Tuesday, February 26, 2008

4th Assignment Critique Ready: Stairs, Steps, Ladders and Pathways.

CRITIQUE: Linda Jeffers (Stairs, Steps, Ladders, & Pathways)


Wow! I love this shot!
It's all about warm tones, texture,
verticality, and light/shadow. Everything in your picture has a warm glow to it -- the weathered bricks and the golden/bronze-colored railing. It's just beautiful. What's nice is how the bold dark forms of the shadows stand out against all the warmth. The texture on the bricks and the mortar lines creates an interesting repeating pattern. The mortar lines merge here and there with the shadows, but instead of being a distraction, the shadow/mortar merges seem to intensify the feeling of texture. And then, here and there, we have the shadows of the ironwork design that softens the hard upright shadows. It's busy, but it's a GOOD busy. The movement in your photograph is primarily vertical. But breaking up the verticality are the horizontal lines of the steps and then the diagonal line of the iron railing. By opting for a vertical format, you enhanced even more the feeling of looking up. As we move up the photo, notice how the topmost steps begin to look crooked. That's a distraction. Not much you could have done about it -- this is a perspective control problem -- but when you frame your shot, you can ameliorate the problem somewhat. See how at the top of your picture it ends with a dark shadow line? That line is so prominent that it EMPHASIZES the crookedness of the steps. But if you had moved in just a bit closer, you could have ended your photo up top with a line of brick. The brick isn't as bold as the black shadow, and so your photo doesn't look as crooked. Let me crop this down from the top a bit to show you what I mean . . . What do you think? What a good photo. You should be pleased with this one. But it's not as good as . . .


Oh. My. What a lovely, golden, creamy, delightful photo this is. There are so many things right with your photo. I can't think of anything I'd change. So here we go . . . The light. There's a bright overcast look to the light that makes the wet stone gleam, that makes the water glow. If the lighting had been ultra bright sunlight, we would have had a lot of hot spots, some dark shadows, a much rougher and coarser image. It helps, too, that the stonework on either side is also wet. Often in situations like this, or if we're photographing a stream that has rocks in it, the dry rocks will look brighter and less colorsaturated than their surroundings, causing them to stand out and detract from the scene. (This is why, when we conduct photo workshops in California's eastern Sierra, we always send Chris out into the stream to splash water onto the dry rocks so they'll look better. The same concept applies here.) Your stonework looks great. I like how you've put everything on the diagonal. Not only does our eye travel across the frame, but it also stairsteps upward (and downward) along the waterfall steps and along the layers of rock on either side. I like the slightly blue cast to the water at the bottom, which COMPLEMENTS the golden tones of the rocks. I like the relatively slow shutter speed you used. By shooting at a shutter speed of 1/125 of a second or slower (1/125, 1/60, 1/30, etc.) your shutter is open long enough to give the water time to move through the frame, creating a more softly flowing look. If you had shot at a fast shutter speed of 1/250 second, 1/500 second, 1/1000 second, then you would have "frozen" the water in place, which in my mind creates a more static look. You did this just right. And finally, I like the way our eye follows the repeating lines across the frame. Here's what I mean. Very pretty photograph. Well seen. Well executed. Major kudos to you, madam.


Now this one doesn't have nearly the same impact as
your waterfall. And it's not because it's black and white. It's because there's a bit too much going on that our attention gets scattered throughout the scene, rather than following the flow that you created in your previous picture. I do like that you started with the steps right in our face at the bottom of the frame. But instead of following the repeating pattern of the steps traveling upward, I find myself getting lost in the weeds, thinking about the window, looking at the shadow on the right side of the frame, and wondering what's at the top. When you photographed this, you probably noticed the light and shadow, the repetitive lines of the steps, and the cool window. And you probably noticed these things one at a time. But a camera sees all this at once, and presents it all at once, and we're left befuddled, bemused, and bewildered, wondering where we should be heading, looking, going. Throw this one away. Admire your first one. But print and frame your second one. It's special. Carol Leigh


You made my night with the critique you gave me on the Stairs assignment. I was so happy…..all smiles and somewhat giddy after reading your critique. This is the first time I’ve put myself in a position to have someone (a teacher) give me feedback since school days, very, very long ago. You have no idea how much your complementary critique meant to me. Thank you.

My experience in school while growing up was horrible. I was not a good student. I couldn’t retain a thought, couldn’t comprehend and had test anxiety beyond belief. The smaller I tried to be in a class (so I wouldn’t be called on), the more I went dumb and couldn’t say a word when called on. Classes of any kind have been the bogie man. I have avoided taking classes my entire life.

My fears have altered all my life choices up until around age 53 (some 10 years ago) when I couldn’t spend one more day taking path B rather than path A. I’d had it giving so much power to fear.

At the beginning of each year for the past 12 years, I have generated an Ideals’ List of things I want to do, change, be in the upcoming New Year. I hoped in making this list AND reviewing it over the year I would be more accountable to myself. For all those years I have written down – Take a photo class. At the end of each year when I hadn’t taken the photo class I would carry over to the next year the same desire – Take a photo class!

I was intimidated to sign up for this class last year when Carol Davis told me about it. Many months later I got the courage to sign up for the class before this one but it was canceled. And then this class started!!!! I was nervous. All those old feelings and fears came up. But I just followed your instructions, got out there and shot, am learning so much, am having such a ball, feeling excited and interested in ways I haven’t felt forever and now have just received this incredible critique!

I am so glad I didn’t leave/quit when thoughts to do so came up.

I loved your response to the student who wrote about being intimidated. I understand only too well what she feels. Thank you for making this class setting such a safe place to learn.

Most humbly and with much gratitude to you Carol, and all of you in the class. All of you students teach me too. Thank you.

Linda Jeffers

p.s. Damn, I just noticed in the email I sent out I spelled compliments - with an e (complements). I first learned about the word "complementary" when my sister, Leila, asked me about my first class assignment called: complementary colors. She asked if the word was spelled with an "e". I said I didn't know. We looked up the definition of complementary on the internet.


Unknown said...

I'm sitting here laughing about your PS. It is so you. Open, fun.


Susan Lowery said...

Hi Linda,

Great critique. I agree regarding the waterfall stairs. Beautiful.
Peaceful. An absolute gem.



Anonymous said...


Not only are those beautiful photos, indeed...but the critique was wonderful. Congratulations on a job well done! And I love your comments in return. I admire you so much for the way you continually walk through your fears. Thank you for that example!

much love,

lamont said...

I too like the waterfalll...amazed at your newfound capabilities. Looking forward to the wilderness photos in the Sierras.