Not a cloud in the sky: Is this good or bad?

Started Nov 4, 2009 | Discussions
Robsphoto
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Not a cloud in the sky: Is this good or bad?
Nov 4, 2009

On the web page linked to below, I show 3 images of snow-covered, Mount Ruapehu, which is in the North Island of New Zealand. I am interested to know which of the three images you prefer.

http://www.robsphotography.co.nz/Mount-Ruapehu-Comparisons.html

The first picture, Image MR 1, was taken with the Sony R1 camera on a bright sunny day when the sky was bright blue, and with not a cloud in the sky.

The second picture, Image MR 2, was taken with the Sony A900 when there was light hazy cloud around, which had the effect of making the colours look a lot more pastel than those in Image MR1.

The third picture, Image MR 3, is a crop of Image MR 2 and shows a lot closer view of part of the mountain.

Note that the pictures were taken on different days and from a different part of the Desert Road. So, when taking pictures of snowy mountains, would you prefer a bright and clear blue sky, or would you prefer to have some cloud in the pictures so that the snow doesn’t look so bright? Thanks for your help.

Regards
Rob

tompower53
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Re: Not a cloud in the sky: Is this good or bad?
In reply to Robsphoto, Nov 4, 2009

I prefer the first by far but even better if you can get some clouds and blue sky together. Just to washed out looking with the type of cloud cover you had that day. JMO
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Mike CH
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Re: Not a cloud in the sky: Is this good or bad?
In reply to Robsphoto, Nov 4, 2009

No. 1 is better in my opinion, more punch. No. 2 seems washed out in comparison.

Perhaps the optimum would be No. 1, but with a select helping of smaller cumulus, still leaving enough blue sky for contrast. The stratiforms in No. 2 are not good for that.

Not something you can order up for your photo excursion, though.

EDIT: On second thought - I think I prefer blue sky and white snow.

Ruapehu - my legs still ache at the mere thought...

Regards,
Mike
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Robsphoto
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Re: Not a cloud in the sky: Is this good or bad?
In reply to tompower53, Nov 4, 2009

tompower53 wrote:

I prefer the first by far but even better if you can get some clouds and blue sky together. Just to washed out looking with the type of cloud cover you had that day. JMO
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tom power

Thanks Tom, yes I’m inclined to agree that a nice mix of bright blue sky with a few puffy white clouds, is something a lot of photographers seem to prefer, perhaps a bit like this image:

http://www.robsphotography.co.nz/Wellington-City-solace-in-the-wind.html

Now, I guess I could easily “import” from another image (using the clone tool or similar in Photoshop) a few nice white puffy clouds and drop them in my Mount Ruapehu clear blu sky image, but I feel this is “cheating”, and not really ethical, so I wouldn't like to do it, but perhaps people might disagree with me on this one?

Regards
Rob

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Robsphoto
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Re: Not a cloud in the sky: Is this good or bad?
In reply to Mike CH, Nov 4, 2009

Mike CH wrote:

No. 1 is better in my opinion, more punch. No. 2 seems washed out in comparison.

Perhaps the optimum would be No. 1, but with a select helping of smaller cumulus, still leaving enough blue sky for contrast. The stratiforms in No. 2 are not good for that.

Not something you can order up for your photo excursion, though.

EDIT: On second thought - I think I prefer blue sky and white snow.

Ruapehu - my legs still ache at the mere thought...

Regards,
Mike
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I'd prefer my DSLR without video, thank you.

Thanks Mike, I guess I could push the contrast up a bit in Image 2, but I quite like the more subtle pastel colours. However, I agree that the bright blue sky is perhaps a better match for the pure white snow than the predominantly pale colour of the cloud in Image 2. I guess this all goes to show that, not even the fabulous Sony A900 can do the trick if the weather conditions and the cloud cover etc. are not as good as they could be!

I now have a lot of sympathy for travelling landscape photographers who have a limited amount of time and money to get a good series of landscape photos together for publication. Particularly with mountain photos, it’s hard enough to get the mountain tops free of cloud, let alone also have a nice mix of clouds in the sky! You almost need to live in a mountainous location to get the possible photos of mountains and clouds, together with really nice lighting effects.

Of course, you can find situations where the cloud is so dominant and dramatic, that your picture will devote at least two-thirds of its height to the cloud, with the land area being almost inconsequential, such as in this image:

http://www.robsphotography.co.nz/Omapere.html

So, as a keen amateur landscape photographer, I’m very much aware of how important cloud is (or the lack of it) to making a picture that most people will like.

Regards
Rob

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beakydave
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Cheating?
In reply to Robsphoto, Nov 4, 2009

Robsphoto wrote:

Now, I guess I could easily “import” from another image (using the clone tool or similar in Photoshop) a few nice white puffy clouds and drop them in my Mount Ruapehu clear blu sky image, but I feel this is “cheating”, and not really ethical, so I wouldn't like to do it, but perhaps people might disagree with me on this one?

Regards
Rob

I say it all depends on your proposed use. If it's for hanging on your own wall, you can do absolutely anything you want to it. If you're planning to sell it, then again I'd do everything possible to maximise sale potential. I think the only time it could be described as cheating would be either in competition entry (where PPing might be restricted) or displaying an image with the intent to deceive. Other than that, anything goes!

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David Haslam
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Re: Not a cloud in the sky: Is this good or bad?
In reply to Robsphoto, Nov 4, 2009

You seem to be losing detail in the reproduction, possibly because the the image is scaled down. The A900 photographs seem to have suffered more. A lot of landscape photography uis about detail. In the old days it used to be said that if you half close your eyes until you can just barely see that will be what the photograph is going to be like. If anything cameras can now resolve more than is visible to the eye.

This is an example of how the interest is in the detail (Ballinasloe horse fair, the largest in Europe). Taken with 6Mp KM5D

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Robsphoto
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"Manufactured" photographs, is this OK?
In reply to beakydave, Nov 4, 2009

beakydave wrote:

Robsphoto wrote:

Now, I guess I could easily “import” from another image (using the clone tool or similar in Photoshop) a few nice white puffy clouds and drop them in my Mount Ruapehu clear blu sky image, but I feel this is “cheating”, and not really ethical, so I wouldn't like to do it, but perhaps people might disagree with me on this one?

Regards
Rob

I say it all depends on your proposed use. If it's for hanging on your own wall, you can do absolutely anything you want to it. If you're planning to sell it, then again I'd do everything possible to maximise sale potential. I think the only time it could be described as cheating would be either in competition entry (where PPing might be restricted) or displaying an image with the intent to deceive. Other than that, anything goes!

Thanks for these comments, but I guess I can see the possibility that, if you become too proficient at "manufacturing" parts of a photograph in a good imaging program, people may assume that they are looking at a "real" image instead of a partly manufactured one. Although photography is often referred to as an "art", I am not sure that people would buy an image if they knew that parts of that image, either its detail or its colours, weren't present in the original, or were substantially different in the original.

In the example in this thread, you would need to be quite artistic to add in clouds, because clouds can cast shadows and you might forget to allow for this. If the final image ends up looking like an obvious "fake", I doubt whether this would be good for the reputation of the photographer?

When looking around photographs on sale, I have often suspected that the colours are "unreal" and could never have looked like that in real life. I think some photographers can overdo the "manufacture" of sunset colours, for example. Just my opinion, but in real life, I guess anything goes, as you say!

Regards
Rob
http://www.robsphotography.co.nz/Mount-Ruapehu-comparisons.html

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tompower53
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Re: "Manufactured" photographs, is this OK?
In reply to Robsphoto, Nov 4, 2009

I don't like things being totally photoshopped or over saturated but hard to say where that line should be drawn exactly.

For myself I just try to record what I see but to each his own. Unfortuneately it is hard to compare this type of photography to heavily photoshopped things.

Perfect example is a Marilyn Monroe book that I was looking at the other day. Absolutely beautiful woman to look at but an amazing amount of defects all over her skin from head to toe. To me not a bad thing at all as you know you were looking at the real thing (probably makes me not feel so bad about my own looks). Then you look at the photshopped images of the current movie stars and they would be almost unrecognizable if you saw them in person. What is the point in that really? Turn an overweight person thin or smooth out every skin defect so they are perfect - seems a little nutty to me.

But this is like photoshopping an eagle into a landscape then entering it into a contest as if you took the shot. How do you stop it? If you are good enough with the computer I think the only way to be found out would be to have too many excellent images in your catalogue to have ever been able to have the time to actuall take them.

So the endless debate continues - how much PP is legitimate or is there even a limit?

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Maxxuman
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Re: Not a cloud in the sky: Is this good or bad?
In reply to Robsphoto, Nov 4, 2009

I guess I prefer the first one, but compositionally I'd have liked it better with a bit more foreground and less sky (same for the second). Also, it may just be this work monitor, but the sky appears a bit oversaturated to me. Did you use a polarizer?
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beakydave
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In reply to tompower53, Nov 4, 2009

Rob/Tom

I agree with both of you, and my own preference is to 'make' the image with the camera (it was once said that cameras take great photographs, but photographers make even better photographs) and not in Photoshop.

The answer lies, I suppose, in whether you are promoting/selling/whatever your piece as a photograph or purely as an object of art to be admired for what it is, not how it got there.

I have some amazing landscape/seascape canvas prints (not mine) at home which are nothing more than ordinary photographs painted with the liquify filter. No-one looking at them for the first time would ever think for a second that they are photographs, but they are no less photographs than one with say clouds added or a tree removed. They are clearly seen as works of art and not sold as photographs. The difficulty, as pointed out, is when does a photo stop being a photo as such and become a work of art?

But going back to my earlier post, I'm only an enthusiastic amateur so it doesn't really bother me either way. If I think that adding or removing something will help a photo sell on stock sites then I'll make the adjustment with no guilty conscience.

For instance, I prefer this:

to this:

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relaxing
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Re: Not a cloud in the sky: Is this good or bad?
In reply to Robsphoto, Nov 4, 2009

I think #2 is a more interesting composition. It looks like you can see the entire mountain.

I think I prefer the overcast sky, too. It's just more pleasing than #1... maybe because "blue sky" and "big snowy mountain" don't go together in my brain?

You're right that the rest of the landscape suffers on the overcast day... maybe some selective contast/color enhancement?

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Robsphoto
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Re: Not a cloud in the sky: Is this good or bad?
In reply to David Haslam, Nov 4, 2009

David Haslam wrote:

You seem to be losing detail in the reproduction, possibly because the the image is scaled down. The A900 photographs seem to have suffered more. A lot of landscape photography uis about detail. In the old days it used to be said that if you half close your eyes until you can just barely see that will be what the photograph is going to be like. If anything cameras can now resolve more than is visible to the eye.

This is an example of how the interest is in the detail (Ballinasloe horse fair, the largest in Europe). Taken with 6Mp KM5D

dhaslam
http://www.pbase.com/dhaslam/galleries

Thanks David, a good pic of the horse fair! Yes, fair comment, the scaling down of the image is the main reason why you would expect the detail on this web page not to look anywhere near as sharp as viewing the full sized image in Photoshop. In fact, the A900 file size has been reduced to just 42 kilobytes, and saved at a very low quality setting in Photoshop. Perhaps I should have included at least a 250kb file size?

However, I guess the main point of the photographs on this occasion was not so much to illustrate the fine detail, but more to ask about the issue of whether a clear sky or a cloudy sky was the most appropriate. You would be amazed at how much better the full resolution pictures look in Photoshop and when printed out! The A900 image looks a lot better than the R1 image, but you can’t really see that too well in the scaled down images on the web page.

Another point is that your horse fair pic is taken from a reasonably close distance, whereas the mountain is many kilometres away from where the pictures are taken. The ability of a camera to produce sharp images seems to be tested more stringently when the subject matter is several kilometres away from the camera. And, of course, the greater the distance, the more likely that atmospherics can come into play, and it was quite a hazy day when the A900 pic was taken.

I have tried to give an idea of just how much detail the A900 can capture by including some 100% crops on the page linked to below. But even these have to be scaled down for web publication purposes.

http://www.robsphotography.co.nz/Sony-A900.html

Regards
Rob
http://www.robsphotography.co.nz/Mount-Ruapehu-comparisons.html

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Robsphoto
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Re: Not a cloud in the sky: Is this good or bad?
In reply to Maxxuman, Nov 4, 2009

Maxxuman wrote:

I guess I prefer the first one, but compositionally I'd have liked it better with a bit more foreground and less sky (same for the second). Also, it may just be this work monitor, but the sky appears a bit oversaturated to me. Did you use a polarizer?
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Thanks Barry for these comments. No. I didn't use a polarizer, but I guess I could reduce the overall contrast / saturation a bit in Photoshop. I'm a little disappointed that only one person so far has said they prefer the second "cloudy" image, because it does look really nice when viewed at its full resolution and when printed as a large print.

Regards
Rob
http://www.robsphotography.co.nz/Mount-Ruapehu-comparisons.html

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Robsphoto
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Re: Not a cloud in the sky: Is this good or bad?
In reply to relaxing, Nov 4, 2009

relaxing wrote:

I think #2 is a more interesting composition. It looks like you can see the entire mountain.

I think I prefer the overcast sky, too. It's just more pleasing than #1... maybe because "blue sky" and "big snowy mountain" don't go together in my brain?

You're right that the rest of the landscape suffers on the overcast day... maybe some selective contast/color enhancement?

Thanks, yes I find Image 2 (taken with the Sony A900) to be a lot more pleasing, but as you suggest some more Photoshop work might help it along a little. Incidentally, some of the most awesome landscape photographs I have ever seen of New Zealand have been taken by Andris Aspe, and they are a magnificent advertisement for the photographic opportunities available in New Zealand. Here’s a photo taken by Andre of snow covered mountains under a light coloured sky with relaxing “pastel” colours throughout:

http://www.nzlandscapes.co.nz/image/18012/canterbury-mackenzie-country-lake-tekapo-hall-range-on-left/

The thousands of images taken by Andris are in a world that’s almost beyond the reach of even very keen amateurs, but they are inspirational and show what can be done when you are a dedicated professional photographer!

And here’s one of Andre’s photos of Mount Ruapehu:

http://www.nzlandscapes.co.nz/image/15494/manawatu-wanganui-thermal-action-on-mount-ruapehu-with-cloud-at-sunrise/

Regards
Rob
http://www.robsphotography.co.nz/Mount-Ruapehu-comparisons.html

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stevecimo
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Re: Not a cloud in the sky: Is this good or bad?
In reply to Robsphoto, Nov 4, 2009

I like the first one because that side of the mountain is more interesting.

there is more happening in the bottom third of the image and more happening on the mountain it's self. I like the third image has well same reasons, more to look at.

but that's just me.

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Graham Best
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Re: Not a cloud in the sky: Is this good or bad?
In reply to Robsphoto, Nov 4, 2009

Rob,

There is no right answer. Do as you prefer, and you'll always be right.

Every photographer has to deal with uninteresting skies. I see absolutely nothing wrong with adding a a more interesting sky in. I have several folders of sky images shot at different times of the year, and at different times of the day. Sort of my own "stock" collection. One of the better known photographers who not only changes skies, but actual features in the image is Vincent Versace. http://versacephotography.com/index.html

You might check his book out in your local book store "Welcome to Oz" (I see the book is now sold out on Amazon with new copies going for US $197). Glad I bought my copy at the introduction.

Another way to deal with blah skies is to leave them out of the composition. Zoom in on a feature of the subject rather than a vista. I particularly like William Neal's work in this area. http://www.williamneill.com/

I enjoy your images and look forward to more looks at your world.

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Regards,
Graham

'I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.' -Garry Winogrand

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rimshot
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Re: Not a cloud in the sky: Is this good or bad?
In reply to Graham Best, Nov 4, 2009

One famous photographer made the comment;" The photographer owes absolutely NOTHING to reality. If you look at some of the glamor shots of the absolutely perfect faces in the Photography magazines, I would imagine they agree, because they even have programs to clean up all those blemishes. I kind of prefer reality, but people buy what is pleasing to their eye. I guess that's why they put layers in Photoshop. You are the Artist. You can touch it up to your taste. If somebody likes it, they can buy what looks good to them. No harm, no foul..

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Bruce Oudekerk
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In reply to beakydave, Nov 5, 2009

If I’m selling AP news photos I have great restrictions in what can legitimately be done to an image. That just isn’t so for most other photography where I am trying to create my vision of what it should look like. Whether it’s a GOOD vision or not is for others to debate. Here’s two Photoshoped examples that I think are perfectly legit.

The first had a plain washed out sky and I put in a clouded sky from another shot about a half hour before, both in the Rockies.

The second was of a plane flying by an interesting building in Dallas. I watched a number of planes go by this building and ran and got my camera. I took this shot and was a split second off and the plane was too far away. I then waited for the next plane…it never came so I just moved it in Photoshop to where I actually wanted to catch it. The truth will out. LOL

I think both are better pics than the actual image. My take anyway. I’m having a difficult time processing these things for web…not print. But that’s another issue.

Bruce

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Robsphoto
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Artist or photographer (or both)?
In reply to Graham Best, Nov 5, 2009

Graham Best wrote:

Rob,

There is no right answer. Do as you prefer, and you'll always be right.

Every photographer has to deal with uninteresting skies. I see absolutely nothing wrong with adding a a more interesting sky in. I have several folders of sky images shot at different times of the year, and at different times of the day. Sort of my own "stock" collection. One of the better known photographers who not only changes skies, but actual features in the image is Vincent Versace. http://versacephotography.com/index.html

You might check his book out in your local book store "Welcome to Oz" (I see the book is now sold out on Amazon with new copies going for US $197). Glad I bought my copy at the introduction.

Another way to deal with blah skies is to leave them out of the composition. Zoom in on a feature of the subject rather than a vista. I particularly like William Neal's work in this area. http://www.williamneill.com/

I enjoy your images and look forward to more looks at your world.

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Regards,
Graham

'I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.' -Garry Winogrand

Thanks very much Graham for your interesting post and I’m glad that you enjoy looking at some of the New Zealand scenery on my web site. I am still getting my head around the concept of having a collection of sky images that can be used to suit a particular image. I can readily accept that artists who, for example, create oil paintings, can paint into their creations whatever sky etc. that they desire, even if they are basing their paintings on “real” digital photographs that they have taken.

So I guess if this “artistic” concept is extended to photographers, they might feel comfortable with “painting in” their own skies, in which case aren’t they moving more into the category of being “artists” than photographers? I know when I’m “recreating” in Photoshop old photos that have been damaged, I often wish that I was a better artist, particularly when “fixing” faces which have spots and tears in them.

I think I would need to attend a creative art / design course before I felt competent to “paint in” to my photographs features that didn’t exist when they were first taken! But I wonder if a photographer should be upfront about all this, and on any images for sale, actually state that certain parts of the images have been digitally recreated? Or does this sort of thing happen so frequently these days with output from professional photographers, that everybody (except me) knows this to be the case!!

Regards
Rob
http://www.robsphotography.co.nz/Mount-Ruapehu-comparisons.html

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