Critique#1A

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Andy
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Re: Critique

Postby Andy » Sun Nov 13, 2011 11:47 am

Here is an image from our own CTYankY (image copyright 2011). I'll let her make any comments she may want to add, but she has asked me to post it for her to participate in the critique:

Image
Andy

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


ctyanky
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Critique#1A

Postby ctyanky » Sun Nov 13, 2011 12:03 pm

Hi everyone! Please be honest to the core. I am a true beginner. Andy and Al have been helpful to me in the past to hone my amateurish skills. If you are not brutally honest, I'll never advance. You can even laugh and say this chick needs a better camera. :wink: This was taken in the extreme NW corner of CT at the top of a mountain at the beginning of foliage season. The bright yellow tree caught my eye and the tree to the far right, the anchor, was in peak. The ridge in the back was just coming into peak. I just had to take a picture! Thanks for your comments. CT

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Re: Critique

Postby Andy » Sun Nov 13, 2011 12:18 pm

CT: Here are my own remarks:

Compositionally, the balance of elements (the conversation that Bryan started), is very nice. The "lever" I was trying to remember is a concept know by artists is the "steelyard." It refers to the fact that sometimes in order to achieve balance between different sized elements, you have to vary the placement in the photo further away from the center ("balance" point). Imagine a vertical line directly in the middle of the image. Note the distance of the small, red tree from the center vs. the distance of the large, main subject tree. This creates that "steelyard" balance, in my view. The color contrasts help, too. We need that red tree to make it an anchoring element.

You have also done a nice job with keeping the horizon straight (not easily done on a handheld basis). You also learned from the master (our own Al Utzig) about placement of an image within the frame and have sucessfully avoided the "bullseye" effect. For "beginning" photographers using modern equipment, this is an important concept. Part of the problem is that the sensor that focuses the camera is "bullseye" centered in the viewfinder and we have a natural desire to put that sensor on our subject and shoot away.

In a photographic image, my own teachers and mentors have emphasized that it is about details, details, details. When you look through the viewfinder, you must be thinking about these details. This is one of the many benefits to shooting form a tripod -- you can take the time to think things through and look at the details within the frame. So, here are some more "critical" observations.

Watch the edges of your image (which sometimes means knowing how what you see in your viewfinder or on you LCD screen will translate to what is actually captured). So for example, on my DSLR, the viewfinder "coverage" is only 90 % so more is captured in the image than what I see in the viewfinder. In this image, the fact that branches on the left of the large tree go out of the frame bothers me. I want to see just a bit of "space" in most cases (of course, EVERY rule is made to be broken and sometimes we have to work with the elements we have and make choices about what to include and what not to include).

I am also bothered by the fact that the rockwall around the base of the tree is cut off both at the bottom and on the left. I would move my camera position enough to try to include all of the rockwall and maybe even a smidgeon of "space" on the bottom and the edge.

Depending on your camera and where the zoom lens is set, this might invove stepping back. The adage not to "bullseye" center your subject works both in the horizontal and vertical direction. With the notable exception of "mirror-image" reflections, nothing is more of a dynamics - killer than a horizon line running horizontally right through the image. You've done a pretty good job of avoiding that here, by putting the sky in the top 1/3 of the image. However, its not a very nice sky (grey RARELY photographs well -- it always looks better in person than in the resulting image). So, I would be inclined to try to seek a camera angle and placement here that might move that horizon even higher, eliminating more of the grey sky. Not being there, I'm not sure you COULD do this, but it would certainly be something to look at when composing. Looking again at the image, it might be impossible to include the entire large tree without having at least that much sky.

EVERY digital image needs some tweaking from how it was made. There are filters and the nature of the sensor pixels which create an inherently unsharp image and often has color and color balance issues. When shooting jpg images with a Point and Shoot camera, there is software built into the camera that attempts to "fix" those things. Pretty rare that they do a great job (my Canon G11 probably renders the best "out of camera" image I have ever seen, and I still feel the need to tweak it).

I personally like highly saturated color images and so I took the liberty to boost the saturation and and also added a touch of image sharpening to the "mytake" version which follows. It was "quick and dirty" so the sharpening actually degrades the sky a bit. I would normally select and isolate those elements when working on an image in Photoshop:

Image
Andy

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

ctyanky
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Re: Critique

Postby ctyanky » Sun Nov 13, 2011 6:46 pm

Andy: thank you for the very constructive feedback. It's nice to know I'm doing a few things correctly! There certainly is a lot to think about when you want to achieve a good photo, isn't there? True, I have to work on watching the edges of my image. In looking back at the tree, I see the edges cut off and the rockwall is not complete. That bothers me a lot now in retrospect. I was so intent on capturing the yellow color of the tree, one that I haven't seen so bright like that before, that I was focused on making sure I had that covered. I see what you mean by needing space and the lack of it in the rockwall and edge of the tree seems to me like glaring deficit now. I should have stepped back some more but it seemed that when I did, I got more unnecessary detail in the picture. I think I was trying to get the anchor tree in there too. And I do think I could have made the horizon higher to eliminate some of the grey sky.

Thanks again for these comments. It makes me think harder next time about what I want to include and not include in the picture. I'm trying! :roll: Believe me, I take everything you say and make a mental note of it. Really, I feel enlightened! (I know, the tripod is key.....)

(Wish you lived closer. I would enroll in one of your classes if you ever thought about teaching one! I'm sure you have enough on your plate as it is!).

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Re: Critique

Postby Andy » Mon Nov 14, 2011 8:08 am

Thanks, ct. LOL, no classes. You are right. I have taken on enough, with blogs, work, teaching at the local U, etc. Don't seem to ever be able to get it all done.

One thing you said is correct. There is a lot to think about when making a good photograph. The primary difference between a snapshot of the "memories of being there" or family events, etc., and a photograph intended as a statement by itself, is that in the photograph, you "construct, compose, or make" the image. There are many technical reasons for using a tripod, such as sharpness of the image, especially at slow shutter speeds.

But the tripod adds the ability, in my view, to compose. It is very difficult to handhold a nature or landscape image that has some detail and "get it right." It is nice to have the camera mounted on a firm support and then be able to move its position, stop, look at the entire image in the frame, and make decisions. Sometimes it is worthwhile to compose the image, and then step back and let your eyes see the scene again, and then look back through the viewfinder, to gain some perspective of what your image is trying to depict.

I grew up looking through an SLR viewfinder and thus find it very difficult to get comfortable with composing with the "live view" LCD on most digital point and shoot cameras. But it is the same principle. In either case, you need to give your eyes some time to adjust to what they see in that viewfinding tool. With the LCD screen, you may need to "hood" yourself with a jacket or something, to cut out the light so you can really see (there was a reason for the black cape in those old fashioned viewfinder cameras).

I'm glad you were willing to put this image out there. I hope others will feel comfortable putting images up and joining in the "critique" here.
Andy

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

deaner1971
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Re: Critique

Postby deaner1971 » Mon Nov 14, 2011 8:18 am

ctyanky wrote:Hi everyone! Please be honest to the core. I am a true beginner. Andy and Al have been helpful to me in the past to hone my amateurish skills. If you are not brutally honest, I'll never advance. You can even laugh and say this chick needs a better camera. :wink: This was taken in the extreme NW corner of CT at the top of a mountain at the beginning of foliage season. The bright yellow tree caught my eye and the tree to the far right, the anchor, was in peak. The ridge in the back was just coming into peak. I just had to take a picture! Thanks for your comments. CT


Your comments really speak to some of my own issues. I am also really just starting out. I have been shooting photos since I "acquired" by dad's Canon AE1 way back when but I have never taken any classes nor read really that many books and have so little camera time under my belt. Until I found all of you, I hadn't even really gotten to get input from photographers with the talent and knowledge of the sort found here.

I am like you in that I see a scene and I "feel" like there is a good picture there or I am just compelled to capture it for some reason but then I cannot determine why the picture doesn't work. Was it bad composition? Did I miss the boat in editing? Is there a standard technique I am just missing (how many pictures did I screw-up until the day someone said "polarizing filter" to me?) Or whatever.

Your comments on why you want the fedback is exactly what I wanted to say so, thank you.

deaner1971
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Re: Critique

Postby deaner1971 » Mon Nov 14, 2011 8:30 am

This is in relation to the previous picture:

On the picture, you just got submarined by a bad sky. I have so many pictures like that. I take them anyway out of some blind hope that I'll salvage them in post-prod but I never do.

Maybe a little more saturation or maybe a warming of the colors would help.

From a compostion stand-point, I can see Andy's point about the cropping to the left being distracting. I feel like there are so many elements in the picture that maybe there were a few pictures in there. The fence and the shed also look like possibly strong components, especially given their location is relation to the tree to the right and the possibility that they would allow you to reduce or eliminate the amount of sky.

Those solitary trees are so hard to pass up because they draw the attention so strongly but then they are so tricky to make work.

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Re: Critique

Postby autzig » Mon Nov 14, 2011 6:23 pm

CT, does the sun ever shine in Connecticut? It seems like all the photos you've shown me were made are on gray, cloudy days.

While I like your tree, the light is very flat. There are no shadows or highlights. The light is the same on everything. That is to be expected on cloudy days. When conditions are like that, you have to do something else. I did a photo workshop with Robert Glen Ketchum in Alaska. The best piece of advice I got from him was this: When you are done making the photograph you set out to make, don't stop. Take out every other lens in your case and shoot with them. I know you don't have a DSLR camera but you can get close in by walking into your subject. I would think you could get some nice shots of the leaves and branches by standing under the tree. If your camera has a zoom or macro capabilities, you could get close-ups of the veins of the leaves.

Great photos are not photos of the subject but rather photos of the light on the subject. When the light isn't there, find something that works given the light. Close-ups, waterfalls and fog work in flat light. The light in Carol's photo is pretty flat too, but it works because everything is in the shade.

This critique shouldn't be about the weather so a comment or two about the composition. I agree with Andy about the left side being cut off and the wall around the tree. It is really important to check the edges and corners of the viewfinder to make sure you are not including or excluding anything. It was apparent that you didn't want to place the subject tree in the middle of the frame and that's good. When the subject is placed in the middle of the frame, it usually doesn't produce a good photo.

Al
Last edited by autzig on Mon Nov 14, 2011 6:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

ctyanky
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Re: Critique

Postby ctyanky » Tue Nov 15, 2011 6:34 am

Al: thanks for stopping by and looking at my photo. I have not paid much attention to the light issue but now that I see my photo I understand that the light is indeed flat. So much to consider! It was pretty bright out so maybe it was where I was standing.

Yes, the sun does shine here on occasion in Connecticut. But maybe not always when I am out on the weekend! :lol:

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Re: Critique

Postby Andy » Tue Nov 15, 2011 9:04 am

CT: Al is right. Photography, in the end, is really always about the light. Once we learn that, we are always looking for the "right" light. That is why so many of my posts and comments reference whether I was shooting during the "good light" or not. You never know when that will happen, but you can make some predictions.

High sun (most often during the middle of the day) creates the harshest light conditions. Sometimes, changing weather conditions (before and after storms, or cloudy days with "breaks" will make shooting during the middle of the day possible and even sometimes dramatic). Harsh lighting often creates very bright areas and very deep shadows. Our modern photographic equipment cannot "capture" detail in and between both of these extremes (though our eyes -- which are an amazing technological wonder -- often can, and hence fool us into thinking our photograph will do the same).

Season also makes a difference. Fall and Winter in our hemisphere generally produces lower angles of the sun and more "directional" light. The sun never gets as "high" in the sky during those seasons and it is often possible to extend shooting time, especially in late Fall and early Winter.

Flat light (no direct sun) gives greater color saturation (this is largely because of the absence of "blue" light rays, which are short and tend to be multi directional, creating undesirable -- for photographers -- reflections. One of the tools you hear us talk about are a polarizing filter. A polarizing filter filters out most of the blue rays by forcing the light rays to come through the filter parallel to each other, which is how it cuts down those stray, undesirable reflections).

Grey days don't always make the best "flat lighting" conditions. Better is a "bright overcast" day, which puts some interesting light on the subject, but in a way that does not create undesirable contrasts.

The "good light" most often occurs from twilite (just prior to sunrise) until an hour or two after sunrise. It then happens again an hour or two before sunset through twilite just after sunset. These windows can be longer in the seasons above and are definitely shorter (sometimes in mid-summer, the sun is just to "hot" within an hour of sunrise).

Finally, geography makes a difference. When there are mountains, tall buildings or other obstructions, sometimes the periods in the a.m. are later and in the p.m. are earlier. We shot the Gristmill in WVA in October, for example, at sunrise and then again at 10:00 a.m. and found very different, but pleasing in both cases, lighting conditions.
Andy

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

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Re: Critique

Postby abby » Fri Nov 18, 2011 8:12 am

Andy wrote:Here is an image from our own CTYankY (image copyright 2011). I'll let her make any comments she may want to add, but she has asked me to post it for her to participate in the critique:

Image

Hi CT,
It's great to see you participating in this thread. I have learned so much about photography by having my images critiqued, so this is a good place for you to stick around if you want to seriously improve.
I'm not as articulate as others with critique, but I would like to give you my thoughts on this image.
I've never been to this spot before, but as the viewer of this image, you have taken me to a place which I would like to visit. You have shown me that this is a pretty "country" area by including that little rustic shed and the fencline in the image. I really like the full canopy of yellow leaves in the tree on the left, and I agree that it is helped to be anchored by the red on the tree on the right.
One of my first thoughts about this image was I wish I could see the entire stone wall which surrounds the tree. I agree with Andy that if it were possible to take a few steps back so that all of the stone surrounding the tree were included in the frame it would help the scene to feel more complete.
I hope to see some more of your images here CT. This thread is a wonderful way not only to learn and share ideas, but a way for us to stay connected during the off season.
Carol



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