Castleton Tower

Castleton Tower in Castle Valley, Utah on a stormy day. I was in Moab area in October 2018 and it was very uncharacteristically wet and stormy for 5 out of 8 days. However, the weather did provide opportunities for some moody photos.

What technical feedback would you like if any?

What artistic feedback would you like if any?

Pertinent technical details or techniques:

(If this is a composite, etc. please be honest with your techniques to help others learn)

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An really effective perspective and lines leading up toward the formation and moody sky. You might even bring in the black point a bit in the sky to further the foreboding look, but it works well as presented.

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Thank you Harley. I will give it a try.

This is a pretty heavy interpretation of the southwest. I would remove some of the greenish tint from the clouds (and replace it with steel blue?). This may be a good candidate for b&w where exaggerated drama works well.

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Great composition! As is often the case with high dynamic range photos, the overall look of the light seems “off” to me, not quite realistic, too HDR . The rocks seem much brighter than would be possible with the dark sky. Also, the sky directly above the rock on the left looks like a halo; perhaps it is real, but I would darken it. I agree with Igor, conversion to black and white might be a good idea. For some reason, I and many others who look at color photos that seem too “HDR” don’t object at all to a B+W of the same photo, probably because our eyes want a color photo to seem real but a black and white is obviously not real.

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Thank you Tony for your insightful comments. Point well taken. I’ve tried redoing the image and wasn’t very happy with my results and so I’ve decided to do a complete redo from the raw file (see the attached image). Incidentally, the light areas above the rocks on the left are clouds, not halos. I did tune them down but wasn’t successful in cloning them out without being obvious. I’ve also attached a B&W version of this redone image. I am curious in your opinion on these two redone images.

Thank you for your comments, Igor. Please see my reply to Tony’s comments below.

The color redo to my eye is not an improvement. It still looks very HDR, and the sky is even darker than the highlites in the rocks than the first color photo. The problem is still an imbalance between the darkness of the sky and the brightness of the rocks, which is under normal circumstances an impossibility. Also a lesser problem is the contrast in the rocks between the reds and the whites seems too intense . These are subjective comments, others might disagree, so you should take them with a grain of salt. I think the B+W is an improvement. I would try lightening the sky a bit, it still seems too dark to my eye. If you could post the original unedited RAW I would be happy to give the edit a go.

Very interesting camera placement to convey the terrain. Before I read comments and your response I had many of the same reactions. The attached image was from phone software so does not convey well many of my thoughts below.
To my eye the left rock mass competes with the central flow to the tower. The rock masses in left and right foreground could be burned/desaturate leaving some lines to convey the tortured terrain.
I would try to burn parts of the bright sky to avoid the halo which further emphasizes the left rock mass. You could select the bright area and burn within the selection to avoid darkening the rock or clouds.
The color of the clouds bothers me also. Good contrast (gnarly clouds complement gnarly terrain) but too yellow or green.
Might dodge and saturate the tower and its base to let it draw more attention and convey your Priest idea.
Keep working with this as the composition is very strong.

I’ve tried another redo from a scratch and actually using a slightly different original file without the light clouds next to the rocks on the left. Wha

t are your thoughts? Thanks.

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Izzy, I’m coming in late here, but I have read all the posts. All of your color reworks have a very heavy overcooked HDR look. Maybe that is your intent, and your style of processing, and if it is , then to each his own. I’m not a big fan of software like Photomatix, and these images have that type of HDR look. Sorry, not trying to be harsh, just expressing my opinion.

My personal preference is to try for an enhanced, but more realistic look. If you want to try to go down the more natural path, then I would suggest posting the uneditted image here, or one with some modest highlight recovery in the sky. Then let some of us take a run at reworking it for a more natural look. If you are happy with it as as is, that’s fine too. In the end you only have to please yourself.

Thank you Ed. I appreciate all criticism and feel that it can only help me improve. I probably do have a tendency for processing more contrasty and saturated images. However, since I’ve switched to Sony full frame mirrorless cameras with a high dynamic range, I very seldom use HDR processing. As you and Tony have suggested, I am enclosing an original file for my last posted images here. The exposure of the file is problematic. So in the prior posted image, I had converted it into a smart object in PS, made a smart object copy in which I’ve adjusted the sky exposure and blended the two using luminosity masking. Subsequently, I did some color, contrast, and exposure global and local adjustments. In any case, the original unprocessed file is attached for anyone to edit. Since submission of raw files is not allowed on this forum, I am attaching this unedited file in the jpeg format that was reduced in size to keep it within 10MB allowed limit. Thank you all.

Thanks for posting the unedited image, and for being so receptive to constructive criticism. Wow, that is about as difficult a dynamic range situation as one would encounter, no wonder this presented such significant challenges from a processing perspective.

This is a dynamic range situation that really calls for bracketing and blending exposures, if you want to maximize your image quality. I shoot Canon, and I know Sony sensors have a reputation for better dynamic range than Canon, there’s no disputing that. But I don’t care how good Sony’s dynamic range is, this situation is so difficult that bracket and blend would give you much better results. IMO the image would be much easier to process, and I suspect would have less noise in the lifted shadows. With these kind of shadows you have to push processing pretty hard, and it’s easy to get the overcooked HDR look. Just because Sony sensors are better doesn’t mean there aren’t some situations where exposure blending would yield better results. That Sony sensor is not a get out of jail free card in all cases.

With that said, here is my best effort at a more natural look. I had to work with something other than the raw file, so with a raw and Sony’s DR I might have done a little better. I essentially used TK subtracted masks D2-D6 to lift shadows while retaining contrast. It got a little wonky at the horizon.

Ed, thank you and I do see your points. I think that there are personal style preferences. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I gravitate towards slightly more saturated and contrasty images. In my last posted version, the image after luminosity masking and blending (no HDR) was not that different from your processed image. However, I went further using global and local adjustments to increase the pop and also to retain the wet rock appearance as it was raining on and off throughout. It was very unusual weather in Moab as it rained 5 out of 6 days that I was there. I agree with you regarding bracketing and blending. I commonly bracket as I did this time. However, my brackets were way off and not usable in this case, in part due to poor weather. I wanted to take these picture and was positioned on slippery rocks and hurried too much.

Izzy, I hear you on this , some of it is personal preference. One of the things about critique is that it’s not always possible to know the experience level of the person posting the image. I didn’t know if you had experience with exposure blending or not, so I decided to discuss it, given how difficult a dynamic range situation this image presented. This level of shadow lifting is so difficult to pull off well with one image.

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Your explanation that this was shot on a rainy day helps a lot. It explains why the sky is as it is and why the rocks on the right have a strange glisten to it. I think that it should be processed as a rainy day picture rather than a traditional southwest image with saturated reds and deep blue sky.

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Thanks Igor.

How about this re-edited version?

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Wow!! Wonderful clouds, and fine handling of rocks.

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I think that looks more like what you experienced. I have to be honest and say that I’m not one of those that likes sky exchanges very much. It’s an immediate turnoff for me. But maybe I’ll come around to that line of thinking.

There is a soft area in the lower left I forgot to mention. A crop is about the only thing that will address that. Unfortunately that breaks down your composition a bit.

That spire is an important part of your image. I would add contrast to make it more noteworthy.

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Igor what do you mean by sky exchange?