Take Out Tiny Distractions

by | Jul 18, 2014 | Impressive Places, Tips & Tricks | 2 comments

By the 5th day of the California Loop, we were getting pretty tired, but we were experiencing more than ever the incredible diversity of California. From Death Valley, the lowest point in North America, we drove toward the towering Sierra Nevadas to see Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48 States. We viewed these “real” mountains from the Alabama Hills before camping for the night in the mountains at Devil’s Postpile National Monument.

As I was going through my pictures from this day of travel, I came across a common action that I found myself doing over and over again to the pictures I was editing: taking out tiny distractions on the edges of the frame. When I am looking at the main subject (or combination of subjects) in a picture, my eye sees little interruptions that distract the eye or make the picture look more cluttered than it needs to be. Usually very dark or very light objects. Clutter is common, so I do my best to take it out whenever possible. In Lightroom, I can just use the crop tool or spot removal tool to remove them. Here are a few examples from our day on the eastern side of the Sierras:

3890_Lone Pine-California-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 28 mm, 1-100 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 100

3890_Lone Pine-California-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 28 mm, 1-100 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 100-2

See those tiny little bushes on the left side of the frame? There are a lot of things going on in this snapshot, so I wanted to do everything I could to simplify it. I did that mainly when I took the picture (ie. hiding most of the background, making sure there was nothing interfering with the shape of the rocks, etc.). So in post, I just cropped out the little bushes that seemed to distract from the curving shape of the rock that brings your eye back into the picture.

3825_Death Valley National Park-California-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 17 mm, 1-250 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 200

3825_Death Valley National Park-California-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 17 mm, 1-250 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 200-2

I don’t particularly care for this shot, but it exemplifies something that always happens to me. When I took the shot, I purposely tried to position myself so there would be no sky visible in the top left corner above the large kiln. In post, I discovered I hadn’t quite been exact enough. That corner of sky is distracting, so I removed it with cropping.

3947_Devil's Postpile National Monument-California-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 17 mm, 1-10 sec at f - 11, ISO 400

_Devil's Postpile National Monument-California-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 17 mm, 1-10 sec at f - 11, ISO 400

This was as open a space as I could find for a sunset shot while hiking around our camping spot. It’s more art than it is photography, with the HDR effect, but I posted it because you will notice (again in the top left corner) how I removed some branches that just seemed to distract my eye as I explored the rest of the image. Notice the moon in the center of the frame? Though it was practically full, it is so tiny because I’m zoomed out so wide.

3929_Devil's Postpile National Monument-California-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 35 mm, 1-20 sec at f - 5.6, ISO 400

3929_Devil's Postpile National Monument-California-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 35 mm, 1-20 sec at f - 5.6, ISO 400-2

This is probably the best example of what I’m talking about. With shots like this it is easy to edit out the tree, but I opted to crop it out. This was a fun and challenging place to shoot; from all the pictures I’d seen of this postpile, I thought it was in the wide open. And this shot eludes to that as well. But it was quite in the middle of the forest and thus very hard to get an angle on it where there were no distractions. Hence the edge of the tree I edited out. Perhaps other people had edited trees out of their pictures too. It was a huge bummer that we hadn’t arrived an hour earlier; the golden light of the golden hour would have made this shot beautiful!

Anyway, keep your eye out for tiny distractions and make sure to get rid of them in editing!

2 Comments

  1. Ezra Morley

    Hey James,

    One thing to remember for us who have beginners DSLRs, the viewfinder coverage is only like 96% of the actual sensor coverage, so theoretically, you could get little distractions which you tried to avoid, just because you can’t see everything that will be in the final image! I have had it happen before, you just have to keep it in mind when you compose your shot. Also, I like your decision to crop vs. photoshop. For one thing, it’s quicker, and for another, you don’t have to tell people it’s a photoshopped picture, it’s just Lightroomed!

    Reply
    • James Staddon

      Good point! Not all cameras’ viewfinders are the same. Even mine has a coverage less than 100%. When I look through the viewfinder of the 5Dii, it’s only showing me 98% of the scene that is actually being recorded.

      If it’s helpful for anyone, here’s a link to a comprehensive list so you can find the coverage on your SLR’s viewfinder: http://www.neocamera.com/article/viewfinder_sizes

      Reply

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