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Suggestions for Clown Pic?


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#1 ToddB

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 10:35 AM

Hi All,

I entered the following two pictures in my first competition, where the second placed in the open category and the first failed to place in the beginner category (both of these were shot during my first dive trip with u/w photo). I am much more partial to the first and feel that the second looks over-processed and blown-out in the lower left. I would very much appreciate any critique of the first photo to help me understand what might be "wrong" with it. As it is and despite being clearly biased, I can't think of anything I'd really change so I would appreciate the critique to help me better understand composition and improve/learn something new. Thanks!

Location: Palau
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Settings: f8, 1/160, ISO 80, 0 EV, focus/strobes on manual
Post Processing: Minimal in elements, mostly cloning.

Cheers,
Todd


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#2 Nakedwithoutcamera

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 10:51 AM

Gut feeling. The second one is much prettier. Compositionally, you have a diagonal. A leading line from left to right. Then the anemones in the back and on the left lead your eye back into the photo. The color of the purple is very pleasing.
I can see why you have a special relationship with the first one, though.
Congrats on placing. You should be proud of that.

Edited by Nakedwithoutcamera, 15 March 2009 - 10:57 AM.

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#3 Steve Williams

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 11:41 AM

Hi Todd,
I don't know jack about competitions. I almost never pick the same image as the judges, so I'm not a great reference point. How are you shooting these, RAW or JPEGs from the camera? You may have the camera doing something you're not aware of with presets or styles. The reason I ask is that the first shot looks a tad over saturated to my eye.

The only other thing I might try compositionally might be to frame the first shot in portrait so you could get the whole fish in the frame. It makes me a little uncomfortable when I see an image that almost gets the whole subject. Kind of like cutting off someones hands at the wrist in a portrait. The judges might have reacted to that. There is nothing "wrong" with the shot, you like it right? Can you make it better next time? It would be fun to try it next time in the vertical and play with different camera positons.
Thanks for sharing these.

Cheers,
Steve

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#4 craig

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 12:44 PM

I agree with Steve. I think it's a mistake to almost get a subject in the frame but cut off its fins. You need either more or less. My impression on the color is that you have crushed blacks too far. I'd like to see more detail in the shadows and that would probably lighten and desaturate the image somewhat. I like the striking appearance but would like to see into the anemone more.

I think the second image is technically better. I would prefer both to be slightly less tight on the subject but, like Steve, I don't concern myself with what judges look for. Both of these images compelled me to look at them and I think that's the goal.
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#5 scubamarli

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 07:32 PM

You have to be really careful when cutting off appendages. If you're dealing with Photo judges (as opposed to U/W photo judges) you can probably be more creative...well then, maybe not. I've had judges actually say, "I don't really like underwater!" or (even worse} wouldn't it be nice if there was a red fish, right THERE? You are an admitted beginner, (and doing quite well by looking at your compositions). Please don't expect to win on your first ventures. I've had friends quit taking photos because they didn't win a trip to some tropical destination on their first entry. Expect to learn from looking at what actually won and the judge's comments. Do not look at the results as discouraging (heck, I have been doing this for years and get toast lately, while as a beginner I did quite well), so, be prepared at looking at the contest venue, and the judges...depending on the venue, different stuff rules... also learn that in different years, there's the flavour of the year. In the early 90's Pygmy seahorses ruled. Go figure. Unless you're up it's nostrils now, forget it. The rules for U/W competitions aren't really firm. They are subject to preferences by whomever is judging. If you have a photo club (non-underwater) in your area, I would suggest joining; they will evaluate your photos without the rarity factor; an analysis on basic composition and exposure are really important at this stage of your development.

Keep shooting,

Enjoy the process,

Cheers,
Marli
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#6 Nakedwithoutcamera

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 04:52 AM

I totally agree with everything Marli says. I've also had comments similar to "Too bad there wasn't a red fish there." :vava:

I'm not sure how other general camera clubs operate, but definitely when submitting images in the Nature competition, judges either want portraits or the whole animal. They don't like it when parts of legs, tails, fins, etc. are cut off.

I cut off the tail of an eagle ray (that's the way I wanted the photo because if I had gotten the whole tail in, the body would have been too insignificant) and I was marked down a point for that. :P
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#7 cpix

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Posted 17 March 2009 - 10:14 AM

Todd - have you calibrated the monitor on your computer ? I first looked at these images it was on someone else's laptop (uncalibrated) and in my opinion looked better than on my own machine with a calibrated monitor (where I would agree with Steve's and Craig's comments). Just a possibility ! :vava:

Edited by cpix, 17 March 2009 - 10:15 AM.

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#8 sgietler

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Posted 17 March 2009 - 11:25 AM

hey Todd,
congrats in placing in the contest.

When I look at those 2 photos, 3 things instantly come to mind

1) The anemone in the 2nd photo is much "cuter" than the one in the 1st photo, imho
2) Like Craig pointed out, the lighting in the 2nd photo is more even, with less shadows. The lighting in the 1st photo is quite harsh. Like Ellen said, the purple and the texture of the anemone in the 2nd photo is very attractive.
3) Because of 1) and 2), I think the 2nd photo automatically jumps out as being far more "prettier" in my eyes

I don't think cutting off the fins in the 1st photo really made a difference, but that's only my opinion, take it with a grain of salt :vava:

hope this helps
Scott

#9 ToddB

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Posted 17 March 2009 - 04:20 PM

Hi All --

Thanks so much for the feedback -- much appreciated! Never would have thought chopping the fins like that is a no-no, since to me the focus of the picture is the eyes/mouth. Good to know going forward!

I shot both of these in RAW, and played around with the first one a bit. I think I can fix those blacks/saturation. The trouble is when I do that, the blue/purple tinge on the Clown's supposed-to-be white stripe gets more pronounced. Perhaps when I get better at PS.. Monitor is not calibrated or really designed for this. 13.3" screen on a lenovo laptop.. a decent computer/monitor for PS work is on my to-buy list after a camera upgrade.

And in case I expressed myself poorly, I was/am not discouraged or disappointed at all, nor did I expect to win. If anything, I'm much more encouraged. I was simply bothered/confused that having placed, the "wrong" photo (I know its subjective) was the one that placed. I just enjoy looking at the first much more, but maybe that is because I vividly remember spending 30 mins staring at that clownfish just waiting for him to come up to the port :vava:

Thanks again!

cheers,
Todd

#10 Steve Williams

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Posted 17 March 2009 - 04:59 PM

Never would have thought chopping the fins like that is a no-no, since to me the focus of the picture is the eyes/mouth.

Monitor is not calibrated or really designed for this. 13.3" screen on a lenovo laptop.. a decent computer/monitor for PS work is on my to-buy list after a camera upgrade.

I was simply bothered/confused that having placed, the "wrong" photo (I know its subjective) was the one that placed.


Hey Todd,

Cuttng off fins isn't necessarily a bad thing. I'm guessing some folks would not like to see "almost" the whole animal. You can go the other way and crop to this for example;

rpd_overdone.jpg

I kind of like it, if you fix the losses at the dark end of the histogram. (Lots of your image data hanging off the left end) and tweak the saturation. You definitely want to get your monitor calibrated.

Don't worry about being confused by judges, it's very common affliction. :vava:

Have fun!
Steve

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#11 ornate_wrasse

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Posted 17 March 2009 - 06:19 PM

I just enjoy looking at the first much more, but maybe that is because I vividly remember spending 30 mins staring at that clownfish just waiting for him to come up to the port :vava:


I think you've raised a very valid point. When we spend a great deal of time, energy and effort to get a particular shot, we often tend to value it more highly, regardless of what others think. A case in point is when Wetpixel asks everyone to post their favorite image of the year. Many give their reasons for selecting their favorite images. More often than not, it seems that, when reasons are given, it is because the photographer waited a long time, or something similiar, to get the shot they wanted to get.

The shot was very memorable to you for these reasons. That does not mean that others will necessarily agree with you. They simply are not aware of the huge effort you put forth to get the shot.

Ellen
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#12 sgietler

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 08:56 AM

hey Todd,

Steve and Ellen just posted what I was thinking!

Scott