Luminous Landscape Forum

Equipment & Techniques => Landscape & Nature Photography => Topic started by: boku on September 19, 2005, 08:34:43 PM

Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: boku on September 19, 2005, 08:34:43 PM
I am really torn about this picture. I'll tell you right now, the original 3:2 in-camera crop was not to my liking because it failed to isolate offensive stuff. Some of this can still be seen creeping into the left side of this crop.

I know this is a very drastic crop, but I found it at least made the image conveying a mood to me that made me take the picture in the first place.

Any and all criticism welcome: camera technique, art, post processing, crop, filters, sharpening, whatever.

I need to understand if this is too far off the beaten path to be interesting to a general audience. Would anyone ever buy anything like this?

Thanks in advance. I will only respond if asked. Promise.

(http://boku.smugmug.com/photos/36845473-L.jpg)
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: Jonathan Wienke on September 19, 2005, 09:05:57 PM
The image definitely has potential; if you cloned out that one out-of-place-looking stick on the left and cropped the bottom to just below the visible water to get about a 1:2 aspect ratio, I think you'd have a real winner. I don't see anything I'd change regarding color/tonality, and the web image doesn't have enpough resolution to intelligently critique the sharpening, so I have no real suggestions for improvement there. All in all, I'd say it's definitely worth the effort required to polish it.

And you have my permission to participate in the discussion if you like.
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: jule on September 19, 2005, 10:17:07 PM
The image creates intrigue because of the direction of the timber structure - leading to where??? and also leading the eye to the central tree merging into the whispy clouds. A real sense of connection is created by the directional aspect of the components.

The colouring is pleasant and the saturation of the flowers gives the image life. The lightness and exposure gives that feeling of tranquility.

I would remove the dead vertical stick in the sky on the left hand side because it is distracting.

I would crop off just a little of the green foliage just below the lowest yellow flower, because the bottom green foliage seems to lack interest. Putting the yellow closer to the bottom of the image seems to attract me into the image immediately. Cropping higher near the waterline as Jonathan suggested seems to make me higher and feel like I am standing, rather than exploring - which is much more interesting !  Keeping more of the foreground in makes me feel as if I am really in the grass and wildflowers.

Don't think I would purchase it Boku, but I really enjoyed my experience of viewing it.

Julie
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: jdemott on September 19, 2005, 11:01:28 PM
Bob, I really like: the shape of the large tree and the fact that it has only partial foliage, the feeling of depth in the photo, the dock leading in to the frame, and the lighting on the foreground flowers ( but I am concerned about the difference between the lowest flowers which are in shadow and some of those in the brightest light which seem to lose detail).  As others have noted, the branches coming in from the left are distracting, as are the con-trails.  I like the non-standard aspect ratio. but I would be interested to see what a little perspective adjustment might do for it.  I think you have captured what was appealing in the scene--nice light with proper exposure has given good color and contrast.  Overall, the mood of the photo is one of a very pleasant, comfortable scene.  For me, the distractions interfere with that comfortable mood--in a photo that depicted a subject of intense drama, the same distractions might be overlooked.
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: Sheldon N on September 20, 2005, 02:26:17 AM
I like it, it fundamentally appeals to me but is just a little too "busy". I don't know what the location is like, but if you can reshoot it to include just the flowers, water and central tree, it would be a lot more powerful of a photo. I also agree with the recommendations of others regarding cropping the lower portion of the photo a little higher towards the water line.

The reaching fingers of the primary tree are what really hold my interest.

Hope this helps!
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: mikeseb on September 20, 2005, 08:24:21 AM
I couldn't finger the "problem" until Sheldon said it; it is just somehow too busy for my taste also. I have no complaint about its technical execution--sharpness, color, etc.
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: larryg on September 20, 2005, 09:37:13 AM
The first question we should ask ourselves in self critiqueing

Why did I take this image,  What is the interest of the image,

What is your central focus?

Is it the dead tree,  the flowers in the foreground?

Also check for edges and corners of things coming into the frame that detract, i.e. the stick in the left hand side etc.

There is some potential elements (in my humble opinion) but not sure everything works as is?

You might trying to simplify this image.  The dock lends itself to a nice leading line.   I just don't see the dead tree adding anything and that is where my eyes end up
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: Lisa Nikodym on September 20, 2005, 11:38:48 AM
Two comments -

First, the bottom portion of the image seems to be "dead space" to me, with a darkness that doesn't go well with the rest of the sunny picture.  I'd crop it off just a little below the two brightest yellow flowers.  The best flowers are still there that way.

Second, I'm not sure I like it by itself (I'm not sure exactly what you're "trying to say" with this image), but if you were to take two more pictures of complementary subjects in complementary colors (not quite identical colors, but colors that would go well with this one) and crop them to the same size and shape and matte them side by side, it would make a lovely triptych.  Maybe something like a comment on the variety of different ecosystems in your neighborhood?

Lisa
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: Lisa Nikodym on September 20, 2005, 05:59:38 PM
A last comment -
The colors are wonderful.  The mix of bright clear blue, green and yellow is very attractive.  I'm not particularly excited by the composition, but if you can get a better composition there with those same colors it would be worth trying...

Lisa
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: boku on September 20, 2005, 07:21:54 PM
Quote
The image definitely has potential; if you cloned out that one out-of-place-looking stick on the left and cropped the bottom to just below the visible water to get about a 1:2 aspect ratio, I think you'd have a real winner. I don't see anything I'd change regarding color/tonality, and the web image doesn't have enpough resolution to intelligently critique the sharpening, so I have no real suggestions for improvement there. All in all, I'd say it's definitely worth the effort required to polish it.

And you have my permission to participate in the discussion if you like.
I did this - worked it two ways, one color the other sepia. My original intent at the moment of capture was to give my 10-22 zoom a workout, capturing a classic foreground, middleground, and background. This was semi-soft semi-mottled 9 AM lighting. The boardwalk into the marsh gave me a peaceful, restful emotion at the time - I was attracted to the dapples of golden light on the neutral grey wood. The composition compromised my ability to do anything artisitic, but I feel the emotion.

I struggle with trite, quaint landscapes in NE Ohio. I am trying to produce "killer" images but I am far from it. I hate to admit that sometimes the local environs just don't click for me. I can't travel much due to family issues, so I want to try to master my "small" world. I have seen the work of local notable landscape photographers and find myself underwhelmed. I want to make the most of this and find myself working smaller and smaller scenes to get anything stimulating.

Anyhow, here's both versions of the new crops/edits...

(http://boku.smugmug.com/photos/36848919-L.jpg) and (http://boku.smugmug.com/photos/36848915-L.jpg)
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: jule on September 20, 2005, 08:12:18 PM
Bob, I like the crop and the removal of the stick on the left. The yellow flower on the lower left grabs me and draws me in to the scene. Contrary to what some others have said about there being 'too much' in the image to convey peacefullness, I actually find that all those scattered lines and angles in the sky and the dead branches makes me want to retreat into the calmer part of the image - the boardwalk - which I suspect is  where you felt that tranquility. Although texturally interesting, I just don't feel that same sense of calmness with the sepia colouring.

Julie
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: jdemott on September 20, 2005, 08:24:22 PM
Quote
My original intent at the moment of capture was to give my 10-22 zoom a workout, capturing a classic foreground, middleground, and background. This was semi-soft semi-mottled 9 AM lighting. The boardwalk into the marsh gave me a peaceful, restful emotion at the time - I was attracted to the dapples of golden light on the neutral grey wood. The composition compromised my ability to do anything artisitic, but I feel the emotion
Bob, I think you accomplished much of what you set out to do.  The foreground, middleground, background works well, particularly with the shadowed part of the foreground cropped.  The composition is nice and the boardwalk works well in the composition.  The lighting is as you describe and I think you have captured it well--I particularly like the lighting on the reeds and on the boardwalk.  The fact that the mood is peaceful and restful rather than dramatic isn't a fault in my opinion.

But what is missing?--I gather you're not satisfied, which is why you posted the photo.  Part of the problem is the presence of some distracting elements as mentioned above.  But also I think the photo needs some kind of emotional "hook" to draw the viewer in--a bird in the sky, a cloud with some interesting lighting, a child's toy left on the boardwalk, etc.  As it is, the photo seems a little empty.  

If this is near your home, why not go back several times and see what happens?  Fill up your Compact Flash card; electrons are cheap.  Lisa mentioned the possibility of a triptych.  Perhaps you could do a triptych of shots of the same scene, with different lighting or in different seasons.  To me that would definitely add some emotional content and interest.

Having participated in a few of these "critiques" in the past couple weeks, both as photographer and as reviewer, I have to say that I think the exercise is very valuable.  I am learning just as much by commenting on your photo and reading the other comments as I have in seeing comments on my own shots.  In fact, the process of thinking about your photo has also made me think more about some of the comments I received and reinforces some of what I learned.  It is good to be looking at shots that are troublesome, not just the ones that worked, because that's how we learn.  I hope you'll keep posting your work.
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: Mark D Segal on September 20, 2005, 08:28:36 PM
Boku, I think you've implemented Jonathan's suggestion in a way that improves the composition considerably. The fact that you made the sepia version is a stroke of genius, because it looks very good in its own right, and it brings out one of the main issues with the colour image: just so much green and blue, and alot within the green that isn't all that distinguishable. What the sepia has done is to suppress that problem by shifting the focus from colour to line and form, where the cropped image is more successful. The sepia generates greater emphasis on the compositional lines created by the dock and the tree, and it also emphasizes the form of the trees by suppressing colour and relying on contrast. Hence it now has a clearer center of interest.

I would suggest trying on for size two further tweaks: (1) another crop, bottoming the picture just below the upper set of flowers in the foreground, which would lower the horizon line a bit more and further emphasize the play between the dock and the trees, and (2) in the sepia version, wrack-up the contrast a few points to better still separate the trees from the sky, adding strength.
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: Jonathan Wienke on September 20, 2005, 09:17:44 PM
I think the new crop is a definite improvement; though I'd take just a bit more off the bottom along the lines of whar Mark suggested. The sepia treatment is definitely a good idea and worth further exploration increasing the contrast, at least in the sky. I'd recommend local contrast rather than global, set fairly aggressively at the top of the image, and fading to what you've got near the horizon; something like this:

(http://galleries.visual-vacations.com/images/reworked/36848915-L.jpg)

And the original for reference:

(http://boku.smugmug.com/photos/36848915-L.jpg)
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: boku on September 20, 2005, 09:22:01 PM
Quote
The sepia treatment is definitely a good idea and worth further exploration increasing the contrast, at least in the sky. I'd recommend local contrast rather than global, set fairly aggressively at the top of the image, and fading to what you've got near the horizon
You know what - I've never done local contrast! Let me guess - Curves Layer with a mask?
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: Mark D Segal on September 20, 2005, 10:40:28 PM
Yep, curves with a layer mask and painting is one approach; another is curves with a layer mask and a gradiant - the gradiant replacing the need to paint. The tricky part here is getting the "fade" of the gradiant right.
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: Jay Kaplan on September 20, 2005, 10:56:19 PM
Nice job and I like them both. The sepia is really nice, just needs a little more umph. It reminds me of what was called the "brown section" of The Sunday Sun magazine back in the fifties. Everything was sepia in color and the primary photographer was A Audrey Bodine.

Brings back memories of a simplier time. Well done.
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: Lisa Nikodym on September 20, 2005, 11:57:53 PM
I like your new crop, color-version.  The sepia version is quite different, and, I think, loses the peace and prettiness of the color version, which is what I most liked about it.

I also agree with jdemott's comment that a little something additional in the picture would really add a "hook" - a bird would do, but maybe a small child on the boardwalk peering down into the water would be even better?  Have you access to a small child?  :D

Lisa
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: Mark D Segal on September 21, 2005, 12:04:14 AM
Bob, and while you're at it, give the child a red hat. Just something to contrast the blue-yellow-green a bit!  :D
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: Jonathan Wienke on September 21, 2005, 01:23:20 AM
Quote
You know what - I've never done local contrast! Let me guess - Curves Layer with a mask?
Close, but no cigar. I made a new layer and ran an action that creates a mask for the layer that makes the shadow and highlight areas transparent, and the midtones opaque. Then I did a USM on the new layer radius 120, amount 60%. Then I did a gradient in darken mode to make everything below the horizon transparent, and fade in the effect of the local contrast boos on the sky. Then I flattened and saved.
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: opgr on September 21, 2005, 06:29:44 AM
Obviously don't want to be the party-pooper, but I'm a firm believer of honesty. Honesty may hurt in the short run, but wins in the long run. That doesn't mean to say that one should deliberately hurt people and be blunt about it, but I'm just no politician, so please take my comments as if embedded in poetry.

I think the image fails. In particularly it fails to bind the elements. The separate elements are nice (but not great) and could possibly be glued together to form a beautiful composition, but as it currently is, they are just that: separate elements. Add to that a pinch of contrails, which I believe to be a photographer's cardinal sin, and an unclear message, which is like no message at all, and you have all ingredients for a salty tasting stew without meat, a cigar without tobacco...
Of course this is tongue-in-cheek. You know how it goes with critics: they are the would-be play writers that never made it to the theatre. Poets without Duende, Flamengo dancers without Pathos. They end up writing for the newspaper.

I couldn't sleep last night and was thinking of this image. This is what i saw:

(http://www.theimagingfactory.com/examples/36845473-L1.jpg)

1. For the dock to bind to the rest of the elements, it probably requires a bit more presence. This could perhaps be accomplished by cropping either just before the attachment to land or well after. That way there is a more distinct path I could travel from the viewpoint to the dock. I believe the dock is supposed to invite me into the scene, to go over there and sit and contemplate the beauty of the context.

2. Once I'm on the dock I will likely sit facing right (given the elongated crop). There has to be something interesting to look at to the right on the horizon or in the sky. Contrails are obviously not it.

3. The tree, if at all interesting, is partly cut. In my opinion one should either crop something completely but thoughtfully, or not at all. I'm not saying that I know how to do that. In this case I think I would crop something of the top, as it is already clear that the branches are leafless at a certain point. I personally do not need the additional info to gain that atmosphere. This creates an additional triangle leading into the frame and also gives what I think is a more pleasant balance between land and sky. If you don't want to crop the tree then it could probably use some more room to breath.

So I think I would try two other options:
Either move a little to the right and face more to the left, still cropping off the clutter but giving the tree more room to breath and showing more of the dock, or

moving slightly to the left and just face more to the right, cropping the tree at both the top and possibly some on the left, but preserving the flowers.

In either case more dock, and something interesting to look at.

I do like the B&W as it better shows the lightfall on the bank. Doesn't have to be as contrasty as some other suggestions, as it distracts from that lightfall.

I personally wouldn't offer this image for sale, even if it were compositionally stronger or had more interest. I wouldn't sell it because I believe there has to be a really, really good reason to leave contrails in the scene. It kinda shows that the Photographer didn't take the time to wait for a better opportunity.

PS: Please, please fellow forum participants: REMEMBER to ATTACH the PROFILE to an image. Mac users are likely looking at a dog-awfull color image if you don't...
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: Mark D Segal on September 21, 2005, 09:20:01 AM
Jonathan - this is technically very interesting. In particular, I would be curious to know how your action is specified that isolates the highlight and shadow areas - presumably this is done "by the numbers" - but what tools at play? I can understand doing the USM gives the exposed areas a contrast boost. I don't understand how a gradient in darken mode makes everything below the horizon transparent - is this something to do with the "50% grey" benchmark? In sum, you have here several techniques on how to get layer masks to hide and reveal without painting that I would be grateful to learn a bit more about (or pointed to the right references) if you have a few moments.
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: Jonathan Wienke on September 21, 2005, 09:45:18 AM
Basically it does an image/apply to transfer a B&W version of the image to the layer mask, then does a curve adjustment where 0 and 255 are mapped to 0 and 128 is mapped to 255. That makes the midtones opaque and the highlights and shadows transparent. Doing a top-to-horizon white-to-black gradient in Darken mode on top of this makes everything below the horizon totally transparent and fades the layer away gradually from the top to the horizon.
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: Mark D Segal on September 21, 2005, 09:53:51 AM
Very sophisticated Jonathan. But that curve - did you describe the mapping as you intended? Looks weird. I'll try to make one like that and see what happens!
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: Jonathan Wienke on September 21, 2005, 10:25:17 AM
Quote
But that curve - did you describe the mapping as you intended? Looks weird.
The Curves dialog should show something along the lines of a bell curve, as shown below. The mask itself will be a weird mix of positive and negative, as the shadows will be positive and the highlights will be negative.

(http://galleries.visual-vacations.com/images/MidtoneCurve.jpg)
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: Mark D Segal on September 21, 2005, 10:32:42 AM
Thanks for the amplification Jonathan - that is the kind of  picture I had in my mind of how it would look when you first described it, but wasn't sure whether that's what you really meant! So it is, OK.
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: Jonathan Wienke on September 21, 2005, 10:46:00 AM
Heres' a before & after with the image and the resulting layer mask from the curve:

(http://galleries.visual-vacations.com/images/MidtoneMask.jpg)
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: Mark D Segal on September 21, 2005, 10:50:29 AM
Thanks Jonathan.
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: r42ogn on September 21, 2005, 11:58:13 AM
It's good but distracting elements take away the edge - I think there are two pictures here, one of the the really bright flowers and perhaps one of the tree with the mysterious walkway taken from a different angle.  There may be more in there too.  I'm not from Ohio so it's different and exotic to me....
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: Ray on September 21, 2005, 11:38:07 PM
In my opinion the sepia tone from Jonathan is an improvement, but one is still left with the meaning of the over all theme. Is this just a 'slice of life' pictorial view? Where's the focus? My first reaction to the color image was "Bah! A second rate chocolate box cover". Judgemental maybe, but that's how a potential buyer would respond.

Photographs often (more often than not from amateurs) have a personal meaning for the photographer through asscociation, which triggers an emotional response not felt by another viewer. This shot may fall into that category.
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: camilla on September 22, 2005, 12:41:48 AM
I had typed out my comment on the photo but it got lost in the Internet space so I'll try again...

I like the photograph quite a lot and like it better in color. I like it because I could feel this place and also because I could see the potential of a strong photograph, if a few things fell better into place. I agree with the comments of other photographers on the "busy" areas of the photograph.

What I do find, in my modest opinion, is that I would like to see more water. I feel that the photo is crowded and looks rather busy because of the small distance between the foreground flowers and the far shore where the trees are. Does that make any sense to anyone?

 I like the boardwalk a lot but it seems diconnected in some way. Maybe I would try another angle or several other angles. It would be nice to see what the place looks like from other angles as someone already mentioned and also in differnt kinds of weather.

Something else that sort of bothers me are the trails in the sky- they detract from the braches of the tree.

Lots of luck and I am sure that you are on your way to finding many interesting things in your area of the world. I used to travel extensively to fabulous locations and take photos of big vistas and have recently found myself constricted closer to home and am marveled at the abundance of things to keep me busy photographing and have become much more prolific since I have carefully looked closer around me.
I will add a link to a commentary I wrote on one of my photographs talking actually about this "search'" for a great subject.... if anyone is interested.
Ciao
http://www.f-8andbethere.com/notes/Fiamma.htm (http://www.f-8andbethere.com/notes/Fiamma.htm)
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: boku on September 22, 2005, 08:02:02 PM
I'd like to than you all for the quality, mature commentary. (Not that I intend to close out this thread, but just found a chance to express my thanks.)

This was very useful to me. I understood everything and tried some of it. Growing experience. From time to time I will run another troublesome image up the flagpole.
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: dwdallam on September 23, 2005, 03:14:29 AM
Bob, as you know from my posting "Image Evaluation" posts that I am learning the trade, art, and skill of photography, but I'll have a go at it anyway. It helps me talk about the art, work it in my mind, and that is good.

Overall, I get it. It's really interesting, almost fairytale like in its composition and colors. I want you to keep the whole thing, and that is why I get it.

You know I've been working the marina hard for the last couple of months, and therein is the part that I get--we both have a tough job with this type of photography because it is a busy shoot. It's a tough job. I like challenges like this though, and that is why I have been working my ass off at the busy marina, to push myself hard. That is why all of the night shots--they block out the business of the other boats nicely.

So my point is that you have tons to deal with in this picture, and as the eye covers all of it, it focuses on many aspects of the image, but again, BUSY and what to do?

I don't know what else to say different from all the other suggestions. They all pretty much cover in some way what I was thinking too.

One suggestion that made real sense to me is to crop the bottom right where the boardwalk goes off the page. That would be a crop started at the top right of the boardwalk, or something near there. But then you lose much of your forground you were trying to preserve.

As far as the technicality goes, I don't really see how you could improve it much while maintaning what you were trying to do. At least you are trying to push yourself. Only good can come from that.

Last, it seems to me a brave endevour. I don't know if there is a solution for it, but it is an interesting, uh, effort? You know what I mean. It causes one to really think about what is going on. You don't get off easily on that one.

Doug
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: neil on November 20, 2005, 03:51:02 AM
It needs a body.  A kid jumping off the dock, someone fishing, somone paddling a canoe up to the dock, something.  If you can get a little story, I think that you'd feel its more complete.

I'd correct the black point of the green channel normally, but I like both versions.[attachment=1:attachment]
Title: I'd like a critique
Post by: Goldilocks on December 08, 2005, 12:05:21 AM
Hi Boku,

I'm not a real pro photographer, but I'm a true lover of landscape painting, nature, color and composition. While the sepia photo looks great professionally, contrast and technically, it doesn't send me the same message as your original shot. Meaning? Maybe you didn't have any but I read life full of happiness that eventually leads to death as  a phase of nature. Or no matter how great our good days are we are bound to face some unpleasant ones and that is the plank that we all must cross. But it's not totally dead (or bad) on the other side, kind of like is the glass half empty or half full? It's a question of perspective that makes you think, and how will you handle it when you get there.

Compositionally, I would just crop the bottom 1/4 to 1/5 of the colored picture. Get rid of the 2 daisys touching each other and leave the one above it in. The one above it, lines up nicely with the tree and to me makes the message and composition stronger.
As far, as the branch on the left? Nothing in nature is perfect. It adds character to the message that I read.

I learn alot by listening to other peoples critiques. Some things in this forum are still above my head, especially on the technical level. So I'd be curious about whether I was anywhere near the mark on your thinking pattern.

Oh, and I totally disagree with the people that think you need a body. I usually wait for the people to walk away, before I shoot, or just don't paint them in.

Thanks for sharing,
Linda (Goldilocks)

PS. I don't know how to use this site for emailing unless I post my entire email address. So, if possible, you can explain it to me. I saw email icons within the postings.