Sunday, November 2, 2008

5th Class Assignment Critique - Red, White, Blue

CRITIQUE: Linda Jeffers
Red, White, and Blue
You took something rather mundane, Linda, and
created a little jewel, which is kind of the point
of all my online classes -- look around you, find
something, and compose it as best you can. In
this case, you isolated a part of a boat and filled
your frame with strong lines and bright color.
What was working against you (and I know,
because I was there) was harsh sunlight. From
the shadows it looks as though the sun was pretty
high in the sky, which is traditionally a tough
time for us to be
shooting. But in this case,
the bright sunlight and
the angle of the sun
created a relatively bold
shadow under the blue
crosspiece, which adds to
your composition in that
it echoes the stripe of
black paint in the lower
third of your picture.
Your shadow is dark
enough to be bold, yet light enough so that we still see the boat detail within it.
I like how you offset the vertical piece of wood -- it's over in the left third of the frame rather
than being centered. Nothing wrong with centering it, which would give a feeling of symmetry,
but I also like this offset look.
A large challenge here was metering. The lightest part of the image is the bit of white on the
right side. If your camera meters for the blue or for the left side of the boat, that bit of white on
the right is going to be very overexposed. I think that you came very close to having that
happen, but nope, we can still see some detail in the white, so all's well. Good shot.


Ha! "I don't know anything about
ART, but I know it when I see it!"
This is a good example of red/
white/blue, with your clean, crisp
colors. But what happened here is
exactly what I was talking about
in your previous shot. Your
"ART" is perfectly exposed. But
because the red paint is darker
than the foreground mooring
lines, your camera exposed for
the dark red and the mooring lines
are blown out, way overexposed.
This happens to us all the time. Luckily, since most of us are shooting with digital cameras and
we have access to histograms and LCD screens that blink when we overexpose, we have superb
tools now at our disposal that we film shooters never dreamed of.
I know you know this, but it bears repeating. Whenever we encounter bright, sunny situations
and a lot of light colors, it behooves us to check our histogram after every shot. I've got my
camera set so that when I click the shutter, the histogram automatically comes up. I rarely look
at the image on my LCD screen, but I try to always check the histogram. If the graph is
touching the right side (the light side) of the histogram, I know I've overexposed. If I see
blinkies here and there -- huge clue that I've overexposed. And then the solution is to use my
exposure compensation dial and take another shot, this time perhaps 1/3 or 2/3 stop under (-1/3,
-2/3). Check the histogram. No blinkies? The graph is backing away from the right? Then I'm
good to go. Oops, don't forget to set my exposure compensation dial back to 0.


I can see why you were attracted to this, and I
think I might have taken photos of this same
reflection. I, too, was taken by the red, white,
and blue colors. Did we succeed? I'm not
super-pleased with mine, and, in a second, I'll
go find the shot, prep it, and will include it
here so you can see . . .
The tough part about photographing this
reflection was that first of all, it was
constantly in motion. So to try to focus AND
come up with a dynamic composition was the
real challenge. It was frustrating to focus on
what I thought looked good, only to have it
shape-shift away and lose the focus as well as
the design.
(I couldn't copy and upload Carol's shots she used as an example. Sorry.)
Well, no, my
photo is not of
the same
reflection as
yours. But it’s
still bad, as you
can see below.
Yes, the colors
are good, but
where’s the
design? Where’s
the line? Why
did I put the red
thing right in the middle? And, importantly,
why did I keep the darn thing? :-)
Regarding your photo, there are two things
working against it. The first is the overall
dullness of the colors and the water. The red and the
blue is very good; the white is more of a cream and the
overall water looks sort of beige. This can be lightened
and brightened in Photoshop with relative ease.
But the other thing that's not working is that there's no
real pattern nor design, no focal point, no place where
we begin and end our visual journey around the frame.
As a result, we just sort of want to move on.
So, what's the difference between an abstract reflection
that doesn't work and one that does? I added a second
reflection shot of mine (below) that I like because the
reflections are bold and crisp, but there’s also a sort of
blocky design that I like — red lower left, dark block to
the right, darker block upper right, and lighter block
upper left. To emphasize this blocky look, I should crop
in from the left, getting rid of the blue color, as you can
see in the very bottom photo.
Thanks for posting these — very much appreciated.
Carol Leigh
November 1, 2008
Here I adjusted Levels in
Photoshop . . . (Again, sorry about not being able to show/upload Carol's example.)

In response to Carol's critique, I sent the following email to her:

Wow Carol. Did I get a lot from your critique.

First of all in my second shot “ART”, you are correct, I do know how to look at the histogram, but haven’t been looking at it I’ve been so concerned with focus. I forgot
Secondly, I never even noticed the mooring lines being overblown! Hmmm. Don’t know where I was while prepping this photo.

And the 3rd shot of the color in the water, I looked for a design, a pattern etc and knew the composition was lacking something. I tried cropping this way and that but never felt anything looked right. So I see I need asking these questions you posed and posted on my critique using your photo as an example: “Yes, the colors
are good, but
where’s the
design? Where’s
the line? Why
did I put the red
thing right in the middle? “

I remember you repeatedly saying to take time, slow down (in Santa Fe). I think my new rule before taking a shot is to keep looking and asking myself questions before I ever take the shot. A little restraint. Yes, restraint has worked in other areas of my life big time, so why not in photography.

It was interesting yesterday. I hadn’t lately taken any photos for my Daily blog. The cloud formations and backlighting on the clouds over the San Jacinto mountains was breathtaking. I went out and shot off a few photos without thought before a phone call interrupted me and then the light had gone. The phone call was about possibly going to the Getty Museum to see a photography exhibit. So I went online and found an example of some of the photos at the exhibit. Here is the link to the blog photos I posted of the clouds I took on 11/1 …and the questions I asked myself secretly about why this guy’s cloud photo is featured in a photo show at the Getty. The “guy” is Alfred Stieglitz!!!!
Now I see there is no pattern to my cloud composition. That’s what had been bothering me. I hadn’t stopped to think about the composition. I liked the lighting but didn’t go further.

Long story short, you helped me answer a big question not only with the photos you critiqued but with why I initially began taking classes……..TO SEE! And I can’t see if I’m not slowed down enough to ask myself: What am I seeing, does it have design value or am I doing what I’ve done my entire life….recording/taking the photo for memory sake.

I think I may have had a mini psychic change. I hope so.

Thanks Carol. You always get me seeing, a little more, what I can’t see.


A couple hours later I received this email response to my email from Carol:

You know what's interesting, Linda, is that when you signed up for
your very first online class and you gave me your website address, I
could tell IMMEDIATELY from your pictures that you needed to slow
down, to take a deep breath and think before clicking the shutter.
Knowing that when I did, so early in the game, I feel I've been remiss
in not pointing it out to you often enough throughout the online
classes and in the two in-the-field workshops you've taken. Better
late than never, I guess, but yeah, I can remember the "this woman
needs to slow down" flash going through my brain from the very beginning.

This doesn't just apply to you, however. We ALL need to slow down and
think before we shoot. Why are we taking this shot? What do we like
about the scene? What's the light doing? Are there weird things in the
background? Are there ugly hot spots that will ruin the picture?
Where's the movement in this scene? Am I including too much? Not
enough? Would this be better as a vertical? What's my ISO? Is my
exposure compensation dial accidentally still set to 3 stops
underexposed from the last shot? And much, much, more . . . Sometimes
I'm amazed we ever get around to clicking the shutter!

Carol Leigh

I'm still taken back by how much Carol opened my eyes to how my character/personality traits are everywhere, even in my photos. I feel like I'm wearing a new pair of glasses today. This is Good!

1 comment:

Cindy Faith said...

What great feedback - Carol really spends a lot of time with you, explaining things. How nice to have a teacher that takes the time. I am beginning to think one of these days, when times aren't so tight, that I'd like to get a good camera, like I had in college - that got stolen by my roommate and her druggie boyfriend. My parents had just bought it for me when I was home for Thanksgiving holiday. Of course, I never did get another camera and was very sad because I knew it was something I really wanted to do and it makes me a little sad that I've had to take such a long detour. Love you and thanks to Carol.