Am I flogging a dead horse?

Hi everyone, I’m in a bit of a conundrum - as the title states really.

I shot this scene whilst walking through some local woodland and I couldn’t believe my luck how these foreground flowers/clover led nicely up to the forest floor bathed in light. I focus stacked the image along with bracketing 1 stop either side due to the challenging dynamic range and high contrast conditions.

I got home and started to PP. I really like how the foreground flowers turned out but upon closer inspection the background portion seems soft in all of the exposures I shot. I don’t know what happened as the focus was correct at point of shooting (but I didn’t check on the screen - fail!).

Also, the scene was very messy so I’ve had to clone out quite a lot which may be obvious in places?

Finally the shadow detail on the trees were a nightmare to bring out. The scene was backlit so they were very much in shadow but I was hoping to bring out a bit of the detail so they didn’t just look like black blobs in the image.

I guess what I’m asking is is it worth persevering with it just because i’m so attached the to foreground and the soft light and how (if anything) can I help improve it?

I’ve upped the exposure so it looked correct on my electronic devices so if it looks way off please can you let me know.

Thanks guys - long winded I know.

When you love something, perseverance is a good thing in my book. As for the focus issue, it might be a simple case of DOF being off a little if you shot all of them with the same focus point and aperture. I’m not one for extensive post so can’t advise much, but you should look forward to the advice of the folks here who do a lot of it and are good at it. I bet they have useful solutions.

I have an interesting question though. If you’re bothered by the little bit of OOF in the background, have you considered what might come of further decreasing the focus back there? It might not be your perception of the image, but a good artistic case could be made for a shallower depth of field and more emphasis on the great foreground.

BTW- Your struggle with critical focus is familiar to me with my aging eyes and small display screens. I grew up using the DOF preview button on cameras, but in darker settings such as yours that’s pretty much useless with small apertures. Meanwhile the view screen on modern digital cameras is only marginally better for me.

Meanwhile I was recently on the sidelines for an indoor commercial shoot in low light, a young photographer new to me but quite skilled with the latest in gear and software. Specifically for managing DOF and critical lighting in the challenging setting, he shot while tethered to his tablet, using the large screen for his “viewfinder” or DOF preview button. He was able to see remarkable details, and even better for the setting (in his case, decisions by committee), he was able to pass around the tablet to the client and techs to view before pressing the release. He could also walk around (or sit) and view the frame in comfort, even walking forward into the scene to manipulate objects and lighting while viewing the results on the tablet.

I was enthralled, but not at all stirring any ambition to return to commercial shooting. Instead I could see brilliant applications for difficult settings in outdoor shooting. I haven’t pursued it yet, but tethering to a tablet appears to hold huge potential for my aging eyes.

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It probably isn’t a big deal as there wasn’t anything in the background the required detail as the sunstar was what the flowers were leading to. Just annoying! I’ll give the tablet a whirl. Nikon has an app that let’s you live view on a tablet and fire the shutter so that’s a really good idea. Thanks Hank.

Let us know how it works out!!! I’ve been too wrapped up to pursue it, but you could easily move it to the top of my list.

The com I was working with was a Canon-ite, and circumstances were too involved for me to pursue the question with him.

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I like how you got low and close to the fg flowers and how they lead me into the frame! The focus-stack looks great and the vibrant greens feel very springlike.
Looking at the larger version I see what you mean about the bg. For me it is too much out of focus and this cannot be saved in post. I also notice that the flowers closest to the lens lack a bit sharpness. Could you share the settings used?
The highlights on the flowers seem a bit too bright, but these can maybe be recovered from the raw files. One final thing is that the leafs in the fg maybe have a bit too much light showing for a backlit scene, hinting to another lightsource. Could some dodging and burning in the fg help this? What do you think?
If the flowers are still blooming and this scene is close to where you live I would definitely visit it again, there’s a beautiful opportunity here!
I hope this helps!

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i like how you approached this scene and it definitely has potential! as @Ron_Jansen pointed out there are a few technical flaws - whether they can be salvaged in pp is hard to say without seeing the raw files. when you have a sharp exposure of the background i would definitely recommend trying to work on the image some more (maybe starting from scratch in post) to achieve a more natural look. in addition to the things @Ron_Jansen you could try to warm up the sunstar and pay close attention to the greens (atm you do have two different tones of green where you’d expect one).


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A beautiful find and a scene most certainly worthy of capturing.

You mentioned you did focus stacking, but didn’t provide any info. To me, it looks like you may have used a fairly wide aperture, given the dof isn’t that deep, especially looking at the bottom of the image between the flowers and clover. OR, there could possibly have been some movement in the flowers? Just in the flowers and leaves up front some of the flowers aren’t sharp and the more I look, the more I’m thinking motion rather than focus? Colors are excellent.

As far as the bg trees, softness and shadows - I think you did well there. Given the scene, I’m not expecting great detail there and would agree with Hank’s line of thought. If the bg isn’t sharp and you don’t have any frames with that sharpness - then go with the flow an possible even apply some more blur? It’s a near/far comp, but really, the story is about the pretty greens and flowers - and yes, the sun star (although that looks a little odd at large size as well.

It’s a lovely scene Chris. But I do think if you don’t have the frames that contain sharp detail front to back, or exposures where you can extract shadow detail, then I think recovering that in POST is difficult.

I wonder if this is a place you can revisit? If not this year, maybe next!


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Oh, I feel your pain; been there, done that. :disappointed_relieved:

I love this image, it is an outstanding subject and comp and I can see why you are loathe to leave it. In the end though, if you don’t have an image with better focus in the areas lacking you have to choose less than perfect or go back for another shoot.

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An absolutely lovely composition, Chris, and the FG lighting is wonderful. That said, I think you do have a dead horse here. I think the out of focus BG is beyond repair and and the front two flowers also seem somewhat OOF and distorted. You may can fix the distortion, but the focus issue may be too much to fix, but would be worth a try. I’ve been playing with Topaz Sharpen AI software, which says it will make “slightly” OOF shot look sharp. I’ve had moderate success with it; it will help some images but it can’t work miracles (I have a few images that require miracles!! LOL).

I don’t know if you can be fortunate enough to re-shoot this, but I certainly hope so because it’s a gorgeous scene!

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Cheers everyone. Yep, as much as I love the image I think I’ll give it up as a bad job. I returned to the scene today but the light wasn’t right and the flowers had been flattened by the wind/dog/irresponsible human!

Maybe the foreground could be the shot? Cropped everything else out and bring the hi lights down and balance everything out. Looks like you have some great light to work with. I think it is definitely worth playing with.

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