Plus/Minus Challenge - Night Time

posted June 19th, 2016
Carrying on a weekly critique theme started by @myhrhelper, she has asked me to start this week's thread. The goal of this weekly thread is to help us hone our composition and editing skills, as well as improve our ability to provide helpful constructive criticism.

This week's theme is "Night Time"


Posting Rules:

(1) Post a photo that fits the weekly theme. It may be a photo you just took or a photo you took some time ago that you like.
(2) Do NOT post a photo if your feelings get hurt easily.
(3) Also keep in mind the comments are often someone’s opinion and their opinion may be different than yours so you may learn something or not.
(4) TAG your photo "plusminus-nighttime" (Two "t's" )
(5) TITLE the photo you post so others can refer to the title when commenting.

Commenting Rules:

(1) You will make a plus & minus comment on as MANY PHOTOS as you would like to comment on. Minus should probably best be thought of as "Suggestion for Improvement" and as such is much more subjective than the "plus" idea.
(2) Your comment must include at least One positive comment of what you specifically like about the photo (No More than THREE positive). Generic comments such as “great shot” does not count as a positive feedback.
(3) Your comment must ALSO INCLUDE One improvement suggestion (NO More than THREE suggestion of improvement per photo per person). Generic comments such as “I don’t like it” doesn’t count as a suggestion of improvement.
(4) YOU MAY NOT COMMENT ON A PHOTO IF YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO SAY A PLUS AND MINUS ON THE SAME PHOTO. In other words something positive AND an improvement suggestion.
(5) Keep comments to photos relatively brief
(6) REFER TO THE PHOTO TITLE if provided when commenting

Previous themes:
1. architecture
2. portraits
3. black and white
4. landscape
5. pets
6. night time (this one)
posted June 19th, 2016
Here are two of mine to get the ball rolling.

Convenience Store.

My initial self-evaluation
+ I got the exposure right so as not to blow the lights, especially the front blue sign.
- The final sharpening could have been handled with more subtlety. Some edges remain over-wrought and "glowy."
- The car could have been much more effective higher in the frame, but the shutter is so slow, I needed it stationary. He's waiting for traffic to pass.

Eagle And Mary Streets.

+ The amount of material I was able to show.
- The strong lights were not handled well. It should have been shot with a faster shutter (more Negative Exposure Compensation since I was letting the camera choose). And the shadow detail then recovered. The little Sony RX100IV could have done it I think, my Nikon DSLR certainly could have (see the first one above), and LR/ACR is capable. As is, lowering the front highlights in the "blobs" of street detail showed that I was, indeed, missing blown detail for the recovery.

posted June 19th, 2016
@frankhymus First of all thank you for continuing the critique discussion - I think this is another interesting topic
Convenience Store - I think your technical skills looks good and I see the power of 3 in the shot - for me the only negative I would say is the subject matter itself is not as interesting but the photograph itself is good.

Eagle And Mary Streets.
Overall I love this shot. Interesting photo - great composition there is some interest in the foreground, middle and the back. I think your settings were good actually if I would have changed the settings perhaps a slower shutter speed to bring out a little star burst. My biggest negative or suggestion is the lower right building - I am not sure there really is anything to do about it - the whole shot is so interesting but we have this dark building right corner front that just doesn't add any value to the shot. I am wondering if the slower shutter speed would have made it more visible or if post processing in Lightroom could have done so. But seriously my first impression of this shot was "oh wow" but the first shot was not as impressive
posted June 19th, 2016
@myhrhelper Thanks Kathy. The first, yes, not a compelling subject, that's for sure, but that was all that was there from my hotel room window. The second, no tripod, nothing to rest the camera on, so not possible to get "stars" of the lights, but if I'd had one, it would work fine, even get light trails on the street. Nice idea. Problem of the moving boats on the river in the background though...
posted June 19th, 2016
Colors of Milwaukee Night

posted June 20th, 2016
Night photography is something I struggle with so I'm interested to see all the suggestions this week. My knowledge of technical details is still a work in progress too so my suggestions won't be particularly sophisticated.


Eagle and Mary Streets
+ I like the detail in the lights (the building on the left that looks like writing and the bridge outline in the background
- As you say there is some blown detail in the foreground. What about turning it into a landscape shot from about halfway up?


Colours of Milwaukee Night
+ I like the strips of colour in the reflections and how those colours echo the colours in the sky
- I'm not keen on the lower orange lights to the left and might have been tempted to crop that part out because I find the buildings on the right more interesting. However, I realise that would have implications for how much of the sky and water could then be included and may have affected how sharp the lights on the building are.
posted June 20th, 2016
This is my shot: Roof by Night

My critique:
+ I liked the focus on the metro station and the traffic in the foreground
- The buildings and lights in the background are blurry and hazy. Part of that was dust in the air and the fact I don't have a tripod also had an effect, but I would have liked it to be sharper.

As I mentioned in the previous post, night shots are something I struggle with so suggestions for improvements to this or things I can do in future to get a better picture on the spot are much appreciated. Thanks

posted June 20th, 2016
@frankhymus convenience store -the exposure does look about right, a moving car might have added interest,
I would like to see how this came out in black and white, as i think the random blobs of blue through the tree look odd, also did you think about cropping the tree off the right hand side? it draws a little too much attention
posted June 20th, 2016
Eagle And Mary Streets.
masses of interesting detail, but perhaps too much?? if i was able to view it much larger i might enjoy all the details more, but as it is I agree with clearaday that a landscape top half crop might have been more interesting mini-subject , seeing the river beyond the buildings?? the brightest light in the middle is crying out to be a starburst :)
posted June 20th, 2016
@myhrhelper wow that is a lot of colour for a night shot, beautiful water. I think the yellow of the streetlights is a little garish, maybe it could be toned down a little?
posted June 20th, 2016
@clearday what a n epic skyline! beautiful vantage point you had for photography. As far as the composition goes i sort of would prefer the tallest structure to be on the third, which would mean cropping the left a little as you cant go back! it does seem grainy but you say the air was hazy so i was going to say noise reduction but that might not work and you might have to emphasise it instead with some film grain perhaps?!
posted June 20th, 2016
here you are frank, knock yourself out, very very sloppy technique lol
posted June 20th, 2016
@myhrhelper I love the colors and reflections of this shot. They are beautiful. The street lights (orange lights) are fine to me, I'm distracted by the bright white horizontal lights along the water line. On a different note, what I love about this thread is some people would change things and others are fine with that element! :)
posted June 20th, 2016
Here's my night shot. Just took it the other night. Mind you, this was taken with my iPhone which I am not used to shooting with!
posted June 20th, 2016
@clearday From the rooftop bar.
+ I really like the "lines" of lights radiating in all directions, seeming to converge on the lit building.
+ The color of the sky is lovely too.
- As Kathy suggested for one of mine, if you had had a tripod, you could have closed down the aperture and produced stars in the blobs of strong lights. But who carries a tripod coming home from work to happy hour? My issue too in the "Eagle Street" shot. Carrying a camera to happy hour at the bar was more than enough. :)
- The haziness you mention I really don't mind too much at all. Did you think to attempt to sharpen it a little in Photoshop? It would have helped I think.
posted June 20th, 2016
@myhrhelper Milwaukie Night
+ The play of the horizontal bands of color in the sky and the vertical bands in the water reflections are really super nice!
+ Three lights, three buildings, strong.
- The little bit of an arm of the THIRD crane poking in from the right frame. I'd have cloned it out as one of those stray "pokies" that often creep in unexpectedly. Or reframed/cropped "long" the shot to include three cranes as well as the three buildings and three lights. That would have been super cool. But yes, you'd probably get a pokie of a fourth building,
posted June 20th, 2016
@kali66 Convenience Store.
Yes, the tree is extraneous to the composition, I certainly agree, distracting. One reason I like to leave these sorts of night time shots in color (and I am an avid B&W shooter) is the mixed white balance situation, the different colors of the light sources, which I find always fascinating. Here, the warm yellow incandescent light, the green fluorescent light and the (cool) blue of the front sign. The blue blobs, of course, are the gas pumps. It would have been best all round to have gone to another room for a better angle. :)
posted June 20th, 2016
@dianen Moon in B&W.
Brave shot with the iPhone! The pluses and minuses of this shot remind me how annoyed I get with Apple for not exposing the API to adjust exposure parameters to app developers and shooters.
+ The framing of the trees, and the extra light on the trees are quite magical. Even though I bet that glow comes from the extra jpeg sharpening of the phone. But no matter. Lovely.
+ Similarly the "glow" over the hills. I am sure a sharpening artifact, here it does have the effect of a "glow" perhaps from city lights behind, most effective added detail.
+ The line of reflected light, very eye catching in the water.
- The noise in the sky. Not too noticeable at this size, but if you view it in your album, on black especially, you see it, and the jpeg posterization artifacts. You could think to bring this into Photoshop or similar (yes, even a phone shot, heresy I know) and do selective noise reduction and blurring on the sky. You certainly don't want to operate on the trees I've already mentioned, or the water texture.
posted June 20th, 2016
@dianen I agree, that's what I like about this thread. You get lots of different points of view and preferences. There are so many ways to process the same image that will appeal to people in different ways.

For your shot:
+ I'm very impressed that it was done with an iPhone and I love the reflection line down the middle
- I agree with Frank about maybe trying to do some noise reduction on the sky.

@kali66 I didn't think of going with the grain and emphasising it, I'll give that a try. The best part is that that is a hotel I go to once in a while for meetings so there may be a chance of a do-over to change the composition a little.

@frankhymus I did some sharpening in LR, but I haven't really used PS as yet so maybe it's worth a try

posted June 20th, 2016
Long Exposure 1
This is my first nighttime shot and my use of a tripod. It is a shot from an 18th floor balcony overlooking residential Fort Lauderdale. All comments welcome.
posted June 20th, 2016
Tokyo at Night
posted June 20th, 2016
As a general comment, I once spent too much time worrying about the noise on my night shots and someone I respect told me that one should embrace the noise because in film we call it grain. Almost all the photos have noise and that was the thing that I did not even look at in your photos.

@granagringa for your first attempt this was really great, but it looks like there was some camera movement on the tripod. I find that if I set my timer to 2 seconds it reduces any camera shake from my pushing the release button (or you had a fair amount of wind).

@dianen this is great from an iphone, the only thing I would do is to see about shooting landscape instead of portrait on this. I kind of want to see more of the trees.

@frankhymus - I agree that you did get a great job at getting your whites to not be so overexposed. I wonder if you would have tried a different angle would have had a bit of a different connection to the photo or if you had done this with a tilt shift technique how would it would have felt.

@myhrhelper overall this photo really works, but in looking closely the moon seems a bit off.

@clearday - I really do like the metro station as the focal point bringing you into the city beyond. I think having the background not crisp is what makes the photo interesting. I do wonder if the metro station gets a bit lost in the crop you decided on for the photo.

@Kali66 I really would have loved to see the story in the clouds above the water. I feel that the photo is a bit dark but there was something going on in the sky.
posted June 21st, 2016
@phillyphotos For which shot? Both of them were constrained for the angle shot. The convenience store from my hotel window, and the Brisbane shot from the roof bar. And actually, perspective was corrected for both. Thanks for the thought.

Your general comment about digital noise. It is, I strongly believe, and unfortunately, not much like film grain. I don't know of one author that would agree with your friend on that. It shows up only in certain places, against certain (flat) textures in a digital shot, and is, actually, rather nastily, consistently uniform where it does show up, three things that film grain isn't. Chroma noise, especially. It's so very "digitally" apparent if not dealt with, before tone recovery, sharpening and then conversion to jpeg. Of course, since noise reduction is almost always not really reduction but a "blurring away" (arguable if DXO does it differently), loss of detail (probably generating unnatural flatness is a better way to look at it) is often a problem when carried too far, that's for sure.
posted June 21st, 2016
@frankhymus it was for the convenience store, I did not realize you had posted two photos when I typed the comment.
Also we can agree to disagree, but it was said more in the fact that it is okay to have some noise and not be obsessed by it.
posted June 21st, 2016
@phillyphotos haha yes the full moon just wouldnt play ball with me!
posted June 22nd, 2016
@frankhymus I'll add my thanks for doing this. My reaction to both shots is similar The technical aspects, the exposure is really good in both. And the clarity is great. Personally, I prefer tighter shots and thought a bit of cropping might add to the cohesiveness and the direction the eye takes. In Convenience Store, for instance, what would think of cropping from the rear pillar of the store and eliminating the tree? Similarly, I think cropping Eagle & Mary Streets would give my eye more direction leading to the bridge with its golden lights.

posted June 22nd, 2016
@clearday I know less than nothing about doing night shots and I am quite impressed with yours. I think the colors and tones of the lights work really well. And although you don't care for the lack of sharpness, it doesn't bother me as it supports a night blur, movement sort of mood. I agree that it could use some cropping on the right. On the whole, very nice photo.
posted June 22nd, 2016
@myhrhelper I'm repeating a lot of what has already been noted. The reflective colors work really beautifulyl And I like the yellow street lights on the left. I like that they tone down the brightness in this very bright night sky But I, too, would recommend cropping off a bit of the right side. Or perhaps having a lower point of view, i.e. more water and longer reflections.
posted June 22nd, 2016
@phillyphotos Thank you so much for the feedback. I appreciate the info and will take to heart next night shot.
posted June 22nd, 2016
@granagringa Thank you for your comment, much appreciated

@phillyphotos Having seen everyone's comments on my photo and the others, I think I will try to take that advice and be less focussed on getting rid of the grain/blur and think about how to appreciate it instead
posted June 23rd, 2016
so Frank, can you tell me how to do starbursts??
posted June 23rd, 2016
@kali66 Starbursts when shooting? With a standard digital camera and lens, just close down the aperture to something like f/16, or more, and have strong point or small round light sources. Why it works has to do with the light strongly diffracting through and around the corners made by the leaves of the iris of the lens. Wide apertures tend to be much rounder with less sharp angles. The number of points will be twice the number of leaves in the lens iris.

The effect tends to work best with a wide angle lens because that will make the light sources even smaller relative to the frame, and the absolute size of the aperture will be smaller (and thus more sharply angled) than at a normal or telephoto length; f/stop = (focal length) / (diameter of aperture)

Careful if you point at the sun! I really should say DON'T look through an optical viewfinder. If you must do the sun, try to make the sun a strong source filtered through trees or something like that, and use live view.
posted June 23rd, 2016
@frankhymus thanks I will try it out soon and let you know how i get on,
posted June 24th, 2016
@clearday I just saw this shot of the Golden Gate Bridge and immediately thought of your photo. It is the 7th fast forward (or just go to the bottom and click see all)
posted June 24th, 2016
@phillyphotos Thanks very much for thinking of my photo when you looked at another one! I see what you mean. I like the fact that the bridge is front and centre in that one. Interesting article too :)
posted June 26th, 2016

well i made an attempt at starbursts, i cleaned the lens before i went out but it still had some artifacts, so i upped the blacks on this, i had the focus wrong, but nice shapes .
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