Dune Layers

What technical feedback would you like if any?

I would like to know if there is too much noise in this image for printing it large. If so could you recommend a way of getting rid of it? Additionally, do you think it is too sharp? I used a Sony A7RIV for this image and I find that it sometimes makes things painfully crisp.

What artistic feedback would you like if any?]

What are your overall impressions of this image?

Pertinent technical details or techniques:

(If this is a composite, etc. please be honest with your techniques to help others learn)
This is a focus stack of 5 images.

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Very cool pattern! It doesn’t look to crispy to me. Not even crunchy. I am far from an expert in printing large, but I would think that a file from an a7r4 would be more than suitable for large prints. Also, there is so much texture in this, with all the ripples, I would suspect that noise wouldn’t be an issue, either. This will look amazing printed large, for sure!

This is a great layered image Matthew! I kinda get lost in a good way exploring all the layers and textures. Dune scapes can have such a varied feel to them based on the light, shapes, and coposition of the sand itself. When viewed expanded, it looks a tad on the HDR/high contrast side but like I said it seems with sand dunes they have many personalities. Could you share your camera settings what general post-processing you did to it? I would think a properly exposed A7RIV file would hold up just fine for a large print. Although, when you say “large” how large are you thinking? 20x30 or bill board?

Matthew, I like the concept of zooming in to extract an abstract composition from the dunes. The repetition of the the horizontal lines creates a sense of rhythm and flow in the scene. You also have some interesting light and color here. Now, in terms of noise/sharpening, I do not see any real noise, nor do I think it is over-sharpened.

I think what be making you hesitate on this image is that I think you have too much contrast, and too deep a black point. This high level of contrast may be making you think it is over-sharpened. I would suggest starting by backing off the black point, and then trying to reduce mid-tone contrast a bit too. I could be wrong because I wasn’t at this location, but this seems like deeper blacks than I would expect to see in sand dunes in this type of light.

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Beautiful image, Matthew. Love all the layers here.

As for sharpening, I do think it looks a bit too sharp on my monitor. It sounds like you’re allowing the camera to sharpen. If this is the case, I might suggest to set your camera to either No Sharpening or at most a very minimum amount, and then sharpen to taste in post processing.

As for noise, I can’t see any objectionable noise at the size you posted. I use Topaz Denoise AI for noise reduction now and swear by it. I run most every image through, even those that don’t appear very noisy. You can allow it to automatically work or you can do it manually, and it does a far superior job than programs I’ve used before. You can try on a trial basis if you like - link here - https://topazlabs.com/denoise-ai/ .

Your processing looks very nice to me, wonderfully warm colors and the distinct layers are a real eye-catcher. Beautiful work.

Do you find that if you run your image through topaz after processing it that topaz overdoes the noise reduction? This is something I have noticed while using it, so I typically run my image through it before starting work on it.

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Yes, Matthew, you should run Denoise before your PS processing. I usually run it first thing upon opening the image in PS, after my normal RAW conversion in Capture One 20 Pro. It would be the same procedure using ACR or Lightroom as well. I do most of my processing after RAW conversion, not during it, and I use NO sharpening during RAW conversion.

When I run an image through Denoise I will usually use the Auto function first and see how I like it, and then change the setting if I feel they need to be changed. I have my copy set up so that the image in Denoise only updates when I click on it to update.

This is a very cool graphic image and I quite like it. I love the pattern and the warm colours.

My overall impression is that I wish I had taken this. It’s amazing! The only change I would make would be to clone out the foot trail(?) on the third dune from the bottom.

How this would look printed large is not possible to say at this resolution; we’d have to see the full-size to judge that. You could post a full-size crop of a representative section if you want better feedback.

One of the great tips I’ve seen on NPN (on the old website) for printing large was from Floris Van Breugel. Here’s the relevant section:

Now… here’s a trick that really helps when going really big… like taking a cropped 20D file at high iso to 20x30 (continued from before):

6. create a 50% gray layer in overlay mode
7. add noise using the PS add noise filter: max amount, gaussian, monochrome
8. apply 0.9 radius gaussian blur the noise
9. adjust opacity to taste, consider using a mask (probably the same or similar one as your sharpening mask). For clean files, about 5-8% works well for me in the sky, and 25-35% in detail rich foliage.

This “noise” acts like film grain, and looks very organic compared to the digital artifacts that arise from uprezing, hiding the uglies. Grain, in a print, really is not a bad thing. It just informs the viewer that they’ve come too close to the print, and that they should take a step back, while retaining the organic look a photograph should have IMO. This works particularly well on a textured fiber or rag paper. This is in contrast to the result of genuine fractals, which IMO adds a level of computer generated look. My method, however, is probably not applicable for truly giant enlargements, like a billboard, where genuine fractals may in fact shine.

Very nice composition. I like your range values and don’t have a problem with black without detail.


I wish there were more color separation here. I would try cooling down the shadows a bit.


Just wanted to chime in and say this is awesome! Fantastic. So many layers, compressed to the point of abstract.

I’m no expert on noise, but this web version looks great. I have nothing to add or suggest.

Beautifully seen, captured and presented.