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Beach Drama B&W - Looking for hard core honest feedback and suggestions


Shaun Mullins:
This image is from a recent trip to the yucutan peninsula of Mexico.  The skies were dramatic and the beach was beautiful.  Really looking for any suggestions for this.  5D MkII, 17-40L, 3 exposure bracket to capture the tonal range of the scene.  Went +2 to -2, developed in photomatix and converted to B&W, PSE9 dodge & burn in selected areas.  I'm still new at this and would appreciate suggested improvements or specific guidance in processing differently if you think it would improve the image.

A full-size version of this image can be viewed at my smugmug "favorites" gallery. (

Gavin Seim:
Hey Shaun. It's cool. But I think there is room to improve.

To me it feels a bit to HDR'd and flat. But not bad.

The sky feels blurry. I imagine this is because it's merged images. My though on this is that a sky should be either clear of fully motion, not in between as that feel blurry. So you could have done longer exposures and perhaps has a great effects. Our you could have used a layer blend style of HDR that used one image from the sky.

The rocks are cool and presumably the subject. If that the case however I think they need more light and intricacy. You have a dramatic sky and that good, but the subject needs to sing. Burn and Dodge might help (advanced BD with lights and shadows). You could also gently mask in a light layer to bring out the rocks.

The only other nitpick is I wish the rock did not break horizon.

So all told I think this is neat. But I'm being picky because I think it could have been (or could be depending on what you have for files) an amazing dramatic image. At a professional comp I think it would score about a 74 where it stands (at least that's what I would score). I think if this scene was really taken full advantage of it would be well into the 80's which is national merit territory.

Just my .02

Shaun Mullins:

As usual, your .02 is very valuable advice and much appreciated.  Thanks for taking time to give good honest feedback.

I will redo this one keeping your recommendations for development in mind and repost.  I do have good exposures to work from on this one.  I am glad you see potential in the composition.  I had no way of getting a higher camera position to keep the rock below the horizon.  Believe me; I was wishing I had a ladder that morning.

Gavin Seim:
Good luck with it Shaun. Keep it up.

I think this is beautiful, but maybe a little over HDR'd.  If you are going to go B&W, you could always go old school and use a Red filter which brings out more details in clouds naturally without having to HDR them.  You can also face a red filter in photoshop by filtering the red channel.


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