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Critique Exercise 12 Apr 2017


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#1 TknoGeek

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Posted 11 April 2017 - 11:49 PM

Here's another critique exercise for anybody interested.  :D

I'll say up front: I'm encouraging those who say "I'm not good enough to judge" to engage in some CC4-level critical thought and judge my photo.  ;)

This is a scene I captured at Great Falls Park in McLean, VA this past weekend. This section of the falls is a drop of about 20 feet (6m) and I was about 275m away from the subject. I used my Nikon D750 with the Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G II lens and no filter for this one.

The time of day was about 1.5 hours before sunset and about 1.0 hour before this part of the gorge was cast into shadow by the setting sun (meaning the sun was fairly low). The angle of the sun on this part of the river was almost 90° from "camera left" (as you'll note from the shadows cast by the rocks).

Camera settings were:
Nikon D750
70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8
200mm / ƒ/8 / 1/3s / ISO 50

I'm expecting you to cover camera position/angle and lighting, camera settings (to include lenses and filters), subject matter, composition, and any other perspective/concept you think is applicable.

I've already drafted my own critique that I'll post later in the day (think "Wednesday evening in Washington, DC" or ~22:00 UTC). Let's see how yours compares to mine - and I've learned to judge my own photos rather critically, so don't fear any reaction from me. I'm looking forward to what you folks have to say.  :)

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#2 geedee

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 12:42 AM

As one who has not yet captured a scene that I felt was worth printing and hanging on my wall and oft times gets too excited to capture a subject well.. what do I know about photography other than that which I like....and it is on that basis I make comment, claiming no expertise whatsoever..

 

For ME the water looks like shaving foam and the branch sticking out of the rock near the top right is a distraction, the sharp edges on the rocks cause me to wonder if it is a relatively young stream thus the pic provides a level of interest and causes me to think that perhaps there might be an alternative image in there, perhaps a close up of the some of the rock formations. The light, shadows and water on the  rock half way up the right hand side of the frame is where I find most interest.   Thanks for posting the story behind the pic, I do appreciate the time and effort some folk put into their images.


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#3 Reciprocityrules

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 09:30 AM

I would like some comparison shots to see optional compositions.  There could be a Walmart along the bank of the river, and I wouldn't know; so I couldn't discuss composition.  I don't like ripping on photos because it's all a matter of personal choice.  If you like this photo, why do you like it?  If you don't like the photo, why did you post it?  I am not being mean or anything; but there is a lot wrong with a lot of my photos, and I like CC as much as the next person.  I loved my 71 Impala.  It was a beater that had a smashed front end, and the headlight was held on by a bungee cord.  But when I merged onto the interstate, it was like Moses parting the sea; I had right of way.  It had a great radio, the suspension was like riding in a boat, and the car was massive.  We all like things for our own reasons, and not many would have loved that car.  I hope you can post comparison shots so I have a choice.  I personally would like to see more than just the river, something to provide context; but I am no ace photographer.  I think having a photo that you like is what's most important.  It's like developing your own brand, and you should be loyal to your brand.  I hope this helps.  Most of all, did you have fun taking this shot?  If you had fun and enjoyed the process, this is a perfect image for you! 


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#4 TknoGeek

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 10:19 AM

  • I would like some comparison shots to see optional compositions.  There could be a Walmart along the bank of the river, and I wouldn't know; so I couldn't discuss composition.
  • I don't like ripping on photos because it's all a matter of personal choice.  If you like this photo, why do you like it?  If you don't like the photo, why did you post it?  I am not being mean or anything; but there is a lot wrong with a lot of my photos, and I like CC as much as the next person. ... 
  • I hope you can post comparison shots so I have a choice.  I personally would like to see more than just the river, something to provide context; but I am no ace photographer. 
  • I think having a photo that you like is what's most important.  It's like developing your own brand, and you should be loyal to your brand.  I hope this helps.  Most of all, did you have fun taking this shot?  If you had fun and enjoyed the process, this is a perfect image for you! 

 
Thanks for jumping in! Responses a bit out of order:
 
4. You are correct that each of us should determine why we take photos. Some of us do so for income, but I suspect a large majority of members of this forum do it for fun.
 
Of those folks, I suspect a majority strive to improve their craft (even if only for their own enjoyment). Part of that improvement is learning to critique photographs. To your point, answering the question "why do I or do I not like this photograph?" My goal with this thread is to spur some of that critical thought process and encourage feedback beyond "good job!" or clicking the "like" button.
 
2. Critique isn't "ripping on" somebody's photo.​ To advance one's own craft requires application of a critical eye and people post photos in forums like this one to get feedback on how to improve. On the flip side, practicing by critiquing others' photos helps develop our own assessment of our products - and many are reluctant to provide that feedback when they feel they don't have anything approaching expert credentials. My goal here is to provide a safe target for practicing that critique.  :) 
 
1. Both banks of the river at Great Falls is park land with no urbanization in sight.
 
3. Critique is about reviewing the image presented by the photographer.  :)  It sounds like you think changing this composition may improve it (i.e., "see more than just the river"). What change(s) in this composition do you think would work better?



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#5 MarkM

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 02:16 PM

I'm a beginner, still struggling with composition. Not a lot of experience to share. However I'll offer my 2 cents worth because I agree, I've got to start viewing images more critically.
1. I like the contrast in light: shadow vs sunlight. That makes for good interest.
2. The water looks like it is running fast. The image could be done with either long exposure to smooth it out more, or super fast to capture the rough edges of the rough water. In this case I would prefer a much faster shutter speed to capture the action in all its fury! The subject seems to be rough water, so long exposure smoothing doesn't best tell that story.
3. I would probably also remove the stick on top right. In keeping with the idea of removing distractions from the composition.

Thanks for posting!
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#6 Kerry Gordon

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 04:19 PM

Well if you're looking for a critique I'm always willing.  Let's look at things from two perspectives: composition and post processing.  For me the composition is kind of "meh," I mean, I don't really know what you want me to look at, which is to say, what is the subject of this photograph?  You've made a choice to zoom so there is something you're trying to frame specifically but I'm not getting what it is. Me, personally and for what it's worth, I probably would have got my camera down a lot lower and closer to the water to really get the impact of the flowing water.  And perhaps the flowing water needs more context to give a better sense of scale.  There are the rocks there but I don't think you're making best use of them in the composition.  I probably would have used a wide angle here but that's strictly subjective. However the other possibility is that this picture is about texture and movement.  For that to succeed you would need to be more considerate of post processing, which I'll address separately.

Okay, now to PP.  The thing that sticks out first and foremost is the white balance, the image seems way too blue.  You can see it dramatically over on the left, the shadows are literally blue.  Next is, what would appear to be the subject of the photo, namely the roiling water.  Here, most of it is blown out by which I mean the highlights are pretty much lost.  But I think this is the main problem here, there is a lack of contrast in the shadows and in the highlights, which gives the water the look, as geedee put it, of shaving foam.  But it isn't just the water, the rocks are also kind of muddy and flat.  There is plenty of detail buried in the shadows but it needs to be brought out.  Just pumping up the contrast globally won't do it.  You have to be more selective - just the contrast in the shadows, just the contrast in the lights.  You can do this to some extent in Lr with dodging and burning.  If, as I alluded to earlier, this is a photograph about movement and texture then contrast and colour have to be very deftly handled if you want your image to have impact.  I'm a big proponent of luminosity masking because it offers tools for dealing with contrast, clarity and colour very selectively.  My problem is that I've learned how to do it but not necessarily when and why.  But I digress.  I might also have been tempted to go with a little faster shutter speed.  But again, it's hard to tell until you've worked with contrast and colour a little more selectively.

Again, the biggest thing for me when I'm looking at any photograph (especially including my own) is what is the photographer's intent.  Is your picture about majesty, movement, colour, texture, what is the story you want to convey?  I mean this is all pretty cliched stuff but cliches are cliches for a reason, no? 

Hope this is helpful.


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#7 TknoGeek

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 05:34 PM

1. I like the contrast in light: shadow vs sunlight. That makes for good interest.
2. The water looks like it is running fast. The image could be done with either long exposure to smooth it out more, or super fast to capture the rough edges of the rough water. In this case I would prefer a much faster shutter speed to capture the action in all its fury! The subject seems to be rough water, so long exposure smoothing doesn't best tell that story.
3. I would probably also remove the stick on top right. In keeping with the idea of removing distractions from the composition.

Thanks for posting!

 

  1. I agree the contrast adds interest, but it's very harsh in this composition.
  2. Yes, the water was moving very fast. Your idea for a faster shutter speed is a good one. Waterfalls with higher volumes do tend to look better with faster shutters - though opinions vary widely on this point.  :)  Some judges seem to always want "dreamy" over "frozen".
  3. Good point about removing distractions. They aren't always obvious when initially setting up the composition in the viewfinder, so we need to train ourselves to look for them explicitly. You may recall from my OP that I was ~275m/300yds away from the falls so, in reality, that "stick" is actually a log of fairly good size.  :)  Still, your point is valid in that it's more distracting than helpful in this composition.


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#8 TknoGeek

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 06:12 PM

Well if you're looking for a critique I'm always willing.  Let's look at things from two perspectives: composition and post processing.

  • For me the composition is kind of "meh," I mean, I don't really know what you want me to look at, which is to say, what is the subject of this photograph?  You've made a choice to zoom so there is something you're trying to frame specifically but I'm not getting what it is.
  • Me, personally and for what it's worth, I probably would have got my camera down a lot lower and closer to the water to really get the impact of the flowing water.  
  • And perhaps the flowing water needs more context to give a better sense of scale.  There are the rocks there but I don't think you're making best use of them in the composition.  I probably would have used a wide angle here but that's strictly subjective.

    However the other possibility is that this picture is about texture and movement.  For that to succeed you would need to be more considerate of post processing, which I'll address separately.
     
  • Okay, now to PP.  The thing that sticks out first and foremost is the white balance, the image seems way too blue.  You can see it dramatically over on the left, the shadows are literally blue.  
  • Next is, what would appear to be the subject of the photo, namely the roiling water.  Here, most of it is blown out by which I mean the highlights are pretty much lost.  But I think this is the main problem here, there is a lack of contrast in the shadows and in the highlights, which gives the water the look, as geedee put it, of shaving foam.  
  • But it isn't just the water, the rocks are also kind of muddy and flat.  There is plenty of detail buried in the shadows but it needs to be brought out.  Just pumping up the contrast globally won't do it.  You have to be more selective - just the contrast in the shadows, just the contrast in the lights.  You can do this to some extent in Lr with dodging and burning.  
  • If, as I alluded to earlier, this is a photograph about movement and texture then contrast and colour have to be very deftly handled if you want your image to have impact.  I'm a big proponent of luminosity masking because it offers tools for dealing with contrast, clarity and colour very selectively.  My problem is that I've learned how to do it but not necessarily when and why.  But I digress.  
  • I might also have been tempted to go with a little faster shutter speed.  But again, it's hard to tell until you've worked with contrast and colour a little more selectively.
Again, the biggest thing for me when I'm looking at any photograph (especially including my own) is what is the photographer's intent.  Is your picture about majesty, movement, colour, texture, what is the story you want to convey?  I mean this is all pretty cliched stuff but cliches are cliches for a reason, no? 
Hope this is helpful.

 

  • Yeah, this composition does seem to lack visual weight with nothing to grab the viewer's attention.
  • Good idea to experiment with different camera angles, but from ~275m/300yds away, moving the camera lower would probably only result in getting it wet without changing the composition in any meaningful way.  ;)  [I was also perched on a viewing platform on the edge of a vertical cliff, but that's a minor detail inconsequential to your point.]
  • Yes, this composition does seem to lack a good sense of scale. Even the rocks (which are indeed very large) aren't sufficient to convey this to the user.
  • Blue! Quite so in the shadows. Great point not mentioned so far. The lighting on site did lend a blue-ish tint to the shadows, but the amount shown here is an artifact of adjusting white balance in the main viewing area and not countering it in the shadows. This would definitely need to be corrected before printing for a competition or presentation. Way too blue.  :)
  • While there are some parts of the water that are indeed blown, my monitor still shows a lot of streaky detail in there. Regardless, your comment here still can be classified under "what do you want me to look at?" and that is a challenge for this composition.
  • There is always a balance to be struck when extracting shadow detail - and that is my predominant use for luminosity masking. Too much "extraction" and you introduce noise that may be more harmful than the value the detail adds. Nonetheless, your observation is on point: Would the additional shadow detail improve this composition significantly? Perhaps. Those are rather rough rocks with good character.
  • Another reference to "what is the subject?"  :)  I agree with you that clarity and color (note the 'proper' American spelling!  :D) can help guide the viewer's attention, but to what in this composition would it be drawn?? That's the challenge.
  • I suspect "what is the proper shutter speed for a waterfall?" is probably not far behind in the generation of Internet gigabytes than the eternal question of "angels on the head of a pin."  It really does boil down to artistic intent - and judge's preference.  :)

Good, detailed critique. Thanks for helping with this one!

Some great feedback in this thread!
 

I'll post the critique I drafted last night after I get this forum software to behave the way it should...   ;)

 



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#9 TknoGeek

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 08:00 PM

Some great feedback in this thread!
 
Here's my critique I drafted last night:
  • Overall, good capture of dramatic water movement. There's just enough motion blur to add a good amount of drama. This style of waterfall (really more of a cascade than what people tend to think of when they hear "waterfall") doesn't lend itself very well to the multi-second, "dreamy" long exposure.
  • The side lighting is good and reinforces the drama of the water, but the deep shadow of the rocks is adding too much contrast to the scene. Consider using an adjustment brush to raise the shadows behind the major rocks - perhaps very signficantly - to reduce that overly harsh contrast.
  • With the top cropped where it is in this scene, there's not enough of the upper river to help set the scale.  We know from the description that the falls is about 20ft/6m, but it would be better if there were something in the scene to reinforce the scale of the subject. For example, if there were a kayaker shooting the rapid or holding position in the pool at the bottom.
  • On the point about additional "river" in the upper section, a bit more river or even riverbank visible along the top edge of the frame would probably help cement the 'place' for the viewer. This goes hand-in-hand with the point of scale.
  • Additionally, the rock outcrop in the lower right is more distracting than helpful in the case. I suspect the photographer wanted the lower flow of the river in the frame to help illustrate the speed of the water, but keeping that in the frame is also forcing the inclusion of this rock that looks like an unfortunate oversight.
  • The falls is the obvious subject here, but without a "scaling anchor", I'm left thinking this would be improved with some simplification. Consider cropping in tight on some interesting section of the falls. Think "abstract" for this composition. Doing this would obviate the points above about contrast, scale, and "sense of place".
There are some really nice elements to this photo. It just needs a *little* more help to grab the viewer's attention and say "look 'here'".

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#10 TknoGeek

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 08:46 PM

Here is what I ended up with.
 
I cropped in tight to an interesting section of the rapids in a bit of an abstract manner. This addresses the "what do I look at" challenge and obviates the contrast and scaling concerns noted above.
 
I took it into Photoshop and used Nik Color Efex Pro with Tonal Contrast and Pro Contrast adjustments to highlight the streaky detail in the water.
 
While it may not quite measure up to the status of "portfolio-worthy", I think it is pleasing. My eye is drawn immediately to the dark area in the top right and then follows the water in a bit of an arabesque through the frame. While a faster shutter speed may have worked well to freeze the power of the falls, I like the hint of motion rendered by the 1/3s capture. Also, the strong side lighting here helped add dimension to the rapids.
 
I think it also serves as a good example of how we can apply the same critical eye to our own work as we would when critiquing another artist's work.  ;)

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#11 TknoGeek

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 09:28 PM

For scale, here's a wide shot that includes the crazy (foolish?) photographer in the lower left. The photo in the original post in this thread is zoomed in to the rapids in the upper right.

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#12 David Pavlich

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 10:40 PM

Too much water.  There's really nothing in the image to grab your attention.  Something as simple as a salmon leaping upstream in the lower third, left of the frame would turn this into a really neat shot.

 

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#13 Roderick

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 04:39 AM

Even though I was only watching from the sideline, I found this topic to be of great interest.

It's a great idea on your part, TknoGeek  - very much appreciated.

I learned a lot from all the inputters.

I hope it can be done again.


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#14 Jaime Rodriguez

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 10:17 PM

Great topic, I'm trying to learn everything I possibly can about photography. When it comes down to it forums like this are a good way to to get input from a variety of different people that have different shooting styles. I think if there was anything I didn't like about the photo would be what David said, too much water. I guess I would do the opposite and look at the larger scene instead of zooming in. As a newby I find myself recomposing and cropping down in PP. I'm not familiar with that park but I can only imagine that the sun is casting down on the right because of either a large hill or mountain on the right. Can I capture the sun setting over the hill  or mountain while the river is raging on the lower portion. I'm not really good at critiqing but I know how I like to approach a shot in in my mind I have an idea of how I want the end result to look. Unfortunately I'm  not that skilled to make it happen all the time but I try. LOL With that being said I will throw myself out there as well. I took these shots on a windy day in Gruene, TX using a tripod in about a foot of water. The sun was going down and it was overcast. I start to feel overwhelmed when I come upon a busy scene and I am never quite sure what to focus on. First shot taken at

35mm ISO 100 f14  2.5 sec and the second shot was taken at  15mm ISO 100 f14 2.5 sec

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#15 Roderick

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 02:46 AM

Good stuff, Jaime

Looks like the light was not your friend on that day.

The photographer's ephemeris aka TPE (free for PCs, a charge for phones) is great for showing where the light will be coming from, throughout the day.

http://photoephemeris.com






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