DSLR KAP Image quaity: what do I know!

I posted a KAP shot which was the best I got from a trying flight at Pymoor. I had no idea this photo would create such a buzz. In the end ( after feeling a bit pissed at the digs at first)  I thought the comment thread was helpful in throwing some light on many of the questions I have about post-processing images; I have a good idea about what I want my stuff to look like but this is clearly not a universal opinion, as soon as this pic was posted on a railway photographers group, I got a very different kind of feedback than that from my KAP friends: I suspect we are happy to get a photo in sharp focus at all never mind dealing with mysterious things like ‘tone’ ‘punch’ and ‘presence’ etc!

Pymoor is a good place for wind, sky and trains.  I am mindful of keeping well clear of the traffic as my kite is visible for miles by approaching trains and I don’t want any police/safety issues-I picked a day of good sunlight with a punchy SSWesterly, I ended up spending hours hauling the kite up and down to keep the live view running but I eventually got kite, camera and subject in sync.

By the time I’d got my shot it was noon and I knew the light would be ‘flat’ ( but I had at least got the D5100 in the right place and got a burst of 3 shots of a passing train,  the train I wanted to catch had long rumbled its way across the fen: this is where the big ’66 hauled freights really look their best.

So here is all the comment and opinion in one place!

Here is the shot I posted with its caption:‘2 car 158 ( thank you Rod) DMU crosses the washes at Pymoor from 30m AGL. Fixed focus, burst mode in a far too rough 8-18mph Southerly. Keeping the live-view open is a bit of a pain waiting for trains! The image name is a default for the editing process combining LR and PS. I corrected the frame tilt a tad and added a grad filter in PS. I missed the big 66 hauled freight hauling down the camera to reset live-view…sigh!’

windrides and Martyn Fordham added this photo to their favorites.

Martyn Fordham: Brilliant, be a good spot to re-visit when the flooding starts…. Oh why not use the LR grad?

This photo was invited and added to the Progressive and Artistic Railway Photography group.

Bill Blake: I’m still using PS out of force of habit- I couldn’t find the grad filter in LR! This is a great spot in the winter, I need to get this camera working a bit better to improve on last year:
D1059 : That’s original. I was about to ask how the heck you got that elevated view in the Fens, but then I spotted the group membership for kite photography and it clicked with your caption.
I love the frozen scene in the comments

Martyn Fordham : Thanks, it (the Grad filter in Lightroom) is at the top of the development panel just below the histogram. Looking forward to your future visits…..

Steve Banks : I have mixed feelings about this, especially the glaring self-promo in the corner which spoils the image completely.

Rod Smith : Great shot from a highly unusual viewpoint, really brings out the character of the fens.

However, it’s clearly a sunny day yet the land is dull and flat, it really needs some work to bring it up. Also, I don’t really think a grad filter does it any favours, again some work in PS would do the trick.

Bill Blake  to Steve : Take it or leave it: my watermark=my living. If you want a copy without a mark I have a scale of fees!

To Rod Smith: what do you suggest?

Steve Banks: Photography is part of my day job too and I have never found the need to use a spoiling logo – it’s not a “watermark” at all. And in this case it’s a big spoiler, even more in the image you’ve inserted in the Comments – you’ve made them look like advertisements for some kind of product.

RocketRobin_Images : Bill … I like the image for it’s merits … tough on them for not liking the corner mark … too many images get “lifted” from the web without a care from the source .. shouldn’t we all at least agree on that?

Bill Blake : I have been ripped off, I mark my work to help the lawyers, it’s a pity but there we are. My early mark was a bit of a bodge, but marked they have to be!

This photo was invited and added to the Quality and Exceptional Railway Photographs group.

Rod Smith :My view is that the picture needs some work in Levels or Curves to add contrast to the land area and then to brighten it. Can’t honestly say what I would do with the sky because of the filter you have used.
If you would like, I’d be happy to send you a modified copy of the picture so you can see for yourself what I’m talking about.

Martyn Fordham: I would propose avoiding photoshop, Lightroom would bring this out easily; though on my L.E.D. screen it is almost perfect on only needs a tiny boost.

Bill Blake: Rod, I have posted an untweaked state, please feel free to work it up and show how you did it

Post processing is, of course, a set of subjective decisions, but I’d like to see what you make of it. This image, although technically a good ‘un, could definitely do with some improvement. My ‘usual’ KAP set up with a LeicaX1 gives me many more images to work with, this flight with the D5100 I still consider ‘experimental’ I would usually use a PL filter, greater height and more sky in shot. What you have here is one of only 3 workable frames after an unequal struggle between the light (it was nearly noon by the time I’d got the set up happy), weight, the live view time out and the ‘flat’ 35mm lens aspect.

My object is to get a sense of distance between the foreground and the horizon and the contrast between the railway and the landscape it cuts across: I think this crop works better
The train itself is not the important thing here (although naturally I want it to ‘decode’ the line) it’s the ‘line in the landscape’ I’m after.

Martyn Fordham : Strange. Viewing this now on my iPhone it looks very flat! Usually the iPhone screen and PC colours and lighting are similar. Something strange is going on.

Bill Blake: SRGB vs Adobe RGB maybe?

Martyn Fordham : Maybe!

[Martyn’s phtostream:

Quick 2 minutes in Lightroom, have sent you an e-mail with the screenshot showing actual adjustments I made….

  1. Steve Banks : Gordon Bennett! This is quite sensational – hats of to the pair of you on this collaboration! 🙂

  2. Steve Banks added this photo to his favorites. ]

This is Martyn’s Lightroom history :Rod Smith : Bill, Here is my version of your picture:
It may be that I have overdone it because I am not familiar with the kind of light you get down there, but if so it would be easy to tone it down a bit.

What has happened is that the camera’s metering system has been fooled by the extremely bright light and the relative lack of contrast in the scene and so has under-exposed the picture to make it ‘right’. The consequence of this is that the picture is dull and therefore also lacks contrast, which in turn makes it flat. It follows that what it needs is more exposure and more contrast, and this in itself produces stronger colours. In the version I have posted I have used Curves to increase the brightness and contrast of the sky and the landscape separately. Compared to using the grad filter this has retained the lovely subtle clouds in the sky, whereas the filter just smothered them. Also, I haven’t cropped the sky because it’s the big sky which helps to give the feeling of space which I imagine is so important in that part of the world.

This is a simplified explanation of what I have done and why, if you’d like more detail please let me know.

If I may end on a pedantic note it’s not a 156, it’s a 158.

Hope this helps.

Bill Blake: The brightness is a bit dazzling but I think you are right about the exposure issue- I get this problem a lot and usually use a PL filter to cut glare-I didn’t this time to keep a high shutter speed. The colour is now way off the boggy green of the wetlands but the sky is great…let’s see how the next one turns out!

Martyn Fordham : Looks over saturated on my screen, I know what the fens should look like as I live here though not from such a high angle!

Rod Smith : Increasing the contrast also has the effect of zapping up the colours, and often this is beneficial and no other treatment is needed. Green is a colour to which our eyes are particularly sensitive, and can be very difficult to work with. Here are 3 more versions:
In this one I have kept the contrast up but cancelled out the effect on the colour by using a different blending mode. This often works well, but not in this case.In this one I have simply reduced the contrast on the land a little, and it looks much better to me.

In the last one I have kept the contrast up but desaturated the grass quite a lot. The result is very similar to the previous one, but it’s subtly different.
For me the second one looks the best – the green is not nearly so garish, and it’s slightly warmer than the last one – but it’s not my picture so it’s not my decision.
Bill, thanks for letting me play. Now there’s a shelf in the garage waiting to be fixed on the wall and she’s getting impatient!

Julie Edwards : I don’t understand how you can edit an image without having visited the place or the light. The images rod have created do not reflect the fens at all (more like a prairie in the USA).

Steve Banks :There’s a lot of separate issues in this lovely image and to my eye, Martyn’s version is the best one. Only one other thing needs addressing and it’s the unnaturally dark lower corner. Fix that and perhaps it’s job done?
Bill Blake’s Pymoor picture:

[posted on Steves photostream with the following comment:

  1. Bernas91 and javier-lopez added this photo to their favorites.

  2. javier-lopez Nice!
  3. DWH284 : A fine picture, Steve. Conveys a great feeling of space. The colours are superb. Very nicely processed.

  4. Alessio Lucini added this photo to his favorites.
  5. Steve Banks: May I just remind everybody that this is a team effort based on Bill Blake’s picture – I’ve only gone public because the debate Bill was hosting on his stream got complex. Leave Comments and Faves as you like, but as a recogniton of who TOOK this picture – and read Bill’s caption via the above link to see how he pulled off this ingenious shot.

  6. Jelltex and Mark LLanuza added this photo to their favorites.
  7. Mark LLanuza : Just a beautiful view from above Steve. Sweetttttttttttttttttttttttt
  8. wolf238 added this photo to his favorites
  9. wolf238: beautiful picture

  10. -c-a-b- added this photo to his favorites. –

  11. c-a-b- A beautful photo, though, your version is better than the original in light and atmosphere!]

( I have to admit to finding this last comment pretty galling-WTF does this guy know of the light and atmosphere at the time the photo was taken!)

Rod Smith : to Julie Edwards: One of the problems I had working on this picture was exactly that – I’m not familiar with the Fens, so don’t know how the picture ‘should’ look and can’t comment on how much it reflects the Fens. I suggest however that the ‘prairie’ look is more to do with the viewpoint than anything I have done to the picture.

The original picture was clearly unsatisfactory, for the reasons I have explained, and I’m simply trying to make the point that some straightforward work in Photoshop will make a significant improvement. In my view far too many pictures posted on the web suffer from this kind of problem, and this is something which causes me great concern. Whether any of the versions I have posted is really satisfactory I can’t say (although probably not), but then it’s not my picture and not my decision.

I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve lifted the following quote from your profile:

“PS should not be used to save an image or create it, only to finish it off as you would when printing”.

My own approach is based on interpreting the image, not rescuing or creating, and with a few exceptions the methods I use are exactly equivalent to those I used to use in the darkroom. Sometimes I interpret quite a lot, sometimes very little, but it’s no different to what many people have done over the years.

Martyn’s version may or may not be the best (it’s down to personal preference and probably affected by differences between monitors). I don’t know what he’s done or how he’s done it but in my view the result is still a little flat – have a look at the histogram and you’ll see. However, I agree with you about the dark corner.

But at least I’ve got the shelf up!

Steve : It’s awfully difficult to compare variously calibrated PCs and monitors but I also found your original version over-saturated. This has been a good debate and the awkward part now for Bill is that the “Bill, Martyn and Steve” version sitting a few lines above this Comment and in my Stream is collecting Faves/Views at a rate of 12%, which is pretty good and capable of getting an Explore hit. The credit really goes to Bill (Martyn and me are just the darkroon wallahs on this one)!

Julie Edwards :I have a couple of issues with your comments and processing…

First the image – the greens are far too yellow, way too yellow for the fens. The colour is totally out.

Its quite clear (if you look all over flickr) that the “look” that is liked is high contrast, pushed colours. This makes the image far more punchier on a monitor and is probably why this look is common here. The problem is as soon as you print the image. Printers do not have the dynamic or colour range of a monitor and as such a printed version would be awful. I think that is something that is very much being lost on flickr, the consideration of the physical print.

As for monitor calibration, My Mac is calibrated, my workflow is colour managed correctly. If i export an Adobe RGB profiled image and take it to my printer and put it on their system, it looks the same (in fact we have placed screens alongside each other). Thats the point of calibration. We may alter our working brightness but the colours should remain the same.

Rod Smith :I agree that the colours in my first version were over the top and unrealistic. My intention was to demonstrate that increasing the contrast and brightness would make a significant difference to Bill’s original image, which it certainly did. I thought at the time the colours were rather too strong but didn’t do anything about it and posted the picture. With hindsight it would have been better if I had gone on to adjust the colours before posting because the colour issue has become something of a distraction, and I’m cross with myself that I didn’t do that. The basic point is that the original picture was unsatisfactory because it was dull and flat and needed some work doing on it. In my view this is a very important point, because it demonstrates clearly that you can’t rely on the camera to ‘get it right’.

Julie, I’m not sure that the high contrast look is so common because it’s actively preferred by most people or whether it’s because that’s the way most monitors are calibrated when you buy them, so that’s the look you get unless you change it. I agree completely with what you say about printing (another can of worms!), but I’m a bit puzzled by your last sentence. As a general point it’s correct, but if you’re referring to the first version I posted it was the change in contrast which altered the colours, not the change in brightness.

End of thread (so far..)So now I have 7 versions of my photo to consider! I like them all but none of them are close to the impact I had in mind when I took the shot.

The ‘big sky’ effect of the KAP viewpoint giving false exposure readings is a recurring problem and the opinion of these photographers seems to be centred on contrast but upping the contrast causes some unnatural colours.  Balancing the colours gets the image close to where I’d like it but the sense of distance seems to be lost, the old problem of holding up the sky and keeping the ground at a reasonable brightness seems to be handled well in these processes, my method of layering in PS seems to be effectively replaced by using saturation and luminance shifts.

The Fens are something of a visual wonder and the rare (in Britain at least) flatness is a big part of the impact I want to get across, the raised viewpoint is an important way of getting cues to distance from perspective.

As I prepare my work for print I find the contrast issue worrying and puzzling: just how much of my photography is seen as ‘flat’ and consequently considered lacking in some way?  I have put quite a bit of effort (bigger, better camera, gyro stabilisation etc) into getting sharp images from KAP, now I’m faced with a quite unexpected problem: how to get high contrast from underexposed shots.

Bearing all this in mind I have returned to the frame to see if I can keep the high contrast effect and add the distance effect I want.

I have a huge affection for the railway and what it means to society both as a symbol of connection and as the instigator of our modern life. I hope this photo expresses some of that. I want this line across the land to carry ideas of hope and opportunity from right to left in the mind of the viewer.

With thanks to :

Rod Smith

Martyn Fordham

Julie Edwards

Steve Banks

About billboyheritagesurvey

Heritage worker
Gallery | This entry was posted in KAP and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to DSLR KAP Image quaity: what do I know!

  1. Ramon says:

    Quite the posting, Bill. I think I prefer the ones with the more yellowish tones, simply because of the warmth. The others are too cold, too flat and probably even too dark.

    Getting the contrast right in underexposed shots can indeed be a pain in the butt. That’s probably the reason why many KAPers prefer RAW over JPG as their platform. I started using RAW after buying my Panasonic LX5 but find it too cumbersome. So I’m back to JPG. And when shots are underexposed and ‘beyond repair’ I flush them. This tells me I need to do a better job next time. The better the source, the less to mess with.

    • Thanks for the comment Ramon.
      The site of the photo is a cold flat place: that’s what I wanted to capture. You rattle over the flatlands in a nice warm train and forget how harsh the landscape around you is!

      I work with JPEG on the compact camera as they can’t push RAW fast enough. ( mind you I tried out the new Fuji x100 the other day and that’s FAST) The big D5100 I used on this shot will shoot RAW& JPEG together at 4fps but sifting the batch is a tricky business, I still haven’t found a really fast way of sorting a batch of 300 frames to choose the best ones. What surprises me is now authoritative people can be over a fairly subjective issue like colour and contrast!

      I love your shots of the kids on scooters, isn’t it great when the wind lets you do that?

  2. Ramon says:

    Thanks for the compliment, Bill. As a matter of fact the wind wasn’t really steady, but by keeping two eyes focused on the camera 99% of the time (1% was for aiming) I was able to keep it in the air.

    Yeah, well, the authoritative folks. Nothing wrong with them, of course, but it’s what you say – colour and contrast is very subjective and pictures never look the same on any display. So…

    Sorting batches takes less and less time here. I focus on what I want and anything that doesn’t contain any component I need will be flushed without mercy. Saves me a lot of time. I didn’t know you have a Fuji X100! Looks like a promising camera!

    • Ramon,
      I don’t own a Fuji X100…yet! They let me play with one at the airport Dixons the other day. I’ll wait awhile as the Leica (which is lighter but slower) has to pay for itself first…

      I shoot in bursts and that gives me the grief with the sorting- the idea is that of a block of 6 images at least one will be sharp!

  3. Ramon says:

    Yes, the X100 has a price tag… There’s also the X10 for half that price.

    I never do bursts, I’m probably too lazy for that (as the afterwork is so time consuming).

    Yesterday I was interviewed for a local magazine. The article will be publised at the end of the month. Maybe it generates some cash for a GF2…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s