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Posted: Mon Nov 07, 2011 6:09 pm
A conversation with "deaner" on the foliage forum inspired me to try this. I have learned that the foliage forum (much like the season itself) works up to a "peak" and then dies until next season. Que Sera Sera (spelling is, I am sure, atrocious).
When I asked Tim if he would set this forum up, I had hopes of keeping it going througout the year. Sometimes I see faint glimmers of that "light." So, here is an idea: I would like participants to feel free to post an image here for critique.
I want to define "critique" though. We get all the "nice images," "beautiful," etc., we need elsewhere. I would like commentary on what makes a photograph strong or weak, what can make it better, what works and what doesn't work, etc. It IS possible for it to be honest and straightforward and still be polite.
I will start and see if there are any takers: I looked for an image that I have taken (happens to be of Vermont) that I do not think is particularly strong, to stimulate some true thoughts about composition, exposure, choice of subject, color, etc. Here it is (lets hear your thoughts):
Posted: Tue Nov 08, 2011 12:39 pm
Thanks, Carol. I do have a PS "re-touched" version of this image. This one is more or less out of the camera, with standard sharpen and curves type tweaks. I agree that the left side is in shadow (what the old-timer film shooters would refer to as "blocked up"). There is a pretty good reason for this and am wondering if anybody will comment on that
Maybe after some others weigh in, I can post a re-worked version.
Hoping others will join in by posting images.
Posted: Wed Nov 09, 2011 8:23 am
See, this is where I get nervous about critiques because everyone has their own personal preferences.
I like the composition very much but I can see why people call darker areas on a photo "black holes" because it does keep drawing your attention and pull you away from the normal progression through a picture. I put up a sheet of paper to "crop" that portion and I think the picture still works.
The foliage feels a little bit over exposed but that is likely the trade-off versus losing all of the detail in the shade. That could also just be my preferences as I think I might under-expose my photos.
Your shot's left side still feels more "complete" than when I did a crude crop on my screen. The trees rise up and close the left side and none of the lily pads on that side are only partially captured so it gives the feeling that you saw it all on that side. The right side is open but that works as that is the side that starts the motion of the viewer through the picture.
That darkened side and what to do with it has bedeviled me at Emerald Lake for about a decade now. It is in the narrow valley that Manchester and Danby occupy (a bit north of Manchester on 7) and you end up with a right side fulling lit by morning light but the left side (and about half of the lake) still in shadow. You succeeded far better than I have with dealing with that problem so I still have to say this is a good shot.
Could you please critique my critique? I do not offer them often so is that detailed enough/too detailed, etc...
Thanks again for starting this.
Posted: Fri Nov 11, 2011 8:16 pm
Ok, I will post another version this weekend when I get on my computer ( the iPad is just too easy). Somebody else willing to post an image here for critique?
Posted: Sat Nov 12, 2011 8:47 am
Good idea for a topic. Regarding your photo, I have a lot like that where I can't put my finger on why it doesn't do it for me. A few things I can think of in your photo.
Time of day.
As has been mentioned, the lighting is a bit strong.
Lack of clear subject.
This is a concept that's not too clear to me with regards to landscapes, because I don't always think of a landscape as having an identifiable subject. But as I look through my "portfolio" (really just a folder on my pc where I keep my best shots), all of my favorite landscapes have a subject more identifiable than the shot we're critiquing. Abby's shot is a good example of a landscape with a subject.
Even harder to define than subject. But after reading Freeman Patterson's Photographing the World Around You
(highly recommended), I became much more aware of this concept. So now when I compose, I try to move my feet/camera/focal length until the subjects feel balanced to me.
Now to embarrass myself with my drawing skills. I see your photo as being like this:
I feel it would be more balanced if it was like this:
Of course to an extent you can only work with what the scene gives you -- you couldn't move the hills. So sometimes it's not possible to get the balanced shot, while sometimes you can improve it by moving.
Posted: Sat Nov 12, 2011 6:16 pm
Interesting, Bryan. I agree that balance is an important part of composition. So much so that I bought a couple books on drawing and art last year and began to study it. One of the principles I read about was the Idea of the balance lever (my own characterization). I actually see balance in both of your drawings. I think the foreground objects are important to add the balance in an image. The lily pads add that element in my view. You have included those graphical elements in your "preferred" composition, but they are certainly there in both.
Also agree that Freeman Patterson's books are well worth the read.
My own critique of my image is that the lighting is definitely harsh and the high contrast is definitely a problem here. It would really be an interesting exercise to find a subject we could all revisit after critique and try our own interpretations. I think you observation about moving your feet is really good. I woukd like to go back there and look for your preferred composition.
Great abstract observations about composition. Thought provoking and exactly what I am looking for in this thread! Thanks for the great input Bryan!
Posted: Sat Nov 12, 2011 6:27 pm
When you look at both of Bryan's drawings, there are diagonals that create dynamics. There is definitely something to be said for the "golden mean" which has a relationship to the the "rule of thirds" that we photographers like to "quote.". My mentor, James Moore uses spirals and the golden mean in his teaching methods, and espouses "seeing" these things when you are actually in the act of photographing.
Posted: Mon Nov 14, 2011 8:25 am
Thanks for the critique, Dean, Bryan and Carol. Here is a bit of a re-work of the image I played with briefly. It addresses my own criticisms of the image (shared by you) regarding the shadows and the harsh light. My "opening up" of the shadows is crude, without using any layers, on a small jpeg version in PS. I am not sure its an image I want to spend lots of time with. Just trying to illustrate that it may be better with some work The transition from the part I opened up and the part that was already better exposed needs some work to make it more natural looking.
I also toned down the brightness on the foliage, which had the effect of making it seem more saturated (not an altogether bad think in my view).
Given the light conditions, it is NEVER going to have the impact it might have in "good light." But I continue to be amazed at what can be done with an image in the "digital darkroom."
From a compositional standpoint, what Bryan said is beginning to grow on me. The right side of the image seems to just kind of flow out of the frame, without any balancing or anchoring point. One thing I tried was to crop closer to the rock in the water, attempting to make it an anchor point in the right hand frame. Not sure it worked. May not be able to "save" this image from a compositional standpoint. Thoughts??
Posted: Mon Nov 14, 2011 8:37 am
I need to get to work but I wanted to comment on the second picture. I am really struck by how the rock makes the spiral really kick in. The lily pads have a natural curve to them that flows perfectly into that rock. That leads right into the foliage and then into the strong greens of the lightened space to the left.
Wow, what a difference and thank you for sharing such a great example of a crop creating that wonderful spiral flow.
Probably more saturated than what I am used to but, as I have said, I often feel like I don't take mine far enough. The enhanced color really balances things though by making the whole images colors strong and well-balanced (especially the formerly blackened left side) so I do like the overall impact.
Really good example of what can be done and how to tweak a photo by making a bunch of small changes to it components.
Posted: Mon Nov 14, 2011 1:37 pm
Al: Good to see you are no longer "MIA"
Great point. I think you and I have spoken about this before. We (I) often tend to think 2 dimensionally -- foreground and background. But most good landscape images have 3 -- as you have pointed out. The foreground, the middle ground and the background. And, as you also suggest, good composition means we need to be thinking
about those elements when we are composing.
Posted: Mon Nov 14, 2011 2:59 pm
OK. I'll write my critique of each of the posted files. I've already commented about how Andy used the lily pads to create the illusion of three dimensions. That is the strength of this photo. Others have commented on the harsh light and that is true. I would like this photo much better if it had been shot in warmer light. The low angle of the sun would have created shadows in the image while not creating such strong contrast in the shadow areas. I guess that isn't a critique of the photo exactly, but I think better light would make this photo more stunning.
I also think the second version of this photo is way too saturated. I know that Andy and I disagree on just how much saturation creates the best image. I prefer subtlety. He likes it bold.
Posted: Tue Nov 15, 2011 7:19 am
I do think the new crops make a big difference. Funny how that works.
Posted: Tue Nov 15, 2011 9:05 am
Bryan: Thanks. Do hope you'll continue to participate here. I would love to see this become more than a seasonal forum!
Posted: Thu Nov 17, 2011 10:45 am
Andy #1 - I haven't read entire thread so I don't know exactly what you did to image re. saturation adjustments...but it "appears" to me that there is "global" saturation increase by a significant margin...and to me it looks very artificial...especially blues and oranges..they are almost like solid colors...becauses oversaturating takes away detail to mcuh. Sometimes when I boost individual color satruation - I may go in with a brush and add some "clarity" or midrange contrast to ameliorate this a bit. General comment about saturation, I only use specific color adjustment sliders in either ACR or LR...NEVER EVER global corrections...until the very end...and then this might be in the +/- 5 % range...yes sometimes I end up desaturating depending on sit. I think generally what is not considered well by landscape photogs is the "negative space" - in this case the "black wedge" on left. I like the next to last version BEST...in mts. there is a nice s-curve created...convex part in middle mt....to concave on right as it leaves frame. Also more lilis are better because it ties into the other greens and creates balance to the reds..."complimentary colors".
Carol#1 Fantastic subject! I'm not crazy about the processing stuff generally...but I like this photo a lot...anyway I think this could be cropped in a bit...negative space way out of balance with the positive "red bridge" and little falls. It makes the viewer work to nuch to concentrate on the subject amidst the vibrating and chattering of the foliage
Andy#2 I wouldn't consider there is a subject here. That said, if you cropped way in...and got a array of various bldg styles and colors with a little water (maybe more than I have)...then MAYBE. Sometimes these things can work as b/w...
I attached two crops...Carol I don't about centering the bridge ...the little orange of the tree is nice
Posted: Thu Nov 17, 2011 11:44 am
Brandt: Thanks for weighing in. Hope you'll spend some time here.
Your saturation comment no doubt has Al Utzig jumping up and down and clapping his hands and saying "yes!"
I do tend to overdo the image saturation a bit. This is an image that I thought was marginal from the beginning, and is partly why I posted it here -- trying to get some conversation going on critique. So this is all good. If I were printing the image, I would have to look a lot more carefully at the saturation issue, because, as you say, it so often destroys the detail that we are trying to capture (especially in foliage -- which is detail anyway). So, good comment. I will look more carefully at that going forward. There are probably some more productive PP techniques than I use here (I still haven't "graduated" to a current version of LR -- probably will do so in 2012 -- still using ver 1 at this point, so I don't do ANY processing in LR). My favorite "quick and dirty" technique is to use straight-line curves adjustments in the LAB color space (A and B channels), to effect "color separation," an old Dan Margulis technique. Again when looking to print an image, I am generally a little more painstaking -- trying to get appropriate color and detail for my inkjet printer.
Good thoughts, too on the SF Skyline Image. I will have to pay more attention to asking myself the question "what is my subject."
I sincerely hope others will post images here. I think we can all learn from this