Monday, September 8, 2008

My teacher's photo critique of my first assignment : Doors, Windows and Walls

I signed up for a 2 month (Sept and Oct) photo class with the teacher I had for the last class - Carol Leigh. Her students say her classes are addictive. Well, I can see I am hooked.

I think I may end up a wee bit out of balance when it comes to all the photography commitments upcoming (all with Carol Leigh).
1. Sept 21 - 24th, 2008 Santa Fe Workshop
2. Oct 12th - 15th, 2008, Half Moon Bay shoot

CRITIQUE: Linda Jeffers
I've led a lot of photo workshops at Bodie
Ghost Town and the lighting can be quite harsh
and unforgiving. So I know what you were
dealing with when you took this photograph.
It would have been quite easy for this shot to
have turned into a disaster. Why? Because
you've got a fairly dark reflection in the
window yet there's brightly lighted wood on
the far left and on the far right. If you expose
for the dark reflection (where the shutter has to
stay open longer to suck in enough light) then
the sunlit walls can easily be overexposed. If
you expose for the sunlit walls (where the
shutter speed is faster to prevent too much light
from coming in), then the dark reflection can
go almost black.
To quickly illustrate what I mean, look at your
photo and squint at it. See how you
immediately see a dark block in the center and
a light-colored area on either side? If you were
to squint at the scene in the field, before you
take your photo, you can immediately see if
you're going to have exposure problems.
You, clever photographer that you are, found a very good middle ground. We can see the
reflection in the glass quite well, yet the sunlit walls aren't overexposed. Congratulations!
Although the weathered wood and the overall rustic look are appealing, I'm thinking that,
because of the harsh light, maybe it would have been a good idea to just concentrate on taking
the reflection rather than the whole side of the building. You might have stood closer to the
door/window and filled your frame with some of the old wood, the mullions in the window, and
the reflection. That way you still capture the feeling of age and time and weather, but you
downplay the harsh sunlight.
Something I've recommended at Bodie is that if you've got a bright sunny day, go for the
reflections and the big overviews. If you've got an overcast, ugly sky, go for architectural detail
and shots of the building interiors.
To photograph a building in Bodie as you did, with the lighting that you had, is often
impossible. I'm amazed and pleased that you got as good a shot as you did. Again,
Once again, you dodged a bullet.
I probably would have looked at
this scene and walked away from
it. Which would have been a
mistake on my part.
I would take one look and think to
myself, "Why, oh, why couldn't I
be here on an overcast day?
There's so much cool stuff in here
to shoot, but the lighting is way
too contrasty. I need softly
diffused light, not all this
miserable sunlight. Woe is me.
Woe is me." Well, I wouldn't have said "Woe is me." I would
have used stronger language.
Once again, squint at your picture. See how dark it is over on
the right? See how bright it is on the left? I wouldn't have even
tried this shot. But you did. And it worked out quite well. (I'm
going to be seeing you in a couple of weeks at my Santa Fe
workshop. I'm thinking that whatever I tell you about the light during that workshop, DON'T
LISTEN TO ME! You seem to be doing fine on your own.)
What saves this picture is that even though it's dark on the right, we still see details in the
shadows. And even in the brightest hot spots, we can still see some detail. Nothing is
completely underexposed and nothing is horribly overexposed. There are a few ultralight areas
on the spokes, and if you wished you could clone in some darker coloring on them, which
would be relatively easy to do. But overall, you did a good job.
What I particularly like is how you placed the hub of the wheel in the lower right corner, in
accordance with the Rule of Thirds. The spokes radiating outward move our eye into the
picture, and then the horizontal lines of the siding and of the wooden yoke hanging on the wall
continue the movement, almost forcing our eye left to the edge of the frame. Well done.
You were in Bodie on a good day for
reflections. The blue sky and the touch of
green on the surrounding hills add some
color and brightness to the building, which
is primarily brown wood. The bright colors
catch our eye and make your shot dramatic.
If the sky were a dull grey, this wouldn't
have worked.
Your shooting angle is such that you've
really emphasized how weathered the wood
is. Look at how curved each board is,
something we notice because of your angle.
This was a tough angle to work with,
however. If you were to line up the window
frame on the left, making sure it was
perfectly vertical, the door to the building
would have leaned back even more than it
does. As it is, the backward-slanting look
sort of bothers me, but, overall, the photo
came out fairly well, didn't it?
If you have the opportunity to re-visit Bodie, you might give yourself the assignment of
shooting reflections and specifically select those windows that have something a bit more
interesting reflected in them. This can often be tough to do in Bodie because invariably some
fannypack-wearing turista will wander into your reflection just as you click the shutter. I think
that if you'd had some closer-in buildings in your reflection your photo would be even more
You're doing well, Linda. It looks like you're giving your photos some thought and taking some
time and care in shooting them. You're going to get nothing but better in the next two months.
Thanks for posting these.
Carol Leigh


Anonymous said...

WOW!!! I love this pictures!! my favorite is the window reflection...I had already told you how much I liked the one of the wall, and the door one brought a nostalgic emotion in me, I don't know why..WOW!!! I really enjoy reading your teachers you...Alex

Cindy Faith said...

I like them all! #3 is really cool and surreal. Like a paintograph.

Anonymous said...

Nice work Super Freak, i'm Happy to see you have this much fun.