Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Third online photo assignment critique - Fish!

I haven't had the time to shoot for my photo. It shows. I also found this subject matter difficult. And, I'm feeling stretched to move beyond the way I've always seen and photographed things but don't really know how to do it different yet. I'm encouraged though, because I continue to learn from trying to shoot for the essential image. I may not see "it" yet, may not be able to create art with my camera, but I feel enthusiastic about not wanting to shoot the way I have my entire life.

Here is my teacher's critique of the 3 photos I submitted for critique.

CRITIQUE: Linda Jeffers
FISH Assignment


Aha! The second koi photograph
that's come up for critique. As I
mentioned in Carol Zulman’s
critique, these guys are deceptively
tough to shoot. Lighting is usually not
the best (either too harsh or too dim),
focusing is difficult because
sometimes the fish are above the
water, sometimes just under the
water, sometimes both, and they're
constantly in motion, making
composition extremely frustrating.
So why do we insist on
photographing these guys? Because
they're gorgeous. Their colors are striking, their shapes are compelling, and because we can get
relatively close to them. (No 600mm lens necessary to shoot these creatures.)
What I like about your photo is how the orange colors stand out against the black/dark grey
background of water. The dark water sets off the colors extraordinarily well. I also like the sort
of plasticky look that the water's surface has, making it look rather smooth, where the details
are softened somewhat. And that one fish on the far right with its mouth out of the water? That's
your focal point, that's the main subject.
Here's where it all went awry . . . There are two very light-colored fish in the picture, and that's
where our eye goes first. Why? That's the most contrasty part of the picture. But those fish
aren't really in focus, so our eye travels around, looking for something to "land" on. The fish on
the far right is the fish that's most in focus, the fish that we can see most clearly, the fish that
has the most face visible. So we look there. But even that guy isn't truly sharp, so now we're
lost. We don't know where else to go.
As I mentioned in the previous critique, this is a situation where you either had to make sure
there was a lot in focus OR you needed to throw everything OUT of focus to create a softly
moving colorful pattern throughout. So let's move on to . . .

This one's a lot better, Linda. Again,
your colors are spectacular. The
lighting is pretty good. And your
focus is much better than in the
previous shot. I also like how the fish
is curving into the frame, creating a
northeast-southwest sort of
movement. The additional orange fish
below the surface add more interest,
more pattern, and even more color to
your photo.
What about the piece of fish food?
What about the two green leaves on either side of the frame? Do they add to the picture?
The answer is that it all depends on what the photo is being used for. If you were illustrating an
article about backyard fish ponds, this would be an excellent photograph to use. If you were
creating a "fine art" shot, then I'd say yes, the fish food and the leaves are terrible distractions,
as is the glare off the water's surface on the right side.
To me, your photo is all about color and curve. Your colors are orange, black, and golden
yellow. To have green leaves and light beige enter the scene takes away from what I consider
the concept of your picture.
Just a thought: If you were a watercolor artist or an oil painter, would you have put those two
green leaves in there? Would you have included the piece of fish food? Something for ALL of
us photographers to think about.


What you did here is really
interesting and dramatic. You've
created an image that almost looks
like a charcoal sketch, a cement piece
of garden art, or an image that's been
simplified and then had the edges
tweaked somewhat so that they stand
Your composition is completely
"wrong" in that you chopped off part
of the fish's face and part of its tail.
But it works despite that. If you'd had
the entire tail and half a face, or if you'd had the entire face and just part of a tail, the picture
would have looked clumsy and amateurish and carelessly made. But by having just part of the
face and just part of the tail, it looks like more of an artistic statement rather than an accident.

There's a lot of movement in your
photo in that my eye starts with the
eye of the fish. You placed the eye
down toward the lower left, sort of
in accordance with the Rule of
Thirds. From the eye, the gill lines
and the scales lead me back into
your photo where the tail takes
over. I then gleefully ride the lines
of the tail over toward the right side
of your picture. I'm then led back,
along those same tail "lines," to the
dorsal fin and then I come back to
the fish's eye. Yahoo! Fun ride.
I really like your photo. And part of why I like it is the surprise
of seeing what's probably a very colorful fish reduced to
shades of grey. Without seductive color blinding our senses,
the strong lines you put into the shot really stand out and create
visual drama. Well done. (I enjoyed seeing your two fishy
friends, too! Thanks for posting that one.)
Carol Leigh
February 25, 2009

p.s. The two fishy friends I included as a bonus for the teacher, was a photo I took of Sandi and Stacy with their lips puckered like fish trying to help me with my photo assignment.

My fourth photo assignment is Garage Art! I'm not thrilled with this assignment either.

I will be out of town until Sunday night. I'll try to post something (I'm bringing my camera and computer with me), but can't guarantee it.


Susan Lowery said...

Mornin' Linda,

I love both of your koi shots.
They are extremely artistic and feel very spiritual.

Remember, in spite of critiques, beauty is in the eye of the beholder - always.

They'd make beautiful paintings too!

Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.



Cindy Faith said...

I second Susan's statement!