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Old 05-25-2019, 02:02 AM   #4
KevinM
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Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Massachusetts
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I process raw files about as aggressively as anyone on RP, and I've had a few edits go off the rails myself. Images like this one typically result from one of two situations. Either the scene requires really high dynamic range, or the image is severely underexposed and needs a ton of adjustment to save it. My money is on the latter situation here. Looking at the EXIF, I see that Chris shot this at 1/400th and f/20 at ISO 400. Given the cloud cover that he had, that mega-high f-stop was likely the culprit. Hopefully, Chris will chime in and give us the back story as to why he picked those settings. Me? Knowing that Big Boy was running about 45 mph, and the train was going to be close in order to achieve this composition, I would have gone for probably 1/800th to 1/1000th minimum, to assure no softness in the nose. I would have been at f/8, or certainly no higher than f/10. I don't think I have ever shot trains with a tighter aperture.

In this case, I am guessing that it took a massive application of shadows to brighten the dark locomotive. Doing that probably surfaced a couple of problems. The shadows decrease the contrast, and they also bring out noise. The cures for these problems are often jacking the contrast and noise reduction software. Jacking the contrast is fine, but if you get too crazy with it, the image will start to glow....and if you look at the side of the train, this one does just that. Using noise reduction software has its own pitfalls. In moderation, it just decreases noise, without a huge loss of detail. In mega-doses, the image loses a lot of detail....and this one also has that issue. A photo shot at ISO 400 and f/20 should have a lot more detail and sharpness. The "sparkle paint" that the Loyd referred to on the smoke box cover is color noise that even the noise reduction process couldn't fully handle. Lastly, I think there is something going on with color temperature as well. Sometimes, warming up a dark image will make it look brighter. Again, moderation is the key. Too much warming and it can look like Mars vs. Earth.

I am definitely not throwing any tomatoes with the above assessment. Like I said, I have a few that I "overcooked" myself. Take this little beauty:

Image © Kevin Madore
PhotoID: 387107
Photograph © Kevin Madore

Don't get a Geiger Counter near that one! LOL! I leave that up there just to remind myself where "the edge" is, and not to get too close. How that got a PCA, I will never know. The difference is that 10 years ago, I couldn't recognize the problem at 100% resolution. Today, I could see it in the shot under discussion from just looking at the thumb from a distance. All a matter of practice.

On the positive side, Chris found himself a very nice scene here and I like the composition. I would have given my eye teeth to stand shoulder to shoulder with him and take a crack at this scene myself.
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Last edited by KevinM; 05-25-2019 at 02:06 AM.
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