Re: Beach at Sunset: Results #case-study-results

Robert S Baldassano


Mine was 420 and in looking at the rest of the images, I erred on the side of making mine too flat and I did nothing to correct the noise. I compared mine with par and though at first I found par a bit too bright for what I saw as a setting sun image, compared to mine it was a better skin tone. So I tried two things I lowered the opacity  of PAR to 61 percent and then I added an inverted red channel mask to that layer. That lowered the luminosity of the skin just a bit and put a little more detail in the hill. In general I think the file needed to be a balance of the girl and the sky. Too bright, it did not look like a sunset image, too dark and we lost the girl. Its really funny how even when we think we have done the right think, later comparing what you submitted to what others have done I find I am asking why I submitted the version that I did and didn’t see how inadequate it was. The revised version enclosed.



Sent from Mail for Windows 10


Re: Beach at Sunset: Results #case-study-results

Christophe Potworowski

My image is #429 (I think, Dan shortened the title). I worked on the sky and water separately from the girl and the beach through the use of masks. I found the image difficult as there was little I could do with the sky colours.


Re: Beach at Sunset: Results #case-study-results

Jim Sanderson

There certainly are quite a few interpretations of this picture.  Last year when Dan hosted these exercises, I noticed that many of my entries were on the dark side as compared to the majority of the other entries.  This year I've been making a conscious effort to lighten up. (Double Entendre Warning)  In the first exercise my entry was on the light side.  So to in this entry, which is 437.  I seems from the original DNG that the sun is still high enough in the sky to provide ample light on the landscape.  Many of the darker entries remind me of late civil twilight rather than pre-sunset.  In any case, I made the colors what I thought they should be and came up with one of the lighter versions.

Jim Sanderson 

Beach at Sunset: Dan's comments

Dan Margulis

When confronted with an image of the sun-and-shade type, where half is strongly lit and the other not, normal procedure is to attempt to bring the two halves closer together. The reason is that humans adjust easily to two types of lighting in the same scene whereas cameras do not. They therefore present us with more contrast between the two areas than we would see ourselves. For PPW adherents, the normal way of closing the gap between the two is with a Hammer action if we are strongly interested in picking up more highlight and shadow detail, or a false profile plus multiplication through a layer mask if we are not.

Decent cameras are bad enough at such scenes, but at least they don’t try to outsmart the photographer. Smartphones and tablets do. They assume, probably rightly so, that their typical user is a fool, and consequently they build in a lot of tweaks that make for better images if that supposition happens to be true. Greens will get greener and blues bluer but fleshtones won’t, for example.  Unfortunately, what works well for typical photographs can do badly on weirdos like this one. What seems to have happened is that the iPad decided that the color variation in the sky and water made it the most important part of the image, enough so that it would pay to blow out the lighter portion of the sky and darken the beach drastically in order to give the favored area more snap. To overcome that, we need a Hammer and a false profile, and very likely need to select each half and work on them separately as well.

The sun is low in the sky, and it will be going down soon, but it hasn’t done so yet. Forget the iPad’s interpretation. The beach and the woman are getting a lot of light, so the original is way, way too dark in the entire beach area. How do we know?

a) The sea is getting plenty of sunlight, as seen by the powerful colored reflections that extend all the way to the water’s edge. But somehow the sunlight doesn’t extend into the beach?

b) The gravelly beach surface isn’t very reflective, but human skin is. Reflections are coming off the woman’s hair, nose, cheek, knees and hands, and the top of the camera as well. This strong lighting cannot mysteriously avoid lighting up the beach as well.

c) The boats, and the village in the background: nobody has their lights on! How can this be, if the scene is dark? (The few lights that are on look to be of the type that are timer-controlled, and would go on earlier to account for days shorter than those of mid-July.)

d) Look at the par, or better yet, at Paco’s #417 (which is lighter). These two convincingly portray daylight conditions on the beach. If the beach were truly in nighttime conditions or even dusk such a correction would be impossible. Don’t believe it? Our next case study, the Bellagio, is a night shot. Try to make it a daytime shot and see how far you get!

Now that we know that the two sides need to come closer together, what are we trying for. I disagree with Hector when he says,
So, I focus on making the woman in this picture as bright as possible (especially if they look very dark).

You'd be surprised, they might not even notice the sunset or the ocean.

That might be true of a photo of me at that age, or of my parents/grandparents, because not so many exist that we can afford to be selective. But here we have a child of our century. She probably has a thousand better photos of herself. If nothing was interesting about the sunset, why should she save this one at all, let alone ask for a corrected version? 

I don’t necessarily disagree with the people who used the word spectacular to describe what was wanted in the sky, but it doesn’t have to be spectacular to be interesting. A lot of the entries are what I’d describe as over the top in the sky, but who’s to say that isn’t what’s wanted?

Certainly the sky won’t say it, because the sky isn’t the client. The woman is, and whatever her opinion of the sky may be, she will insist that she herself look good enough, meaning much, much better than the original. Could her friends even recognize her in that one, considering she isn’t facing the camera?

What does it take to make a decent picture out of this mess? Not much, IMHO.

1) The sky/sea combination. Anything from interesting to lurid is acceptable. Any color combination is acceptable. It’s almost all personal taste.

2) The woman. A lot of this is personal taste, too, but there are some mandatory features, easily seen in Hector’s #401 and Paco’s #417:
*Healthy skin color, not too gray or too jaundiced.
*Distinctly blond feel to the lighter hair.
*A feeling of softness to the hair, not a sudden jump from lightness to black.
*Denim jeans and gray shirt approximating their real colors.
*Something done to minimize the noise in the fleshtone.
*Good shaping of the skin, taking account of the reflections.

Considering that there are only two priorities and just about anything will satisfy the first, you would think this would be a fairly easy exercise. But I could count the entrants who meet both requirements on my fingers.

I became so irritated after receiving around half a dozen consecutive poor entries with descriptions of lengthy workflows that I said to myself, “I could make an acceptable version of this bleeping thing in one minute.” So I did. Here are the steps, admittedly it would take longer without the PPW panel. The † symbol means that ordinarily I would consider some modification of the settings but with one minute there was no time for thinking, so I made the “normal” choice.

Click Velvet Hammer
Flatten and Click False Profile 1.4†
Add Background RGB as layer mask†
Gaussian Blur 30 pixels†
Move to LAB
Click Skin Desaturation
1-second lasso selection of woman†
Click MMM+CB
Adjust downward MMM Color and Color Boost.

That’s it. No sharpening, no channel blending, no curves correction, no retouching. The result is #407. Is it in the same league as our best entries? No. Does it have an interesting sky and an acceptable woman? Yes. Consequently it’s better than a healthy majority of our entrants.

Hopefully not yours, though. I’ll post some individual comments in the next day or two.

Re: Beach at Sunset: Results #case-study-results

Edward Bateman

Hello everyone - mine was #430.

I learned a lot from this one... mainly about myself. 

I did an experiement. I did 3 corrections on 3 different days, using different techniques. The first day, I did a more-or-less typical PPW process.  The next day, I did a version only with RAW tools.  It was interesting to see the difference... I think in part informed by how my first one looked. I combined the two at about 60%.  Then the next day, I did a new one - more or less using PPW tools - but again, I think what I learned form teh previous work informed different choices. And that got blended in... at about 50%. I took another look... and then at the last minute, added DMs default Highlight/Shadows (at about 75% strength)... and that is what I turned in. 

I decided that the woman was the most important subject - people almost always are... and it was what she would want to see... especially on a vacation. But the sky would be important to her too... and needed to be quite vivid and dramatic to match her memory. We probably exaggerate our memories ... so I felt the image needed that for the woman's expectations.  I suspect that the full reality of what the scene looked like than here remembered memory of it. 


-Edward Bateman


Re: Beach at Sunset: Results #case-study-results

James Gray

I like your version quite a lot.

Jim Gray

On Tue, Feb 23, 2021 at 3:09 PM David Remington <david_remington@...> wrote:
My version is #406 and Dan quoted my original thoughts in his post below. create a nice vacation you remember the scene when thinking fondly of the moment.
When I look at it now with the inevitable hindsight and in context of what I like in some of the other versions, I see the changes that would improve it.
I went with the violet purple color palette of the sunset sky, accentuated it and used it throughout the image. I wanted a uniform color scheme. Now it seems a little too cool and the contrast is too harsh. I like some of the softer takes. If I had shot this scene myself I would say I over lit it. Too much fill on the woman. I agree with those who think a bit darker would be more natural. Also, I went with a silhouette for the coastline. I appreciate how open it is in Paco's version. I would go somewhere in the middle. This is a piece where subjective interpretation has a lot leeway and it's interesting to see the different takes.

Re: Beach at Sunset: Results #case-study-results

David Remington

My version is #406 and Dan quoted my original thoughts in his post below. create a nice vacation you remember the scene when thinking fondly of the moment.
When I look at it now with the inevitable hindsight and in context of what I like in some of the other versions, I see the changes that would improve it.
I went with the violet purple color palette of the sunset sky, accentuated it and used it throughout the image. I wanted a uniform color scheme. Now it seems a little too cool and the contrast is too harsh. I like some of the softer takes. If I had shot this scene myself I would say I over lit it. Too much fill on the woman. I agree with those who think a bit darker would be more natural. Also, I went with a silhouette for the coastline. I appreciate how open it is in Paco's version. I would go somewhere in the middle. This is a piece where subjective interpretation has a lot leeway and it's interesting to see the different takes.

Re: Color Consciousness


On Mon, Feb 22, 2021 at 11:30 AM, Kirk Thibault wrote:
"How Technicolor changed movies"
Super Interesting Kim, many thanks!!


Jorge Parra

Re: Beach at Sunset: Results #case-study-results

john c.

Mine is 423 (I have no idea where the weird name came from except that my email program was acting up when I sent it to Dan). I tried to give a lot of color to the sunset and how it plays on the water, but I also liked featuring the photographer because I think she’s the subject as much as what she’s taking a photo of, otherwise we’d be working on the shot she took. I tried to keep some details in the mountains too, and I like an over all warmth to the entire shot considering the time of day, but I understand that she could also be in open blue shade. This is a difficult image since the photographer could reasonably wind up being nothing more than a black silhouette or any lightness up to well lit as the par version shows, and it’s all good. We couldn’t know without being the person who took this, and even then many options are still reasonable. I used the lesser hammer, curves, SH and luminosity masking, but decided not to sharpen it without knowing a print size due to the strong artifacts it already has.
john castronovo

Re: Beach at Sunset: Results #case-study-results

Doug Schafer

Mine is # 408. With photo title ("beach at sunset") and sky colors, I knew the sunset was as important as the girl in view, so I tried to make it a sunset scene with bright colorful, but dusk sky, and keep the girl in sunset dusk but still very visible with colors to see tan and sunset glow, and background mtn/hills as dark, in shadows, background, backlit by the sun.
I was surprised to see the par image so bright and so many as near daylight with the sun so low in the sky.
I did read the various comments and many interpretations could meet the client usual, it depends.
Doug Schafer

Re: Beach at Sunset: Results #case-study-results

Robert Wheeler

Mine was 419, an attempt to lighten the woman considerably while also enhancing the sunset colors and maintaining some consistency across the whole image. Compared to others, mine looks like it could benefit from some warmer tones. When I set PhotoPills to 7/17/2017 8:58 p.m. Athens, Greece, it calculates sunset as happening close to the time of the image. I suspect the camera data is true, since an iPad would usually synchronize to local time automatically (unless the setting is turned off or the unit remained in airplane mode the entire time). When I open mine and then add the PAR version at 50% opacity, I like the combination better than either one separately. Other tastes may vary.
Robert Wheeler

Re: Beach at Sunset: Results #case-study-results

Dan Margulis

About these results, maybe the less said the better, however I would say that the fiasco is partially explainable by the fact that we don’t agree on whether

1) the woman is so important that the sunset doesn’t have to be emphasized; 

2) the picture is about the sunset so it doesn’t matter how dark the woman is made;

3) an attractive woman and a spectacular sunset are both necessary elements.

Several people put statements of their philosophy in the notes they appended to their submissions. I excerpt them here.



Then my main focus is the 'young woman pictured'.

Which means to me that there is no reason why it should look like nighttime.


I found it helpful with the previous case study to think of the image as telling a story
(even if it is "See Dick Run" simple).

So the image is telling me "a young photography enthusiast is trying to capture a spectacular
sunset in a picturesque locale".


This seems to be taken around sunset in some southern part of Europe – I would guess Italy. So luminosity is somewhat low, and colour definition the same. Lots of noise, and competing greyness on the beach.
I think it would be wrong to juice up luminosity and briskness, but OTOH this could also be exactly what the person wanted. So I decided to keep it ‘dark’. ?


The goal as you outlined it is to create a nice vacation keepsake. I take that as how you remember the scene when thinking fondly of the moment. A memory to revisit. I'm still sticking with a photographic interpretation of the actual conditions but this one is more idealized than my other entries. I do want to have the whole image fit together as a piece with coherent lighting and a harmonious color palette. I feel that is important. 


In terms of objectives, clearly this is a picture of the woman in a fairly spectacular setting. We need to experience the drama of the late evening sunset and its reflection on the water, and be able to see the woman while still retaining the feeling of darkness on the beach. 


A photo of two halves.  It is about a photographer photographing a sunset. To go too light will render the photograph less impactful.  To go too dark is to focus too much on the sunset. 


Seemed like the emphasis should be on the woman and the sky/reflections in the water;  the middle ground can stay dark…I didn’t make the woman or foreground any lighter to maintain a sunset feel to the picture.  I’ll be interested to see how others in the group approached this.


Notes: Initial impression is that the main subject appears to be the woman, who is too dark to see well, and the sunset/bay scene is the secondary subject, with colors likely more spectacular than captured. There appears to be a cool color cast, and the brightest parts of the sky seem problematic...
Still not very happy with the brightest parts of the sky being this large, but avoided cloning to shrink or remove them. Will be interesting to see what others do.


Curious to see how others’ versions look… there was a lot of room for interpretation on this one. I felt that the woman would want to look tan (based on season and clothing) … and made a bit redder by the warm sunset light. 


In thinking about how to approach this, I decided the photographer and the woman in the photo would want to remember a dynamic sky with intense colors. Also that the beach where they were standing would have seemed darker to them when compared with the sky they were watching. So my goals were to bring out the colors in the sky and water while casting the beach a little further in the shadows. 

Re: Beach at Sunset: Results #case-study-results

Harvey Nagai

her: "I went to Greece for a generational family reunion and while I was there I saw
a spectacular sunset that I just had to try to capture."


ipad friend: "That was so like her."


me: "Lightening this underexposed ipad pic is like opening Pandora's Box."

= 402

Re: Beach at Sunset: Results #case-study-results

John Gillespie

My attempt is 409.
I would say that this is the first time in these challenges that I don't immediately prefer the par to my own (or some of the other entries).
It seems too light to me for the setting and not quite dramatic enough. The picture implies that this is a spectacular sunset and the angle of the light suggests the end of twilight. 
"Blazing" and "fiery" are words people use to describe sunsets like this and I don't get that impression from the par.
Of course the client may prefer the lighter foreground of the par. I am an interested amateur rather than an imaging professional so I don't have a feel for that, it would be quite interesting to know if the people who do work for clients have an instinct for what is likely to be accepted. Given that Dan has chosen the entries for the par I am guessing that the question has probably already been answered.
A slightly different way to look at it:
Is it always an error in this image to make the foreground dark?
Or is it an error to make the foreground dark if the person in the foreground is the expected audience?

Re: Beach at Sunset: Results #case-study-results

Ronny Light


Sometimes, reading EXIF data can mislead.

Where in the world would the sunset be that bright at 9pm? Could have been
in the Midnight Sun but, according to Dan, that wasn't the location.

I just re-read Dan's introductory remarks. He said this photo came from the
same family reunion to Greece. I just checked and sunset in Greece, if you
believe the EXIF data, is 7:50 in July, almost 2 hours after this image was
allegedly shot. I believe, rather, that the EXIF data is wrong. At family
reunions, it's not uncommon for attendees to travel from other time zones.

The iPad user could have been a visitor from another time zone who didn't
set the time zone for the location. I've been guilty of that mistake with my
DSLR and have to constantly guard against it when traveling outside of my
time zone.

Realistically, the girl was on the dark side of the sunset and shouldn't
have been as well lit as I and others made her. But the girl wouldn't have
been happy to be a shadow on the dark side of the sunset. Dan said the photo
"has significant sentimental value to the young woman pictured". More reason
to choose the subject's expectations over reality.

When reality doesn't mesh with subject expectations, I try to satisfy the
subject. The sunset can't object and refuse to hire you again.

5010 B Wilkerson Dr., Nashville, TN 37211

Re: Beach at Sunset: Results #case-study-results

Hector Davila

Mines is #401.

The majority of pictures I get
with people in beach backgrounds
is people who want to be able
to see...themselves,
in the picture.

So, I make the person
as bright as possible
because...the beach scene is just
a nice background shot
to take a picture in.

Like a studio background.

So, I focus on making the woman
in this picture
as bright as possible
(especially if they look very dark).

You'd be surprised, they might not
even notice the sunset or the ocean.

It's just a nice background to
take a picture of someone.

Hector Davila

Re: Beach at Sunset: Results #case-study-results

John Furnes

Mine is #405


I reckoned that since this is somewhere by the Mediterranean , there would be very little light left at 9 PM that could light up the scene, not to mention the back of the woman. The sun is already below the horizon. So I went for darkness.

I removed most of the noise in RAW, and went for PS.

I did something Dan says we shouldn’t, namely I tried to dampen the sharp lights of the background sky, i.e. cloned a bit around.

Otherwise I went for Lab and adjustments in a and b, adjusted for too much colour, brought it back to RGB, and finished with USM.

I think the PAR version makes it look like it was daytime, which it isn’t.


John Furnes



moderated Re: Case Study: Bellagio at Night


Hi all,
In case anyone else has difficulty getting the DNG for this exercise to the correct size:
I use RawTherapee which opens this at max frame (some extra pixels) @ 3900x2594.
First create a crop box @ 3888x2592 (which is full frame size).
Position the box with a 6pixel by 1pixel offset from the top left corner, and crop it.
Next scale that to 3000x2000.
If everything worked properly you should be able to overlay one of the JPGs with this and they’ll align.
HTH – Steve

Re: Beach at Sunset: Results #case-study-results

Matthew Croxton

As in the mantillas exercise, I ended up with what is probably the densest/darkest result in the bunch. Mine is 435.

Dan challenged us to consider that this photograph (from Greece) has sentimental value to the young woman pictured. Since it has emotional weight, I made a choice that the atmospheric decisive moment it represents could be interpreted with some selective focus. Implementing a Lens Blur in PS that was semi-precision guided by a modified alpha channel had the bonus effect of eliminating much of the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad grain. It is ugly and it is almost everywhere. The awful grain is also a clue. I decided early on that the scene was a very late sunset, making it darker than it appears in the original image. The reddish-orange glow in the sky is illuminating the *bottom* of the clouds in the right third of the frame. To get such a deep reddish color from that angle, the sun must be very low, or haze beyond the frame very high—perhaps both. Building lights are on; another clue. Therefore, I interpreted that the bursts of sunlight in the image are merely breaks in the cloud bank that promptly blew out given the questionably bright exposure picked by the iPad (an iPad Mini 4, FWIW). Given the available darkness implied, I wanted to complete the look by pretending that, instead of being shot by an iPad, it had been shot by what would have been the best possible optic for the situation: a large aperture wide-angle lens focused near infinity to capture the horizon. Something like a fast 28mm or 35mm at f/2. The focal length equivalent of the iPad lens used here happens to split the difference at 31mm.

Re: Beach at Sunset: Results #case-study-results

Kent Sutorius

I am 428. I am a newbie to this group. Only completed 8 chapters of Professional Photoshop and 3 chapters of the LAB book. I also only do it with Affinity Photo. I don't understand how you decide on how light the foreground should be in the photograph. I also messed up my LAB channels for the sky. I ended up creating spare channels for the sky, water, mountains, and beach with girl. I then used a combination of LAB curves, brightness/contrast. Vibrance/saturation was also used on the water. I am grateful for the number of comments people make on the challenges and the investment Dan makes with the group.

Kent Sutorius

On 2/22/2021 3:07 PM, Gerald Bakker wrote:
My version is 410.
Comparing it to the par (and to many others) reveals at least one weak point: the sky could have been more colorful. Other than that, I think I did a good job. 

I found the hard part of this image how light the foreground should be. Leave it too dark and detail gets lost. Make it too light and the combination with the colored evening sky becomes unrealistic. To be honest, I find the girl in the par version a little light, almost as if a flash light from the left had been used. Having to choose whether the sky/landscape or the girl is the primary focus of the image, I'd vote for the scenery. This is certainly not a model shot with a nice background, it's a landscape image with the girl as a foreground element.
Gerald Bakker

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