by Terese Johnston
TECHNICAL: Raw image supplied (1). Like many images from the workshop group, this one is also underexposed, with the histogram (1) biased to the left (dark) side. Fortunately, though, there is no evidence of clipped shadows, with the left side of the histogram tapering to a point rather than being stacked up against the left extremity. And because there are no clipped highlights, the raw image will respond well to processing that aims to increase the dynamic range. Nevertheless, it's still worth saying that exposing to the right side of the histogram remains a better practice that will give you more to work with, especially in more challenging (contrasty) lighting conditions than were in play during this exposure.
There is good depth of field (DoF) across the frame and the image appears sharp thanks to the 1/500th shutter speed and accurate focus, and good tripod technique?
CRITIQUE of the processed .JPG image (1a) that Terese also supplied: Terese, you have captured a good moment and I can't really fault your composition. The rock elements are neatly placed within the frame and there are no rock shapes that appear as distractions. As a group, the rocks taper and point to the area below the wave burst.
There's rhythm in horizontal shapes of waves, rocks, and ragged froth on the water.
There's a diagonal dynamic from top left to bottom right from the wave burst through to the foreground boulder. I love that much of the distant sea horizon has been obstructed by a nearer wave crest. This always enhances the energy in the image. I can say that there is unity in your composition.
Your .JPG exhibits minimal processing, and there's nothing wrong with that...if the original capture expresses what you set out to achieve. You've improved the dynamic range using levels or curves, and the whitewater pops against the steely grey sky. For my taste, though, the rocks have been darkened excessively and the image tends to a heaviness and lack of detail in the lower register (darker values).
INTERPRETATION by Rob using Lightroom: Terese, you've given me a tough assignment! As I said, I can't really fault your composition...in the sense that there's nothing that jumps out and says to me "Houston, we have a problem!"
So I hope you'll forgive me if I'm a hard marker for your image. I want to challenge your ideas on composition, if only for the exercise. You can agree or disagree, of course. I'm just giving you my opinion.
For starters, I processed your image full frame as you did. I increased global exposure by 0.2 stops and used Lightroom's basic sliders to substantially lift highlights +30, shadows (+30) and whites (+60). I also applied clarity (+25). This improved the dynamic range in the histogram (2) and pushed the appearance to high key.
I converted the image to B&W and split-toned it with mauve highlights and pale brown shadows. In my opinion, the image (2) looks cleaner and brighter and enhances textures in the rocks. But, I didn't think that what I had done had done anything to substantially improve the picture...the composition.
What? You thought I said that I couldn't "fault" the composition? Well, yes I did say that. But what I'm saying now is that I'm looking for more than a comfortable, competent composition. I want something that has visual tension to support the inherent drama in the seascape subject matter.
My eye was drawn to some DESIGN in the image: the vector through the wave burst and an arrowhead shape in the rocks which lends itself to becoming a bookend for the bottom right corner of a square cropped version (3) of your photograph. Besides the radical crop, I also changed the split-toning for version 3 by taking the saturation of the mauve back to zero. This has made the image a true monochrome (for competition purposes), with all values being shades of a brown.
In my opinion, the square cropped, high key interpretation has more visual tension and enhances the energy of your photograph. But what do you think? ®