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Spawny

Critique wanted on whaleshark pics

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I would really appreciate if you took the time to look at my pics and give me critique or tips how to improve.

 

I had an opportunity to go diving with the Cenderawasih whalesharks last September. I had bought uw photo gear just for the occasion and was practically using it for the first time on that trip. My gear consists of Nikon D7000, Tokina 10-17mm and two Inon Z240 strobes with 4900K diffusers.

I've edited the pics somewhat in PS4: I tried to remove backscatter which was plentiful in most of the pics (there were a lot of particles in the water + I was struggling with positioning my strobes), did some sharpening and adjusting curves and WB. I also tried to remove a diver in pics 5 and 9... I'm sure that could have been done more elegantly, but I don't have much experience with PS either.

Here's one sample image. The rest of the pics can be found here: http://www.kolumbus.fi/uwphotography/
whalesharksAP13_zps3475112c.jpg

Additional info for those who are still reading:
- The weather was mostly cloudy or rainy, so I didn't get to experiment with bright sunlight a lot.
- Picture 7 on my website is taken with a compact camera that I had as a backup.
- I've read the book by Martin Edge twice, so I know some of the uw photography theory, but putting it into action turned out to be something else :)
- My screen isn't calibrated

Edited by Spawny

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I like 4, 6, and 7 the most, with 6 and 7 being the most striking because of the pair of whale sharks and the poses you captured.

 

7 might be even more striking if you adjusted to make the whales more like silhouettes and/or tried it in black and white.

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Hi Anna,

Welcome to Wetpixel! I'd be extremely happy with the images you made if they were mine. You did a wonderful job especially with new gear. My only counsel would be to back off just a little on the WB adjustment and the sharpening. The tendency for most of us is to go a little too far with our adjustments sometimes to the point where they don't look realistic. Oversharpening is very common with folks new to making the adjustments in LR or PS. Image 12 is where it really shows up for me. Image 4 is closer to what my eye like to see from a WB and sharpening standpoint. It's a subjective opinion of course, and depends on the look and style you are trying to achieve.

 

I'd recommend you get your screen calibrated, it would potentially help to get the blues a touch more realistic. I'm very impressed with the colors you were able to achieve on rainy days.

 

I've taught myself to make the adjustments until I think it looks good then back it off a touch. You might play with image 6 as a portrait vert crop just for fun. Love the reflection of the top whale shark. You have so many wonderful images to work with, congratulations again. Did you have as much fun as it looks like you did?

 

Cheers,

Steve

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The simple viewer on your website does not seem to work in Safari on an iPad.

 

Regards

Peter

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Thank you all for your comments. :)

Firstly, Peter, thanks for letting me know. It works on Safari on my macbook, but when I try with my phone, it looks very weird... I'll see if I can sort that out.

danielandrewclem, I like your idea to try no 7 in BW since the colors weren't that good in it anyway. I think it might work better this way, what do you think?

Whalesharks4BW_zps6a611871.jpg

Steve, I admit that I went overboard with trying to sharpen the images. :D I've seen on this forum how some people get just incredibly sharp photos... in comparison, all my pictures seemed so soft. I'm not sure why I couldn't get that sharp pics in the first place, but I tried to compensate that in post processing. Here's a more subdued version of pic no 12 with hardly any sharpening at all (I use the method with high pass filter on overlay mode).

whalesharksAP01_zps0dd4e643.jpg

I'll look forward to getting my screen calibrated. You mentioned that it might help with getting the blues more realistic. I'm glad that you mentioned it, because I wasn't completely happy with them either. I don't know how to better describe it, but I think my blues seem a bit thick. I'm not sure if it could also be due to excessive spot healing and cloning while trying to remove backscatter - or the fact that I couldn't get it all removed and the backgrounds are a bit blotchy..?

Anyway, thank you for the kind words, it sure was a wonderful experience to spend time around these amazing creatures. Photographywise it was great that we got to use scuba gear, but freediving with whalesharks was the most fun I've ever had in water.

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With respect to the sharpness, what diameter dome are you using with your 10-17?

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With respect to the sharpness, what diameter dome are you using with your 10-17?

I have a Hugyfot fisheye port with 174mm diameter (6,85 inches, I believe).

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On my screen, the images are very good: with such an amazing opportunity any technical deficiency (and, technically, the images are pretty good anyway) doesn't really affect the impact of the shot.

 

What can improve the images? In the water strobes aren't always needed near the surface, reducing backscatter; a big dome can help with sharpness, as can using your fisheye at its widest (I've always, and idiosyncratically, preferred the Nikon 10.5mm to the Tokina 10-17mm with a DX sensor) and framing the shark by getting as close as possible; picking out the focus point sometimes helps.

 

In Photoshop it can be helpful to remove only the most obvious backscatter: the small stuff doesn't show on a monitor. I blur a duplicate layer (Gaussian blur at about 15 pixels) and add a little noise (1-2 pixels), then I mask the layer (black) and paint over the backscatter with a small white brush (25 pixels diameter). This works better than cloning everything, although very large or very bright particles have to be cloned out of the base layer first or they show up as pale blurry spots. I used to use NoiseNInja to sharpen, but as that's now defunct I do a "smart sharpen" in Photoshop then apply an "unsharp mask" over the eyes. Again, the trick is do it gently so that it's not obtrusive. I increase contrast with a curve, and usually add a little colour vibrance and more saturation. I use masked layers a lot, so I might use the "color balance" controls to modify the blue background and the shark in different ways.

 

I've had much more difficulty with whale sharks, and I've been shooting underwater for a while:

 

post-4522-0-94850400-1389960841_thumb.jpg

 

Whale shark and snorkellers, Maldives.

Unprocessed jpeg; Sigma 15mm, 9" Nauticam dome, ambient light.

Edited by tdpriest

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I blur a duplicate layer (Gaussian blur at about 15 pixels) and add a little noise (1-2 pixels), then I mask the layer (black) and paint over the backscatter with a small white brush (25 pixels diameter).

Thanks for the tip, I'll definitely try that next! Maybe leaving more imperfections in the images will make them look more natural as well..? I don't know what other people's impression is, but when I look at my pics now, I don't really get the sense that the viewer would be "present at the location". In comparison, when I look at your pic, I can totally imagine being right there swimming with that whaleshark. Do you think that's a matter of composing the shots differently or trying to take it a bit easier on post-processing?

 

Generally I'm quite happy with my pics (especially since before the trip I had had several nightmares where my camera couldn't focus or malfunctioned some other way and I missed all photo ops), but since I'm keen on improving, I'd gladly let you guys pick them apart. :)

 

 

P.S. I just realised that my website can't be viewed with Safari on ipad or iphone because they don't support flash...

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I think that they are really good images. The subjects and the environment are very impressive, letting you get close and having good lighting.

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... when I look at your pic, I can totally imagine being right there swimming with that whaleshark. Do you think that's a matter of composing the shots differently or trying to take it a bit easier on post-processing?

 

I think that two or three things help: the shark is very big in the frame, it's coming right at the viewer (I dived underneath just after taking the image after this one) and there are some snorkellers, although I tried to hide them behind the shark.

 

It's mostly in framing the image at the time, and some luck (although I pushed my luck, and the shark's patience, by finning really hard and getting into position several times).

 

In processing I played with the colour of the shark compared to the water, the brightness of the shark and the sharpness of the image. It now looks like this (yes, I did cheat and remove one snorkeller by painting in the surface reflections from an image taken about a second later):

 

 

post-4522-0-53604300-1392408865_thumb.jpg

Edited by tdpriest

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Nice framing, did you touch up the color the blues of the water are really blue.

Thanks! I did adjust the colour balance and curves in general, i.e. I didn't specifically make the water so blue. It just turned out like that after adjusting the skin tone of the whalesharks.

 

 

tdpriest/b], thanks again for your comments. I wish I would have had all these advice before I went to that trip. But, oh well, now I just have to go again someday. :D Meanwhile I can work on my editing skills.

 

ps. I'm glad I'm not the only one "cheating" and removing photobombing people from the background.

 

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