CRITIQUE: Linda Jeffers (Stairs, Steps, Ladders, & Pathways)
1 BRICK STAIRS
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 . . .
2 WATERFALL STEPS
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.
3 WHITE AND BLACK
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.
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.
CRITIQUE: Linda Jeffers (Neon)
Shots like this are tough to compose for because basically
you’ve got a skinny sign in a vertical format and a lot of
“dead space” on either side, especially on the right. What
can we do about a situation like this? Not much. You
filled your frame as well as you could, but there’s still a
fair amount of empty space on the right, which isn’t
helping your composition.
I do like your colors — the yellows and reddish-orange
tones. Your zooming technique is impressive — very
smooth, no jiggles. The one negative about the sign is
how we can’t really read the words. The zooming has
distorted the individual letters so it’s not obvious what the
sign is saying. But that’s okay — this is all experimental
stuff, and some of it’s going to work and some of it isn’t.
The point is: we’re out there giving it a good shot.
Now see how we can more easily read this sign? The
letters are a bit more defined, especially the
“GENTLEMEN’S CLUB” at the bottom of the frame.
What I really like is the swirling element that the blue
lights make in your shot. The swirl/zoom combo creates a wonderful feeling of left-right
What causes some letters to show up well and other letters to become more blurry? I think it
depends on the style of the font
(the fancier the font, the more
difficult it is to read when zoomed)
and how quickly we zoom. If we
hesitate just a bit right after we
click the shutter, spend a little bit
of extra time not zooming, then the
letters will look more in focus. I
probably didn’t say that very well.
If your exposure is two seconds
long, and you spend all two
seconds zooming, the letters won’t be very clear. But if your exposure is two seconds and you
spend the first second not zooming, then the letters have more time to “burn” into the shot, and
will look clearer.
I like how you’ve placed the sign in the frame — you opted for symmetry, you filled the frame,
you created drama. And you didn’t crop in so tightly that we feel claustrophobic. Good one!
CAR WASH ELEPHANT
Ah, I remember this elephant — it’s at a
car wash, right? Palm Desert? This is a
Your focus is sharp. Your exposure is
right on. I like how you placed the
elephant’s eye in the upper right-hand
sector pursuant to the Rule of Thirds. Our
eye focuses on the elephant’s eye, then
runs down the trunk, then down to the
word “Rancho.” Lots of movement in
I think what might make your photo even
better — and this is something that’s easy
to do in Photoshop — is if you were to fill
in all the little dots in the “shower” with
light. Why, because there’s a lot of
contrast there, a definite demarcation
between light and dark, and so we really
notice that there are bulbs “missing.” It
becomes a distraction. (I realize that the
bulbs look burned out probably because
the neon hadn’t rotated into that area yet,
but it’s the APPEARANCE that matters.)
Here’s what I mean (below). (I actually attempted to duplicate the example of filling in the lights on this shot. Carol’s example was much better but I can’t upload her changes here.)
Good shots, Linda. Kudos to you.
While out photographing stairs a couple of nights ago I heard a whimpering sound. The sound appeared to be coming from the lake near the Tee box of the 18th hole on the Pete Dye golf course here at my club.
There were ducks and coots in the dense reeds so I thought maybe there was some mating going on. I walked over with my tripod and camera hoping to get a good shot of the lovers. The closer I looked I realized the tiny black moving object was not a duck or coot after all but a drowning very tiny dog. My heart raced. I yelled hoping people in the houses nearby would hear me and come help. I yelled really loud. No one came out. The sun just went down behind the mountain. There were no golfers out playing. And I mention all this because in order for me to save the dog from drowning I had to descend into the weed/reed/choked lake down railroad ties that, once in the water, these ties were so high they’d prevent me from getting out on my own.
I kept looking around, trying to figure out if I should just jump in (I didn’t know how long this dog would stay above water) or drive up over the hill to find a golfer.
I decided to run up the hill to see if anyone was at the driving range. I was in luck. I yelled to this golfer. He couldn’t hear me. I yelled louder, “Do you have a ball retriever or something….a dog is drowning over there in the lake.” I didn’t wait for the answer. I ran back to the lake and slid down the railroad ties about 3 feet into the yucky water. Moving to get to the dog wasn’t easy. The reeds were preventing me from easily moving my legs forward. The dog is whimpering. I am so afraid I’ll get to him too late. I finally get close enough and lean forward grabbing the dog by the scruff of his neck, hoping he wouldn’t bite me.
I get him in my arms and fall. I am wet up to my breasts. I’m cold and the dog is shivering. By now I look up and the golfer from the range is standing at the break in the fence where I slipped down into the water (and probably where the dog fell in). I reach up and put the dog on the grass. The golfer asks if I need help. Yea….aaaah! But before I take his hand, I thought I’d show him how strong and agile I am by putting both my hands on the top of the ties, rehearsing how I will jump up and push myself up high enough to kick one leg up god knows where. I jump. I fall back into the filthy lake because whatever growth there was under foot caught my foot and prevented the foot from moving even though I was trying to jump up. It was comical as I fell backwards getting wet up to my neck. The golfer says, “Are you alright?” (thank god i didn’t think about the fact there might be things like snakes in this lake.)
Now I take the golfers hand and he gets me out of the lake. The dog has run away to a dirt hill where he is shivering and rolling in the dirt trying I guess to get the creepy cold water off himself.
I thank the man. I gather up my fanny pack I’d ripped off, I pick up the tripod I’d dropped on the grass and get in my golf cart to check out where the dog is going.
The dog is hiding way up high on a hill, under trees and close to a road. The road freaked me. Great, I’m thinking. I save the dog only to have the dog run over by a car. I can’t leave this dog. The dog is sitting, staring at me, shivering and apparently in some kind of shock. So, I go to pick the dog up and it growls at me. Great. But I show him I’m not afraid (right) and with dog in my arms I get in my golf cart.(all wet with the smelly lake water. Poor Ray – it’s his golf cart.)
I drive around to the front of the houses and go to the first door. A woman comes out. She doesn’t know who the dog belongs to. She’d love to help me out but she is going out of town in the morning. She does run back in the house and gets the dog a towel I can put on him…he’s really shivering now. Of course so am I by this time but I don’t get a towel. No. Just the dog.
I continue walking from empty house to empty house. No luck. I go to the guard gate. The woman will not take the dog. I don’t want the dog in my house. But I have run out of options because the one option the guard gate lady gave me was call the animal control people. I know what these people do with dogs. I was not going to call them.
So I drive back home, in the dark, both the dog and I are very cold and shivering. I get an idea as I approach my home. Our neighbors have dogs, love dogs. I ring their doorbell. They come to the door with drinks in hand. They have their couple friends there with them. All four people look at the dog, say how cute etc…..I say, “Please take the dog, I can’t take him home.” They do.
Long story trying to be short…..Fast forward… The next day the couple friend of my neighbor Pam fell in love with this dog. Showered it, sleep with it, took it to the vet to see if it had a chip in it to determine who the owner was, and bought and dressed the dog up in the outfit in the picture. I have the picture because my neighbor and his friend Pam came by to show me the dog in his new pink collar and pink sweater. Pam is now trying to convince her husband that she really wants to keep the dog.
But, even if that doesn’t happen, Pam has someone who wants to take the dog.
Now isn’t this is a nice story?
Well yes and NO! I have poison oak on the wrist and hand that was holding Mr. cute little dog and it itches like crazy.
I’m too tired to go back and read what I wrote. I hope I don’t have too many mistakes.
There were only 3 of us on yesterday’s hike. (I was bad and only sent out the email to members on the PCT hike ,north from Hwy 74, on Friday before the hike.)
Meeting Christie and Kevin, who are new to MHCC, and having so much time to get to know them because we were alone on the hike, was a treat. I enjoyed their enthusiasm, relationship with each other and love of hiking.
Christie may even be open to learning to backpack!
More photos of this hike and other Saturday MHCC hikes are in my Flickr.com photo site.
Twenty five minutes into our drive to LA today on the I-10 Freeway. SNOW!
It snowed for about 20 minutes.
The clouds parted thank goodness. It was getting a bit scary. No one in LA knows much about driving in snow and on icy, slushy freeways.
And then beautiful Mount Baldy.
And some late night photo play on the way home from LA. In two weeks I have to turn in my 5th photo assignment. It’s reflections. I wonder if this shot qualifies?
My sponsor Debbie sent this out to all her gals.
Get your Kleenex out.
Last Tuesday, Feb 5th, I drove in to the SF Valley with Sandi, Hannah and Katie. We had our first Baby Meeting at Milly’s place. At the Baby Meeting we had our first ever teleconference where the out of town gals were on their phones and included in the meeting. Everyone enjoyed hearing from Andrea, Susan L. in New Mexico, Debbie A.
in Washington and Susan A in Montana. I only took two photos that night. Above is one of the two photos I took that night of Milly with Hannah and Katie.
Wednesday I was in the desert. Then Thursday Ray and I both drove to the SF Valley. Because I was picking Milly up and flying up to Concord, CA to attend my sponsor’s 32 nd Birthday Brunch, I decided to stay over in the LA area rather than driving back and forth to the desert.
After spending the night with me and doing some morning work with Mike, Ray drove back to the desert. On Friday I met with Katya for about 7 hours in the Courtyard Marriott. Later I went over to Balboa Park to shoot some reflection shots before the sun set for one of my upcoming class assignments.
Saturday I picked up Milly and we fly up to Debbie’s. Twenty three of her thirty five sponsees where present to celebrate Deb’s 32nd birthday. Here is a photo of all of us. Debbie, my sponsor, is seated in front (in the RED outfit) and Milly, my grandsponsor is seated to Debbie’s right.
After flying back to Burbank later Saturday night, Erica picked up Milly and drove her home while I went over to Alima’s home 6 minutes from the airport to spend Saturday night and Sunday morning. Click here to see more photos I took of Alima’s children.
Thanks so much everyone for taking the time to give me your comments on which Neon photos you like. It means a lot to me that you took the time. Thanks to Ray, Cupcake and Alima who also gave me their feedback. Below is the list of photos I chose to submit for critique and sent in today. My teacher Carol will not begin giving critiques on this 3rd assignment – Neon until after the deadline for submission this coming Tuesday.
What a mind opening experience this neon assignment has been. I haven’t had this much fun in a long time (I haven’t felt this alive from an adrenaline rush –yes, I went out alone!). I had no idea there were so many weird people out at night.
The hardest part of the Neon assignment has been selecting only 3 photos from all I shot. I haven’t a clue what is good, what I like best, what is following the class assignment. This is all so foreign to me.
I asked 6 friends which neons they liked. Their opinions varied. My problem is that I like more than I am allowed to submit for class critique.
But I’ve chosen….Below is the list of the 3 photos I am selecting for your critique:
- Pickford Theatre
- Show Girls
- Car Wash Elephant
(But I also really like,
So here I go with an extra request….. As you will see, I placed all the photos I had trouble choosing from in my Yahoo class folder.
Would you (certainly NOT critique all these photos in the folder but) only list which 3 of the 7 photos you would have submitted for this neon assignment. I understand if you don’t want to do this, I just thought I’d ask. Pllllllllllllllllllllllease?
Thanks so much for all your time, knowledge and effort. Again, I love this class.
Linda “Gottago” Jeffers