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Old 02-21-2008, 01:18 AM   #1
mikekmac
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Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 49
Default It ain't easy being green...

...green, as in inexperienced, rookie, wet behind the ears, newbie--

I spent my first few months here lurking--I didn't try to submit photos, I didn't post to the forums. I just stood in the back of the room and listened. I looked at what got in, what didn't, and what the veterans thought about the ones that didn't. I tried to glean everything I could from the experiences of others, so as not to have to make all the possible mistakes myself. I took a hard look at the 5000 or so photos I've taken since last July, and saw that even among my favorites, 90% were non-starters as far as RP is concerned. (The two biggest issues are Michigan's weather and the fact that I've had a 'birder's' mentality, taking photos of locomotives and rolling stock rather than of trains).

But, of course, eventually I got to the point where I thought I had -enough- of it figured out to try a few submissions. (Some of you are laughing now. That's okay.)

My first submission--a nice sharp shot made under some of the best light I've caught--was rejected for Bad Angle. Okay, that's not something you change in the darkroom--can't turn a roster shot into a train shot (couldn't have done it at the scene, either, actually, but that's a separate issue). Put it aside.

My second submission is in limbo with an as-yet-unexplained filename error. Won't worry about that.

It's the third one that's providing all the fun.

First submission:

http://www.railpictures.net/viewreje...&key=876574376

Reason(s) for Rejection:
- Horizon Unlevel: Try leveling the image in your photo editing software.
- Undersharpened (Soft):
- Underexposed

Okay, sez I, two of those are matters of taste, but I can work with that! Brought up the grid, found about 0.3 degrees of CCW rotation that tweaked the face of the lead without making the freight cars look like they were leaning. Played with the curves a bit. Added just a touch of sharpening. Ended up with this:

http://www.railpictures.net/viewreje...&key=365885985

On my monitor (which is NOT calibrated), that seemed a little hot, but frankly, a lot of RP photos strike me that way. This time the screener said:

Reason(s) for Rejection:
- Undersharpened (Soft):

So, back to the Unsharp mask (a tool one can fiddle with for an hour without even trying hard). After a lot of A/B comparisons in ACDSee, I settled on this:

http://www.railpictures.net/viewreje...&key=850538877

The verdict?

Reason(s) for Rejection:
- Too Much Noise/Grain: Noise is the digital equivalent of grain.
- Overexposed

I actually don't disagree; I liked the second one better. The Unsharp mask is something I ordinarily use very sparingly--most of the time I don't like the effect. I'm just not sure if I backstep and try again or chalk it up to a learning experience. The problem I see is that the focal point, the lead engine, is also the darkest part of the image--intrinsically so. It had plenty of light on it; that livery just soaks it up. I couldn't find a curves setting that would bring the CSX engine up without making the sky and snow brighter than I want.

Any thoughts? Run, pass, or punt?

-Mike
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