Critique #3

Discussions on Equipment, Locations and Tips for getting the photograps you want of Vermont scenes.Note: You must be registered in order to post. If you have trouble registering, use the contact us form on Scenes of Vermont's home page.

Moderators: bm, Andy, admin

deaner1971
Posts: 443
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2003 12:01 am

Critique #3

Postby deaner1971 » Wed Nov 23, 2011 8:27 am

OK, putting this out there.

This one is about 5 years old and I think there are things I would do differently today as I still feel there is something "travel photo"-ish about my style here. I need to "rip off the band-aid" though so I can get used to having other critique and this was a photo to which I had access and I wanted to get started on accepting criticism.

Thanks (he says as he winces).

Dean

Image


brandtb

Re: Critique #3

Postby brandtb » Wed Nov 23, 2011 8:49 am

Dean - I'll put my two cents in. But first, can I ask you to do this? Briefly maybe in couple of sentences, tell me, what are the subects or subject, what are NOT subjects...and why are the subjects important.

Andy
Site Admin
Posts: 1493
Joined: Sun Sep 18, 2005 12:01 am
Location: Saginaw, Michigan
Contact:

Re: Critique #3

Postby Andy » Wed Nov 23, 2011 9:34 am

Dean: I will be interested in your reply to Brandt, also. I will take some time to look at the image over the holiday and give you my comments.

In the meantime, however, consider this: If we are truly critiquing and not just criticising (or "bitchin' & moanin'), then the critique is not about the photographer -- its about the photograph. We could look at some of Ansel Adams' work and probably some of us could offer some critique. I view critique as a growing and learning experience. We all come at this from different perspectives and experiences. I have had no formal art training and very limited formal photography training. Brandt, OTOH, is an architect by training and his wife is an artist. The both do some form of art now professionally. I don't know about Al, but I suppose his background, much like mine, is limited in formal art training. And so on. We all have something to add to the "mix" hopefully, and hopefully, you collect the information, run it through your own "creative filters" and come up with something that is uniquely "Dean."

If we want to grow, we simply cannot take constructive criticism personally. And comments about what might make an image stronger doesn't necessarily mean the image is a "bad" one to start with. So I, for one, am glad you jumped in here. I am glad you have felt comfortable commenting on my image(s), as your input is every bit as valid - and valuable - as input from a more experienced "pro."
Andy

If it sounds too good to be true, its probably . . . .

deaner1971
Posts: 443
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2003 12:01 am

Re: Critique #3

Postby deaner1971 » Wed Nov 23, 2011 12:00 pm

brandtb wrote:Dean - I'll put my two cents in. But first, can I ask you to do this? Briefly maybe in couple of sentences, tell me, what are the subects or subject, what are NOT subjects...and why are the subjects important.


Sure thing.

The subject is El Capitan. In a larger sense I would say that my subject is El Capitan's "role" in the valley.

Half Dome is not the subject but it is a detail that I feel gives the image additional depth. The trees are included in order to give a sense of scale to both El Capitan and the valley itself. The falls to the right (I apologize but I cannot remember for certain if that is Bridal Veil or not) are also not the subject.

deaner1971
Posts: 443
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2003 12:01 am

Re: Critique #3

Postby deaner1971 » Wed Nov 23, 2011 12:01 pm

Andy,

Thanks for that. I get all of that intellectually but it is an adjustment to accept it more viscerally.

Absolutely trust that you and everyone else sees it that way or I wouldn't have felt comfortable enough to do it.

Thanks again.

Dean

autzig
Posts: 443
Joined: Sat Sep 17, 2005 12:01 am
Location: Bloomington, MN
Contact:

Re: Critique #3

Postby autzig » Wed Nov 23, 2011 2:43 pm

Dean, Brandt asked you some very important questions. When I first looked at your photo I asked myself the question: "What is the subject of this photo?" You see, your photo draws my eye right down the valley but the valley ends with the mountains hidden in the shade. There is nothing there to see. El Capitan is lit up but my eye isn't drawn to it as it frames the left side of the valley. It seems to me that it isn't placed in a way that makes it the subject.

If you said that you were just wanting to capture a beautiful scene of mountains and valley you have done that but in my mind, El Capitan is not the subject of this photo. To make it the subject, you should have include enough of the left side and place it in the frame in a way that makes it the subject.

Your photo is very three dimensional. The trees in the foreground are large enough and detailed enough to make the viewer feel close to them and the forest recedes into the distance creating that three dimensional feeling.

In my post processing, I would remove the con trails from the sky and make the clouds more dramatic.

I'm very interested in seeing Brandt's assessment.

Al

Andy
Site Admin
Posts: 1493
Joined: Sun Sep 18, 2005 12:01 am
Location: Saginaw, Michigan
Contact:

Re: Critique #3

Postby Andy » Thu Nov 24, 2011 12:48 pm

Hi Dean: These images are sometimes tough ones to critique. I do agree with Al’s comment about the subject. I see some “technical” things and some compositional things here.

I think that if this image were, e.g., one in a series about Yosemite or El Capitan (or for that matter, Half Dome), it would “work.”

I do think there is nice balance to the compositional elements of the image (subject to the “technical” comments to follow). You have placed elements side to side and back to front in balance in such a way that the viewer is drawn, as Al points out, to follow the valley around the curve. The smaller outcropping on the right balances El Capitan. Smaller works well, because you not placed them both equidistant from center.

I think the “technical” elements here actually significantly effect the compositional elements. I’ll start by saying that these mountain valleys are always technically difficult lighting situations. What time of day was this shot? The image looks to me like the sun was fairly high and fairly hot, creating a hot, harsh lighting condition with deep shadows. The “balancing” rock on the right is in deep shadow and together with its green color, nearly disappears. The two dark shadows thrown by the outcroppings are blocked up to totally black. The one in the immediate right foreground becomes an element in the image that draws the viewers eye rather strongly – unfortunately, away from the elements in the image you are trying to show them.

There may be some post-processing that could help alleviate that by bringing out some of the details in those shadow areas (especially the foreground shadow).

I understand your point about including the trees in the near foreground to give a sense of scale. I think it works just fine too, if you don’t include them, because we intuitively know they are trees and that trees are generally “tall.” That a “white milk, chocolate milk” judgment in my view.

I would also think about doing some “curves” adjustments (curves, in Photoshop, are very powerful tools – don’t know enough about LR, but am guessing there are curves tools in LR too). With curves, you could work with the shadow areas and at the same time, add some contrast and color separation in the other areas. There is some amazing color in the El Capitan rock face. You can bring that out.

I agree with Al, too that you could make the sky more dramatic. The clouds are there, and some “separation” and intensity could make that happen. The contrails do kind of detract a bit. Selecting the sky and using layers and layer masks would be very helpful in this processing.

It might seem like all the post processing stuff is a PIA, and defeats the purpose of photography as art. Maybe. Depends on your POV. Some of us like playing around with post processing; others don’t. But much of what we are talking about can be accomplished in place, from behind the lens, by understanding the importance of quality of light (I have had days where I have been somewhere and not even bothered to make an image because the light just wasn’t right – and in my view, you can’t “fix” that with HDR or any other technique), and by understanding exposure theory.

But, a certain amount of PP is simply a requirement of shooting digital. It is the nature of the equipment used for digital capture. If you shoot raw and you have your camera settings all to completely “neutral” (no “vivids,” etc.), you will see on screen a pretty close approximation of what the camera digitally captures. It will be flat and often seem colorless and dull. The digital sensor has certain filters on it to make sure it doesn’t capture some of the “bad” digital information floating around out there (certain light frequencies, patterns, etc.). This filter yields an inherently unsharp image. So, images need a certain amount of sharpening.

If you shoot anything else besides raw, the camera has its own “computer” and it makes (in my view, arbitrary) decisions about color, sharpness, etc. and effectively “bakes” them into the digital file, leaving you much less leeway for post processing your way.

But the point is, some PP will be necessary.

Again, here, (and remember it may well be a monitor to monitor thing), this image looks soft. Sharpening would give those foreground trees more “detail” and would make the rocks look better.

As you have pointed out, these critiques are difficult. It is easy to see some of these things in the comfort of our homes on our computers. I probably wouldn’t have seen some of them if I was standing right next to you when you shot this. So its not me saying “I could have done it better.” Its me forcing myself to look hard at the image in front of me. My sincere hope is that I learn as much or more from critiquing your images as anyone else does.

You have good vision and good insights in your comments. Thanks for putting this out there and for stimulating a couple really good discussions in this forum!
Andy

If it sounds too good to be true, its probably . . . .

deaner1971
Posts: 443
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2003 12:01 am

Re: Critique #3

Postby deaner1971 » Mon Nov 28, 2011 8:25 am

Al,

Thank you for the comments.

I can see your point on El Cap. I guess, for me, it was a bit more relational. I can see your point that it doesn't serve as a traditional focus but I was trying to capture its "presence" and how it seems to stand over the valley and yet appart from it.

I do have pictures where it is more the subject and I feel like it loses its role (and this is just in my mind) as the seeming guardian of the valley.

I think you are right though and I am failing to acknowledge that the real subject of the photo is the valley itself.

deaner1971
Posts: 443
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2003 12:01 am

Re: Critique #3

Postby deaner1971 » Mon Nov 28, 2011 8:37 am

Andy,

A little background is in order in that I was on a tour on this particular day. The sun was indeed higher than I would have liked and the light hotter than I would have wished.

I also should have mentioned that, beyond a cropping to eliminate excess sky in the photo and maybe one other touch, I had not processed this photo at all. I have edited it for usage but this is the photo with very little processing. I wanted to get input on what others would do with this right out of the camera.

I aboslutely need to work the levels in this shot (I think I can bring up the shadows a bit) but, unfortunately, it was this series (and to your point, it is a part of a large series of photos of this section of the valley) that made me switch to RAW. This was my last work in JPEG and, after editing some of this series, I cannot tell you how much I wish that my transition had not occurred prior to my trip to Northern California.

I will take this shot, apply what editing I think should be done and then I would love to also hear from all of you as to whether I am exerting too strong or too weak (perhaps both in different areas) a hand with the tools in PSE and LR.

As I do like to keep a shot as natural as possible but still make it appealing to the eye for a variety of viewers, I could use with critiques from all vanatage points.

Thanks you very much.

PS, I shoot RAW+JPEG now (RAW for my uses and JPEG to share with others who may not be abale to view RAW) and use no "scenes" or settings of that type. I agree that I want as close an approximation as possible to what it there in that moment so that I am not fighting the image in PP.

Andy
Site Admin
Posts: 1493
Joined: Sun Sep 18, 2005 12:01 am
Location: Saginaw, Michigan
Contact:

Re: Critique #3

Postby Andy » Mon Nov 28, 2011 3:43 pm

Dean: Will be interested to see what you can do. Yes, raw is really the only way to go for this kind of photography. There are pros out there who still say they used jpg exclusively and who am I to argue with some of the best of them? But they do tend to be wedding and portrait shooters who shoot in carefully controlled lighting conditions in most cases and sports shooters.

FWIW, the "Levels" tool is a bit of a "blunt" instrument. It took me a really long time to understand curves and curves adjustments, but it is really worth some study and playing, as you have so much more control over pinpointing changes in curves. I tend to use both, depending on which one will either best, or sometimes most quickly get me where I want to be.
Andy

If it sounds too good to be true, its probably . . . .

deaner1971
Posts: 443
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2003 12:01 am

Re: Critique #3

Postby deaner1971 » Mon Nov 28, 2011 4:33 pm

I use curves now but it is trial and error each time (apparently I am uniquely suited to making a scalpel into a saw). I am reading a book with tips on the use of this in LR so I will see what I can do.

I don't get the argument for JPEGs by anyone who can use RAW. As you said, they must know of what they speak but seems odd and limiting.

Andy
Site Admin
Posts: 1493
Joined: Sun Sep 18, 2005 12:01 am
Location: Saginaw, Michigan
Contact:

Re: Critique #3

Postby Andy » Mon Nov 28, 2011 9:59 pm

Dean: I think the main argument for jpeg is convenience. Fast, smaller files, less PP.
Andy

If it sounds too good to be true, its probably . . . .

brandtb

Re: Critique #3

Postby brandtb » Tue Nov 29, 2011 12:21 pm

Dean

I'll give you some feedback on a few areas re. this image...and then will comment on one of your latest posts about "getting input ...with this right out of camera" last.

1. The question of subject/not subject can be an extraordinary useful tool for anyone - I use it with some pictures that pose difficulties of different varieties. It forces me to be "responsible" or "own" everything I've put in picture plane. One thing you see in photographers that progress over time...is that they are not willing anymore to ignore elements in the picture plane...that are not structural, are uninteresting, not good, detrimental to overall image, banal. etc. etc.. I say sometimes too, shooting wide landscapes can indiscriminately "collect" almost every single visual element...almost like a vacuum cleaner. We know that when we open up the vacuum cleaner bag...and look at all that stuff...it's not all good.

2. Some thoughts on this image. One thing I noticed right of the bat is that you didn't assign any role to the sky...is this subject, not subject? The sky is not a subject to me...but what is "does" is still important...it takes up 1/4 of the picture plane. The quality of the clouds/sky on this day to me is not helping the picture at all (we get what we can on a given day when shooting nature). The clouds are wispy buzzing little horizontal lines that constantly lead the eye out of the image, and the don't balance the moutains with any visual weight. I find it useful to look at the paintings of Jacob van Ruisdael. He was one of the greatest landscape painters who ever lived. He devoted a lot of care to sky and clouds, and it's helpful to see how his skies "balance the weight of his subjects". Some images at link. http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/bio/r/ ... graph.html
The biggest issue with this image is the foreground non subject which takes up over half of the picture plane...and that's is the treescape. Except for a couple of shadows this way too much non-interesting/non-useful space in this image - it makes half the image interesting, and the other half not interesting...to the overall detriment. I believe Adams had a picture of El Capitan in summer (different picture entirely)...which has a few trees which give scale, but they don't overpower. That image also has nice clouds which balance the mountain. It's worth studying this picture a bit...sometimes in images like this we can learn the importance of "going in tighter on your subject"...not being overly wedded to the "wide landscape" shot.
"Tiny indiscernable objects in the deep background". The Half Dome is way in the bg barely recognizable except for those who know Yosemite. As a rule careful about this - if you think it is important to include something in the picture make sure it is readable/recognizable - to others not familiar with subject. Andy spoke of including Coit tower in this wide landscape in other post...well when I first looked at the image I didn't see the Coit tower at all... because it was a"tiny indiscernable object"...so the question then becomes do I include something like this? Is there a good reason. Make yourself ask and answer these questions.
Lastly, do I think this a good image per se...no...too many elements working against each other. Could something interesting/better be salvaged from it, maybe, maybe not.

3. What to do with this image out of the cam. First I read what you said, the constraints, time of day etc. etc.. I would not jump the gun and go to all the controls first thing, contrast, curves, levels, color etc. etc. - all the things we have at our disposal now. Save a copy as TIFF. Then see If you can get a cropped image FIRST that is good. Sometimes mountains shot in bright light - e.g. midday lend themselves to b/w conversion...especially because of the gradations of "color" in the rocks etc.. I've attached something I did quick- do I absolutely love this - no - just an example. I would suggest playing around with this a bit. After you get a crop, you like then work out the contrast etc. etc. The exist color image could use some contrast as it was shot in bright light.
Attachments
1024b.jpg
1024b.jpg (245.4 KiB) Viewed 5903 times

abby
Moderator
Posts: 1802
Joined: Sun Sep 24, 2006 12:01 am
Location: southeast massachusetts
Contact:

Re: Critique #3

Postby abby » Wed Nov 30, 2011 4:37 pm

Excellent information and suggestions Brandt.
Carol

brandtb

Re: Critique #3

Postby brandtb » Sat Dec 03, 2011 11:01 am

thanks Carol



Return to “Vermont Photography Forum”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 1 guest