heavy for shooting.

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      • It’s such a beautiful memorial. I’d like to spend some time photographing it but without a wide angle lens, the results won’t be as nice. Ooh, but just now remembering the stitching technique you have used and showed us on the forum, perhaps I can make it work!! I’ll definitely revisit that post!

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  6. Your photography is outstanding. I would very much like to follow you to learn how to use PS which I am just barely touching. I am in a huge learning curve, going from macro to using my 17-55mm lens and my 70-300mm lens. I don’t feel comfortable with these lenses, hence, I am way out of my comfort zone. You explain how to edit photos, and so I am following you because I really need to learn. My favorite time of day to photograph is twilight, but I have been experimenting with cloudy/sunny days. I look forward in learning from you. Thank you! Love, Amy

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    • Thanks very much, Amy. Your comments are very much appreciated. Yes, I can see how going from macro exclusively to those longer lenses can be a little bit unsettling. But the the best way to get comfortable is to keep shooting. One way to work on it is to pick a specific location and go out with just one lens, say the 17-55mm and shoot a variety of shots with it. Then go back the next day and and shoot the same location with the telephoto. Then look at the results from both days and evaluate how you composed your shots differently based on whether it was wide angle, middle distance, or telephoto. Regarding Photoshop, one question I would ask you is whether you shoot RAW or JPEG.

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      • For now, I shoot JPEG. I’m just getting my way around PS and I am comfortable with JPEG. This winter I plan on studying so I can start shooting RAW and how to go about it. Thank you for the tips. I will do what you suggest. I have this gorgeous park right in back where I live so it is no big deal to go to a beautiful place. I want to fall in love with these lenses instead of dreading them. The only way I fell in LOVE with my macro is by using it. I look at my photos now and I am just so critical, really not liking what I see. If I could just do flowers, that would be where I would stay. But it is getting to be colder here so hence, I am branching out, kicking and screaming the whole way. I’m like a kid … give me back my macro! LOL Love, Amy

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      • Hi, Amy, That sounds like a good plan. And you are lucky to have a great spot so close by. Feel free to touch base with questions at any time. Best regards, Robin

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