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© © 2014 John Crosley/Crosley Trust, All rights reserved, No reproduction or other use without express prior written permission fromn copyright holder

'All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Smoke'


Artist: JOHN CROSLEY/CROSLEY TRUST, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, Copyright: © 2014 John Crosley/Crosley Trust, All rights reserved, No reproduction or other use without express prior written permission from copyright holder,Software: Adobe Photoshop CC 2014 (Windows)


© © 2014 John Crosley/Crosley Trust, All rights reserved, No reproduction or other use without express prior written permission fromn copyright holder

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It may look like a photo taken in a carefully lighted studio, but it's

actually taken outdoors at midday in a building's shadow in front

of truck loading doors behind a warehouse type building where

this well-dressed young miss has been exiled to smoke her

'slim' cigarette with its huge cloud of white smoke entirely alone

-- basically to smoke in exile. Your ratings, critiques and

observations are invited and most welcome. If you rate harshly,

very critically, or wish to make a remark, please submit a helpful

and constructive comment; please share your photographic

knowledge to help improve my photography. Please do NOT

make this a critique of smoking in general, though discussion of

the merits (if any) and demerits of smoking is entirely welcome.

Thanks! Enjoy! john

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I have never smoked one cigarette in my entire life voluntarily, nor anything else with tobacco in it.  I recognized at an early age from watching my heavily tobacco addicted parents the dangers of smoking, then watched in later life as tobacco's effects killed off nearly all my older relatives -- most at a far earlier age than expected, so I'm hardly a fan of smoking.


Worse, I have some asthma, and grew up with parents who smoked respectively two packs and three packs a day in and outside my house -- the walls were thick with tar when it was sold, and supposedly so were my lungs from the tar I had breathed second hand and the sore throats I suffered daily my entire life until I left home (and then left university where smoking was equally as heavy and unwelcome).


No one has ever smoked a cigarette in a house of mine, no matter how important their company (presence) was to my future since I have been independent.  


No exceptions.


But that is me.


How about you?


And how about the photo?




John (Crosley)

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White marks are original marks on the truck door she is standing in front of.  I did not clone them out in the interest of depiction accuracy rather than 'prettiness'.


If desirable, they could be cloned out later, as needed or necessary with a touch of the 'spot healing tool' which might take 30 seconds overall.




John (Crosley)

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This is a great capture that records both the subject and the smoke. At one time smoking was considered glamorous, this is the perfect antidote.
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Thanks Peter, that is the perfect comment.


You have taken this photo precisely as it was meant.


It is a 'social comment' photo, as you saw, and you correctly interpreted it when I posted it.


Her dress is rather 'fashionable' or at least she's not dressed down, her cigarette is 'fashionably slender', she's reasonably attractive, (though not fashion model thin), her grooming is almost impeccable, but she's surrounded in contrast by clouds of white smoke.


Voila, I've made my point.


Many of my most successful photos have been of 'social contrasts' of one sort of another; this is just one more.


Many would not have gotten the point 20 or 30 years ago.


Thanks so much for your comment.




John (Crosley)

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I agree. Not much glamorous about this. I really like the quality of the print. It's done very well. It's got very good detail to her face & clothing.

I would crop some of the right off to move her off center

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I appreciate your applying your vast knowledge gained from printing for so many years to this analysis; just that you chose to look at it for an extended time, to critique it, then to try to 'work on it' suggests that the photo has some merit.


As to the 'smoke' on the upper left, it doesn't really have any 'problems' -- just remember that smoke clouds are basically translucent bordering on transparent.  


She was in front of what I remember was a shipping door, painted a darker shade of green, and whether from the paint or something thrown against the door that was not paint -- oil, grease, somebody's garbage (rubbish) or whatever, there are some streaks that were originally liquid and which thus show their drips before they ran out of viscosity, and permanently stained the door and/or backdrop (you can call it whatever you want - except perhaps 'late for dinner')


So, the drips are there, smoke or not, and the smoke is pretty thin, and even with what appears to be a big white cloud still is so thin it does not obscure the drips on the backdrop -- the drips are a little more obscured where the smoke is thicker and quite prominent where there is less smoke as one would predict.


All this is an 'in situ' capture, not fiddled with at all, and I can think of no circumstance in which I would bother fiddling with it.  I like it as it is; and I thank my stars it captured so well.  I basically worked with shadow/highlight and contrast adjustment -- as well as desaturation using various color channels to get the black and white version.


The color version quite clearly shows the same streaks of former liquid drips now 'frozen' into place both behind and below the smoke cloud.  As stated above, the smoke cloud is much less thick than it appears, possibly do to fortuitous lighting.


For all the crappy lighting I encounter day to day, it's nice to have 'fortuitous lighting' just once to make a pretty good capture come alive as this one did (my view).


Best to you, Meir, and thanks for the welcome critique.




John (Crosley)


Oh, personal advice:  Keep your head down for personal safety.


I am following the same advice, and NOT taking any airliners on an easterly path, if you understand that.


The Ukrainians are great public kissers; I don't think I've met anyone who had a hard enough heart to shoot down a jet full of Malaysia-bound civilians, but I have been in Russia, and during the time I spent there, personal safety was a very big issue.  


That being said, I am not the keeper of any secrets, I do not have special knowledge, and I am neutral -- the 'facts' will be what the 'facts' ultimately are - provided they are not 'disinformed'.





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My favorite light is side lighting.  Although this was taken mostly or just after midday, it also was in shadow and lighting was mostly reflected from the side.  I also used somewhat the 'contrast' slider to give extra 'depth' to the folds of her clothes -- I like the effect, and I suppose that it does not show, since it only accentuates somewhat what already was there.


I sometimes am amazed how an 'ordinary' capture (or when I expect an 'ordinary capture') will take on an 'extraordinary look' as this one did when I first looked at it.


As stated in the Request for Critique, it really looks like it was taken in a studio, yet it's a 'street capture' -- 100%.  My tele was at about 128 mm, and she had no idea she was being photographed.  I got several frames, all with similar qualities but her hands in different positions and the smoke at different places and thicknesses.  I like this one the best obviously, but there were others that easily could have been posted - maybe you'd like them better.


I happen to like centering her, but if this were yours, you'd be free to put her to the right.  I kind of like that centering her, smoke to left, destabilizes the photograph and leaves the viewer just a little 'uneasy' -- it fits the theme of the photo, don't you think?


That was my reasoning; artist's choice.


Best wishes and thanks.  (don't be getting on any airlines even very high over the Ukraine/Russian border soon . . . I won't).




John (Crosley)



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Artist's choice always takes precedence. If centering is what you like, then by all means do so.

I never thought of this as a studio shot. It has the natural effect of a street shot.

Your slider work is successful in the fact that it's subtle

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I didn't mention your work on the hair; I considered it, then passed on it, but shouldn't have.


I also worked this up in color.


With a very dark green backdrop, its darkness heightened by increasing contrast, it looks simply stunning -- like it could be plopped right down in the middle of any photo Biennale from a major artist and gallery.  I've worked the color version so her flesh tones almost match her slightly 'rosy' inside 'top' or 'blouse' -- just barely 'pinkish' and whitish, as she definitely has not seen much sun at a very sunny time of year or is intolerant of sun exposure (much like redheads, though she's not a redhead).


In any case, as worked up in color, it seems mostly to be a duo-tone portrait, as her top garment is very light green, the background is very dark green, her 'blouse' is very slighty 'rosy' and matches her skin's slight 'rosiness' with frankly no other colors to detract (I cropped off the bottom of the photo showing the bottom of the door or backdrop/whatever, which was brown, for obvious reasons.)


No colors have been changed in the color rendering I am writing about; watch here or somewhere else; it is bound to appear somewhere, some day . . . I like the color version so much.


I'd even show it in color.  (Perhaps to finish, I'd lassoo the hair and bring it out . . . . per your suggestion . . . . for which I thank you).




John (Crosley)

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When I was learning studio and directional lighting both with spot and softboxes, I could achieve or aim to achieve an effect like this, but that was long ago, and I was self-taught after an intro from a pro in Odessa who rented me his studio.


I got a twenty minute tutorial on studio lighting from him, then spent cumulative weeks (day by independent day) with stunning cover girl caliber models, about ten years ago, at dirt cheap prices in between their modeling 'gigs', keeping in mind I was an amateur, their modeling agency was 'big time' but could not keep them occupied with jobs in China, Saudi, Korea, Japan, Turkey all the time, and any money at all was welcome vs. no money at all.  Those young women worked hard -- and I learned so much.


I NEVER find my 'street' shots looking like this, but wish it were so.


Thanks for respecting 'artist's preference', just as I always do.  It's mark of a gentleman and artist, as I know you are both.


Best to you, and thanks.




John (Crosley)

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A wonderful, dramatic portrait. Very well done. If it were mine I would crop about 1/4 off the right side and extend the left side by the same amount. Just my humble opinion, otherwise a solid 6. 

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Really excellent tones, John, one of your best in that regard. The cloud of smoke is the perfect compliment to the crispness with which you have captured your subject. My compliments.


After having read Meir Samuel's comment and your answering remarks, I would agree with him about the hair and you about the smoke. His treatment of the hair is a little too heavy in my opinion but I think a happy medium could be reached without too much trouble as there seems to be enough information to make adjustments.

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Thank you for the glowing review.


Regrettably I must turn down your cropping suggestion.


I come from a journalism background where fiddling with the capture is forbidden.


To do as you say to the right side is OK according to those standards, but to 'extend the canvas' is strictly verboten, and would require 'extending the canvas' beyond the original frame, then using 'content aware fill' to make it match.


My street shooter's ethics don't allow that with a street capture.  It may be perfectly fine for a studio shooter with a limited background who seeks to extend the background or backdrop, because the original was too narrow for economy's reasons -- that's proper use of 'extend the canvas' and applying 'content aware fill' to do so, but not in a 'street' posting of mine.


I can not presently think of any case where that would be OK under my own current 'street' (and journalism derived) shooter's ethics.


Remember, Cartier-Bresson is credited with popularizing 'street' which then didn't have such a name -- it was not popularized until long after I met him in 1969.  He didn't even allow cropping when he could help it (there was some cropping, especially in the early '50s before he became a world icon, and 'Cover of Life' indulged in some on a cover that featured a photo of HCB's showing life behind the Iron Curtain, taken I think in Moscow (logo was printed right over the photo -- as well as in some fashion magazine work he did in New York in early '50s, for which there were major arguments between him and his editor about simple cropping.


I derived my 'ethics' from Associated Press, which was the most major journalism company (the largest) of the time (maybe now too), and we just didn't do such things.  


It's even tighter now -- no cloning of limbs, stray things that interfere with 'art', etc., other than just good reproduction values (that's OK) under the 'new paradigm' for all journalists, and any departure can get a photographer banned from newspaper journalism for life.


I think since the antispam filter blocked my links just Google this:  photographer lost job photoshop alterations or some such.  


You'll get to a discussion of journalistic image editing and overediting - even making 'new' images which is what you suggest to me.


Also insert the word 'sportshooter' or 'sportsshooting' to help find one of the discussions that was terrific about one photographer.  In the other insert the search terms ten photographs that were altered photoshopped too much -- for a start and see what you get.  


I got good results.


Now, if you had suggested that I change this photo by adding canvas, and it were labeled a 'fine art' image, that would be quite different.  


I tried to insert links to discussion on photojournalism ethics and firings and also overphotoshpped images possibly violating journalism bounds (e.g., ten overphotoshopped images and see also mediashooter discussion on firing of photographer).  I regret that the spam filter prevents me from inserting direct links -- I tried and the filter refused to take the post with links inserted.


Journalism rules (such as they are) do not apply to 'fine art'.  


Also, the rules of journalism have changed since I supervised retouchers for Associated Press in their New York world headquarters some parts of my day or week as part of my duties as an editor/world service photo editor/sub department head (among other things) all before age 25 in about 1970-71 or so.


(big title, big responsibility, poor pay -- quadrupled my pay with one job move at age 25.)


In any case, please be aware of the 'issue' -- I'm not making a complaint about your advice at all, just letting you know it has ramifications you apparently were unaware of and that as a photographer who may run into photojournalists from time to time, you should certainly be aware of those limitations and ethical ramifications as they loom large for photojournalists.


Thanks for the nice compliment and for thinking of me with your cropping suggestion.  Please do not take what I have written here as a rebuke, but as a form of (I hope) generous sharing, since I have a lifetime of knowledge in an area (or areas) few have knowledge of on this service.






John (Crosley)

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I could see this at a 'fine art' exhibition, 'street capture' or 'fine art' or whatever. I think it would stand up to the best.


'Masterpiece' from you is your highest compliment and coupled with 'wallpaper' -- I am overwhelmed.


Thank you for such high compliments.


Remember, I'm like you, I just walk the streets (when I can pain permitting) and had just got a steroid injection and was waiting for it to take effect the next day and could barely walk when I got this -- just near the Metro entrance from the taxi from the hospital to the Metro. 


You see, I take a camera EVERYWHERE, and people who regularly see me the very few times they see me for five minutes without one, they ask 'where is the photoapparat? [camera] and I reassure them.   That can happen almost anywhere but rarely since almost never am I without a camera for more than a minute or two - or a ten o'clock run to the local grocery . . . . maybe every tenth time.




My best to you my Dutch friend.




John (Crosley)

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I am so rich to have (cyber)friends and colleagues such as you and Meir to help me evaluate and work on my captures.


Sometimes I don't know what I've got, and I just kind of put up for critique what interests me; other times I have, as here, a very strong feeling.


Sometimes I am underwhelmed by the response to captures I just love; other times, a few captures are loved that I am not personally so 'in love with'.  


This is the best -- a capture I like very much and viewers seem to like also.


I agree with you about the hair -- a happy medium, and thank you for helping arbitrate.


Meir's screen may also have shown it differently; posting can be tricky.  We don't know for sure what his screen actually showed him.  I learned that within three months of joining Photo.net, taught me by an influential member who was a former darkroom genius converting to digital and PN posting.  He advised me that posting was an art in itself, and I think he was right, though it's become much easier now, for reasons I do not understand.


Best to you Jack, and thanks for your (cyber) friendship.


And all the help over time.


Every expressed opinion from a trusted source is a valuable aid to my shooting and posting.   Its worth cannot be overestimated.




John (Crosley)

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Jack McRitchie, I was so overwhelmed by your comment, I overlooked perhaps the most important compositional aspect of it -- a point you made that has marked some of my finest shooting.  You pointed it out, and I just missed it entirely, in my haste to reply to other points.


I dwell a great deal when I can on 'contrasts' since I feel that just as when a woman uses 'eyeliner' she enhances the strength and look of her eyebrow, or when a photo finisher/photoshopper uses unsharp mask, he/she adds a contrasting area next to a line to make the line 'stand out' -- both uses of 'contrast' to make something be more prominent.


In other words, much of the art of photography and just ordinary life's art (makeup for instance) depends on making 'contrasts'.

I tend to emphasize contrasts in my shooting.


What's a photo of a poor woman but a photo of a poor woman.   We will know she's poor, but if she's poor as anything, frail, wearing slippers at night, clutching a cheap cloth purse, wearing a housecoat on a fashionable street, thin as a rail, gaunt, obviously old and hungry, and THEN you place her next to the contrasting young woman, full of health and vigor, shopping bag full, large (full) purse, obviously with wealth, nicely dressed, striding sturdily down and next to the old lady, almost half again the stooped old woman's height, and the young woman looking to be the peak of womanhood, THEN you have (through the use of contrasts) taken a 'real' photo of a 'poor woman'.


As you are probably aware, I have (almost by accident) taken just such a photo and whole series of other 'contrast' photos that owe their strenth to the inherent 'contrast' rather than just focusing on the 'subject' without the 'contrast'  


Consider my Photo of the Week of the old man (a bum?) walking ahead of a wall/poster photo of two beautiful sniggering young women apparently lookiong down right on the slightly bent older man.  He's older just for the younger women in the poster looking down on him and having a laugh.  Independently seen, maybe he's not so old, but with the contrast of age enhanced by apparent young women sniggering at him, he starts to look 'ancient'.


In this photo, the woman, you point out, is captured with great sharpness and clarity.  People have said 'one of my best' or a 'masterpiece' both in tones and clarity (sharpness).


But then you draw the contrast.


To her clarity is the amorphous  cloud of smoke that envelops her.


I had missed that remark on first reading.


It is more important than all the praise you could make, for it underlines the strength of this capture, and I think what makes it resonate.




You found it.


I captured it; and I posted it based on that surmise, but forgot to articulate it.    I assumed it; I frequently find these contrasts, but I often fail to point them out.  


It takes a skillful and articulate reader such as you to ensure the point is well made.


Thanks, Jack, for driving home the compositional point of this photo.




John (Crosley)

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Just confining myself to a look at her hair as you lightened it, I think I 'see' a problem.


By lightening the hair after selecting it, you appear also to have lightened the smoke that passes in front of the hair.



Some smoke (perhaps most) of course passes behind and around the head, but some passes in front of the head's hair.  That creates a certain amount of 'whiteness' (as desaturated and even 'whiteness' in the color edition, if I apply your 'fix' to the color ed. I am sure).


The problem, on closer examination of your 'fix' is that the 'hair' loses its texture and appears to have 'artifacts' when in fact the hair does not have 'artifacts' at all, but instead it's apparently just some smoke passing in front, but it takes away from the 'look' by being confused for 'artifacts'.


I didn't get that far in my processing to tell the truth, and when I try to work on the hair, maybe I can work out a solution, not just by 'splitting the difference' or some such as Jack McR. suggests, but by doing something that will avoid the appearance of (nonexistent) artifacts, as I think I see in your workup.  


In any case, to me, it's detracting, though the work of an excellent mind up against a clear 'issue'.  


Sometimes the solutions are not as clear cut as appears at first glance -- who could take into account the whiteness of the smoke, just faintly appearing in your workup (as I think I can see).  You have to look hard, but this is a capture good enough to be looked very hard at, and it should withstand greatest scrutiny.


I'll be thinking about how to work out this kink.


Thanks for helping me 'see' a potential problem applying hair lightening to this capture.




John (Crosley)

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I understand that your work on the hair was 'rough work' but it should have been an 'easy job', and the trouble you encountered alerted me (happily I might add) that it is not such an easy job.  My 'happiness' is that I am spared the trouble of replicating the 'issue' you encountered and having 'seen' it can devote my time instead to trying to do a workaround. 


Perhaps rather than 'lightening' the hair, it may be best just to 'outline' it by slightly increasing the contrast between it and the background through a combination of lightening slightly the hair on the margins and changing the contrast with the background (also on the margins), thus avoiding changing the tones of almost all the hair itself and thus also avoiding the issue of the false appearance of 'artifacts' or what might appear to be 'artifacts' in the hair caused in reality by smoke passing in front.


I figured in the other instance regarding the smoke on the left (as we view it), that you'd see my point; thanks for the acknowledgement.  It's such honesty and forthrightness that furthers the aims of this forum and is so helpful.


Best wishes and thanks again for a most helpful contribution that stems from one area of your greatest strength.




John (Crosley)

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In addition to the crispness and sharpness of detail compared to the cloudiness and amorphousness of the smoke which you mentioned and I later discussed under 'contrasts' above, consider this.


Compare in addition the very carefully studied and pressed 'pouffiness' of her garments, both her outer top garment and her under 'blouse', plus how carefullly and exactly otherwise she's groomed including her carefully applied makeup (maquillage).


Then compare that with the smoke, composed of a cloud of gases containing tars and many poiisonous substances, then add in the 'frozen' drippings of some sort of onetime liquid and now 'frozen' dribblings - oil, grease, maybe paint --  waste of some sort, breaking the scene's exactness, just at her right (our left), and how careless that all seems in comparison.


This is just another contrast that tells us 'she does not belong here' but for her cigarette and her addiction.  


We know now from NEWER cultural experience that even in relatively lax societies like Ukraine with few laws and rules about smoking, that even though excellently and properly attired and almost perfectly made up, this woman is confined to a place where she does not otherwise belong, and to that setting she brings her own toxic cloud which swirls about, haphazardly.


Remember (American readers), the comic strip 'Peanuts' with Linus and his piano, and the 'cloud baby' - the child comic character drawn so that you could visibly 'see' in comic format all the toxicity that children can carry with them -- germs, dirt, etc., all constantly swirling around him.


In a way, this finely turned out woman is her own 'cloud baby'.  


It's not germs or 'street dirt.


She's no urchin.


She's holding the source of her own cloud.


She puts the cloud in the air.


Also in her lungs.


Slowly poisoning herself . . . perhaps eventually to death.


In exile now that much of the world (outside of China) has seen the light (so to speak).


She's inflicting it all on herself.


Just as my parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and other relatives did, from the great smoking generation --  the 'good old days' when almost the entire civilized world chain smoked -- lied to by the big corporations that sold cigarettes and told us there was 'not a cough in a pack' and hired actors to play phony doctors to tell us there was no harm in smoking in the '50s and '60s, when they knew for a fact from the '30s it was all a lie, and have admitted so publicly in the United States.


See Jack, you started us down a very good path with your 'contrasts' remark, at least as I denote it.


This started out in my camera as a 'good shot' and ended up what I consider wonderful 'social commentary.  Interesting how that happens with able commenters like you contributing so much.  I consider this sort of viewer driven commentary much like 'crowdsourcing'.


If you initially asked me to post all my thoughts, I never could think this matter through in such depth.


Thank you so much, Jack and all the rest of you who have contributed to this and all my other photo critiques.


Your participation in this process is a great blessing for this photographer.




John (Crosley)

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you wrote "should have been an easy job". No, it is a bit tedious. lasso-enhance-histogram middle slider to the left (not more than about 1.08)->deselect,  has to be done in small increments, over and over again. If done in one fell-swoop even with feathering a gross border is apparent as in this attachment. 


If my own photo then I'd have the patience to do it properly.




My attachment above was done incrementally but quickly. 


May be other ways to do this but not with my photo shop elements 2.0 from 1997. 

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This results (as you can see) in what could be confused as 'artifacts' when in fact it is the smoke and hair together PLUS the boundary lines - a horrible job to do.


You are right; there surely is a better way, and if you look above, I made one suggestion.  I'll try that one before I try any other (the border delineation enhancement method).


Thanks for having the guts to show us your 'failure' or just your middle workflow when it's not so attractive -- few have the guts to do that.




John (Crosley)

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