Dean: I think we all get nervous about critique. It is the same base as the word, "criticism" which has -- for better or worse -- taken on a pejorative meaning in our modern U.S. English. I think it means objective and sometimes subjective comment on something someone has done, said, or written. But we are afraid to offend. To me, the poster (in this case me) in a critique thread, has asked (I did here) for "criticism." So I should be able to read and hopefully learn something from a critque.
In doing this, we are hoping for something more than "beautiful shot," "nice pic, etc. These comments -- though they can make us feel good (even if sometimes falsely) are useless to the learning process. They are more of a sharing thing and certainly have their place (in my view just more over on the foliage forum than here). ""Its crap," "you suck as a photographer," "you are clueless," "I don't like it," and the like are all useless (though all may be true in my case
Saying something about an image and what might make it stronger, including why
you like it or dislike it is more useful.
There are a lot of things that are "formulaic" about photography and depending on one's progress along the road, may be more or less relevant. Fundamentals such as focus, exposure, and simple compositional faults like non-level horizons and "bulls-eye" centering of the subject in every instance may be pointed out (and sometimes even seasoned shooters ocassionally fail on one of those fundamentals). My good friend, and participant here, Al Utzig, once pointed out to me that my horizon wasn't level on one of my images. I didn't believe him. I used a measuring tool in Photoshop and guess what? That was a valuable learning experience for me and led me to purchase and regularly use an inexpensive little tool to make sure my own vision didn't trick me.
I am also looking for a higher level. Ideas of composition. Why certain compositions "work" and why some don't. Of course, we all have to be careful of those "camera-club-contest," knee-jerk rules and critiques. I have a pro friend whose work is very unique and cutting edge. He often "breaks" those rules -- he knows the rules -- he just doesn't let them "rule" his artistry.
In the end, our photographs (the kind we make here anyway) come within the classification of art. What makes "good" art? To a large extent, "good art" is art which draws the viewer. There will always be opinion. ALL CRITIQUES ARE 99% OPINION, in my view. If we all go into it with that understanding, and are considerate and polite about others feelings and views, I think this can be a great experience.
[STEPPING DOWN OFF SOAPBOX]
Dean: What I like about your critique is that you do some of the above. You tell me what you like and what you don't like and you do it diplomatically. I PURPOSELY posted an image here that I am not personally particularly proud of or impressed with. It has some serious fundamental flaws. I think I like the overall composition. A good critique may help me with the challenges this image presents.
First and foremost, this is a very challenging exposure situation. Why? Primary reason is that it is just not good photographic light! It is mid-day and even in October, mid-day sun is just all the wrong angles and too harsh. Yes, Dean, the foliage is probably overexposed -- even more -- it has harsh, bright lighting on it. This type of lighting creates much too much contrast, which is why the "black hole" is there.
I have thought about your crop suggestion, even tried it in a vertical format. But for the reasons you articulate about the composition later in your critique, it just wasn't working for me. But clearly, it would have reduced the lighting challenge by making the entire subject at least more evenly lighted. I think this illustrates the limitations of our equipment.
I have played with it in PS, bringing up the shadows some, and that is certainly possible. It is also possible to tone down the brightness. However, the real trick is making it look "natural" (if that is what you are striving for) and I am just not good enough in PS to get the result I like.
This is also an image which probably lends itself to HDR rendering. Haven't tried that yet. I may. But in a conversation with another very talented shooter just yesterday, he repeated something a pro we both admire says: "crap light is crap light." There will be times when -- as an artistic matter -- you might just as well take a snapshop, and then put the camera away and just enjoy being there