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Critic's CornerBackcountry Roads

Black and white, monotone and duo tone images. No full color images. Forum is not genre specific.
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Bob Yankle
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Backcountry Roads

Postby Bob Yankle » Sat Oct 14, 2017 3:36 pm

This one offered several challenges. I was tempted to crop it down, but there was so much beautiful light in the upper branches I held on to those lofty leaves. It was also somewhat harshly contrasted, so I worked on evening out the tones. Is landscape a suitable subject for black and white photography? I'm also curious if it might have been better to crop out the topmost 6th of the image since the main focus is looking down a road with a nice canopy overhead? Too much of a good thing?
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Re: Backcountry Roads

Postby Matt Quinn » Sat Oct 14, 2017 4:53 pm

Is landscape a suitable subject for black and white photography?

Bob, I certainly think so.

I think to crop down from the top to the arching branch might enhance this. The path looks too speckled/hatch marked for me, but it may be my small MBAir screen. Overall, I like the 'ambience' (how's that for a fancy word?). Matt
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Re: Backcountry Roads

Postby Bob Yankle » Sat Oct 14, 2017 4:58 pm

Matt Quinn wrote:Is landscape a suitable subject for black and white photography?

Bob, I certainly think so.

I think to crop down from the top to the arching branch might enhance this. The path looks too speckled/hatch marked for me, but it may be my small MBAir screen. Overall, I like the 'ambience' (how's that for a fancy word?). Matt
Thanks for commenting Matt. You hit upon another issue I have often debated ..... sharpness and definition of leaves. I suspect I spend too much time trying to make each individual leaf discernible from the one next to it and tend to oversharpen. I'm getting better at resisting that.

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Re: Backcountry Roads

Postby Duck » Sun Oct 15, 2017 12:02 am

Hey Bob. Personally I like the crop, showing the tops of the trees coming up and over the road. It adds to that feeling of traveling through a tunnel of trees. I also like the light playing at the curve of the road where it turns out of view.It really pulls the eye in. As this image stands it is reminiscent of an etched drawing a la Albrecht Durer.

The one thing that is distracting, and you touched on it, is the overall texture to the image. The whole scene is too over sharpened so I'll share a little psychology with you (and others).

As you are probably aware, our eyes tend to travel to areas of sharp focus first. It's an age old trick photographers have utilized and taken advantage of for decades through selective depth of field. The photographer purposefully blurs areas of least importance to force the viewer to where they want them to look. As observers we do it instinctively because we want to focus attention on what we can instantly recognize. When something is blurred, we have to work a little harder to determine what it is we are looking at. We also want to make sure we are right in our determination. Nothing is more frustrating than guessing at something we are looking at only to find out it's wrong. Our own eyes tend to do this for us automatically. Whatever we are looking at in our immediate field of view is focused while the periphery is out of focus. Hence the saying, "staying focused" implies paying attention to a singular task.

When an image has a deep depth of field our eyes still blur the periphery but the image allows us to travel across its surface without having the external influence of blur to lead our eye one way or another. This, again, is a technique photographers use when they want the viewer to see everything within the photograph. In such cases other elements will be put into play to keep the viewer's attention to the subject (i.e. leading lines, composition, balance, etc.)

However, when an image is oversharpened, the smaller details become indiscernible because the edges become obfuscated. Unlike out of focus areas that are logically layered for depth perception, oversharpened detail is applied globally to everything. Larger structures can 'absorb' that edge variability and we can determine that shape from its neighbor. It's when shapes are smaller, due to size or distance, that it becomes difficult to determine what it is we are looking at and remember, we want that determination to be easy. In effect, your desire to, "show every leaf," results in us seeing no leaves but rather an indescribable texture.

Here is where it gets weird. Had the over textured area been an out of focus blur of color, light or shapes our minds would have filled in the missing information and populated it with what we know of as leaves instead of trying to discern each jigsaw puzzle of shapes.

Hope I explained it properly and it's of use.
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Re: Backcountry Roads

Postby pop511 » Sun Oct 15, 2017 9:02 am

Crop it down Bob as you said and re post. Scrolling my screen up and down it will come out a stronger picture.
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Re: Backcountry Roads

Postby LindaShorey » Sun Oct 15, 2017 1:11 pm

I like the taller aspect very much, so I think you now have two for and two against, lol. Cropping would give a feeling of more intimacy perhaps, but for me would be claustrophobic.

I did not care for the "crunchy" look but could not say why exactly, so I'm very grateful for Duck's discussion about that. Fantastic information, easy to understand and remember. Many thanks Duck!

Are landscapes suitable for b&w processing (or film)? You betcha! Even on this small forum we have many examples of stunning and inspiring b&w landscapes, including Ernst-Ulrich Schafer, Graham Smith, MinnieV, Matt Quinn and Bob Malarz. Check 'em out :)
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Re: Backcountry Roads

Postby St3v3M » Thu Oct 19, 2017 9:42 pm

With a two-for-two would suggest you crop it square and look at the two side-by-side before you make a decision. S-
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Re: Backcountry Roads

Postby Charles Haacker » Fri Oct 20, 2017 1:08 am

Oh, for sure landscape is a suitable subject for B&W. Think Ansel Adams. Think all the guys working in wet collodion in all sorts of incredible places, like Wm. Henry Jackson. (He lost a month's work in the Yellowstone when a mule slipped on a trail!) :o

I think it's a gorgeous picture. As a confessed Sharp Freak I don't find it oversharpened. Duck, I read every word and of course your critique and advice is sound as a dollar, but I suspect had I made this I'd have presented it much as is. To me what usually gives oversharpening away is haloing around edges, especially dark ones, and I don't see any here. I do not disagree that too much sharpness might be a distraction sometimes, but then I find myself wondering about the f/64 school, named for stopping the lens down to its smallest aperture for maximum depth of field.

There seems a consensus that it should be cropped from top but I don't agree. I do agree the brightness of those topmost leaves is a little distracting, tending to pull the eye away from that stunning pool of light down the road. Even Bob wondered if he should crop it, but If I had made it it would kill me to do that. Instead I would darken them, burn 'em down or use a graduated filter. I'd also to be down the bright patch at left center for the same reason, to keep the literal focus on the bright I-want-to-walk-down-there spot. The crop is a perfectly viable option but I myself would hate to lose that top portion.
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Re: Backcountry Roads

Postby Duck » Sat Oct 21, 2017 6:09 pm

Charles Haacker wrote:[...] I do not disagree that too much sharpness might be a distraction sometimes, but then I find myself wondering about the f/64 school, named for stopping the lens down to its smallest aperture for maximum depth of field. [...]

Yes, but there is a difference between detail retention if a deep depth of focus image and an image that has had sharpening applied to it in post.

Haloing, as I understand it, usually comes from over sharpening edges that were too soft to begin with. Since the edge definition isn't there the software has to 'guess' and due to the tonal differences created from the blur there are 'technically' two edges to the blur. Depending on the amount of edge contrast, this can be very obvious or very subtle and the program can have varying results.

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Re: Backcountry Roads

Postby Charles Haacker » Sat Oct 21, 2017 6:44 pm

Charles Haacker wrote:[...] I do not disagree that too much sharpness might be a distraction sometimes, but then I find myself wondering about the f/64 school, named for stopping the lens down to its smallest aperture for maximum depth of field. [...]
Duck wrote:Yes, but there is a difference between detail retention if a deep depth of focus image and an image that has had sharpening applied to it in post.

Haloing, as I understand it, usually comes from over sharpening edges that were too soft to begin with. Since the edge definition isn't there the software has to 'guess' and due to the tonal differences created from the blur there are 'technically' two edges to the blur. Depending on the amount of edge contrast, this can be very obvious or very subtle and the program can have varying results.

Thanks for that, Duck! Very good point. Back when I was shooting everything in jpeg I think there were times when I oversharpened as I can see the halo or fringing, especially, say, along a ridge line against the sky. I watch it very closely now, and my usual LR preset for sharpening is 30, with about 70 masking and 30 to 40 luminance, all subject to adjustment of course, but since I shoot a lot of available dark hand-held with "floating" ISO I sometimes have to increase the masking, and/or the luminance, and very often color as well to hold the noise to, say, 90-ish decibels. ;)
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