Critique Style Requested: Initial Reaction

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Questions to guide your feedback

This was a difficult exposure in that the top of the thunderhead was brightly lit while the rain and bottom of the image was quite dark. I didn’t have a tripod for this exposure and things were moving rather quickly. Any suggestions as to how I might have gotten a better distribution of the tonal range?

Other Information

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Image Description

I was taking some images of fishing boats and net casters when someone clamored about an approaching storm, so I turned around and headed up to the top of the embankment that hid this scene. Shooting the net caster was more of a silhouette as the setting sun was behind them. This shot required some quick adjustments to compensate for the bright top and dark bottom.

Technical Details


I know, rather odd settings but my car was half way between where the storm was and I was with no cover available to protect my camera.

Specific Feedback

I’ve always liked this image because it totally represents NW Florida in a quick, late afternoon thunderboomer. They come and go in as little as 15 minutes but can dump upward of 3 inches of rain in that time.

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Spectacular, indeed, and I don’t doubt a difficult exposure. But your question is how to better deal with the tonal range and you don’t give any information about what you have already done.

Chris, this looks good as presented. It’s a fine look at an isolated storm. I do think that some mid-tone dodging along the bottom of the cloud would bring out the falling rain and it’s subtle color. I like the “framing” from the dark foreground clouds.

My first impression is ‘wow! that’s huge!’ - what an impressive bit of weather coming through and from your description it delivers. Good decision to find a vantage point for this event. I like the strip of land at the bottom for scale - it really adds to the awe factor. The only suggestion about tonal range I have would be to bracket exposures and blend, but with modern cameras there is often enough information in a single shot to tease apart tonalities within. I usually do that with luminosity masking inside Photoshop, usually with the TK9 panel. You could also bring out some of the orange tones in the cloud deck with it. My only suggestion here would be to remove the bright section on the far right. Easily done if you had a mind to use Gen Fill or similar tool in Photoshop. A grand sight!

Thanks for all the comments. Honestly, there was no time to bracket as the storm hit where I took this shot in less than three minutes. My car was almost exactly three minutes up the road as I don’t run so fast in my old age. I took out some of the orange tones because it made the clouds look too “fake”, though I suppose I could revisit that aspect of the mid-range.
As to what I did…really, not much as attempting to give the rain more prominence tended to go too light against the dark part of the bottom and somewhat compete with the mid to top layers.

You could repair the blown out area toward the left third with some careful low-opacity cloning. If it was mine, I would darken the water quite a bit to give a more solid base. Would be interesting to see some of the orange/magenta restored. The rain is in an area of limited tonal range but some might be brought out with something like Nik Detail Extractor or Tonal Contrast or Pro Contrast, then masked to just that area.