Beach at Sunset: Results #case-study-results


Dan Margulis
 

I’ve posted the results of the Beach at Sunset exercise, the fourth in a series of 11 case studies. Your comments are now welcomed; I'll reserve my own for a couple of days.
 
Reviewing: The young woman who is the subject of this photo owns a Nikon product, but whoever shot her had only an iPad, unfortunately, and obviously the lighting is not ideal for such a device. Equally obviously, something spectacular is going on in the sky. We are supposed to assume that this is a keepsake image, of importance to the woman. 
 
We have 38 entries, excluding one submitted at the wrong size. Most people also sent a list of their steps, thanks very much. I haven’t read these, because I’d rather get a sense of who was successful and who wasn’t before investigating why.
 
The files don’t have people’s names on them, and were random-generator numbered from #401 to #438. As with past studies, we also have a “par” version, #439. To get it, I chose what I thought might be the five best entrants, and averaged them, each one weighted 20%. This often creates a version that is superior to most if not all of its parents.
 
Meanwhile, if you’d like to know how your own version stacked up, download the par version and compare the two directly. Do you think you got the same kind of quality? If not, I hope you’ll find further discussion useful. Your comments are now welcomed; I'll reserve my own for a couple of days.
 
The Folder is in the group's Photos section, Case Study 2021: Beach at Sunset 
https://groups.io/g/colortheory/album?id=260800
 
I also have zipped all 39 entries and uploaded an 88 mb file to our Files section,
https://groups.io/g/colortheory/files/
Search for 022221_Beach-at-Sunset_entries.zip
If you are going to study these versions I strongly encourage you to download these files. Many of these entrants vary only in a minor way and it is hard to see the impact of a change without toggling back and forth between them.
 
I look forward to your comments.
 
Dan Margulis
 
P.S. Our next case study is being announced in a separate post. As you will see, we move on from these last two, which were taken in fading light, to an outright night shot.


Kenneth Harris
 

In attempting to make my own par, the first cut down to 10 was easy, much harder to get it down to five.
Ken Harris


Frederick Yocum
 

Thanks Dan 

I am impressed with the range of interpretations of the image and also how difficult it is to apply selective edits without turning the photograph into two different scenes.

regards,

Frederick Yocum
frederick@...

Mobile: +1 717 341 2226
Skype: frederickyocum
Twitter: @frederickyocum
Website:frederickyocum.com




Paco
 
Edited

I submitted 417. 

 

Compared to the par version I went for the cool ambiance after a sunset or sunrise storm has just passed and the light has a soft bluish tinge to it contrasting with the warm sky and magenta clouds. This bluish tint is natural in the atmospheric haze at the distant mountains which also enhances the illusion of depth.

 

I kept the skin tone on the tanned side so she stands out from the cool ambient light and she gains more importance than the sunset/sunrise. To add to this I darkened the sky at the top of the image slightly.

 

I made corrections through masks made from the R channel where the sky, the sea, the pebbles and she could be worked on separately.

 

The par version is probably 100% technically correct but I like the softer quality I managed to get in 417.

 

All the best!

 

Paco


Gerald Bakker
 

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
https://geraldbakker.nl


James Gray
 

Mine is 426.  I agree with Gerald that he did a pretty good job.  I like my sky better.  I think the par version is better than either.  I found this image really difficult.  My first version was not very good except for the sky which was not my intent.  My 2nd version was far better except for the sky.  I was not expecting my version to be competitive, but I think it is in the top half.

Jim Gray

On Mon, Feb 22, 2021 at 1:07 PM Gerald Bakker <gc.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
https://geraldbakker.nl


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
https://geraldbakker.nl



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.


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

 

 


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


Ronny Light
 

422

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.



Ronny
www.RonnyLightPhoto.com
5010 B Wilkerson Dr., Nashville, TN 37211


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?


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


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.

Dan

*****************

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. 


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


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 desires...as usual, it depends.
Doug Schafer


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


David Remington
 

My version is #406 and Dan quoted my original thoughts in his post below.
 
...to create a nice vacation keepsake...how 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.
 
David


James Gray
 

David,
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.
 
...to create a nice vacation keepsake...how 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.
 
David


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. 

THANKS!

-Edward Bateman