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Linda JeffersIn a world of so many great photographers and writers, I am venturing into some unknown territories, leaving comfort zones, finally very willing to practice the art of seeing. By maintaining the practice of posting daily photos, I hope to continue learning about the possibilities that I trust are out there for the taking.

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Lesson #1 – Symmetry critique.

CRITIQUE: Linda Jeffers
SYMMETRY

DIFFICULT RED

Not sure why you named this
“difficult,” Linda. If it was difficult,
you certainly did a good job with it.
Let me tell you everything you did
right . . .
Your primary challenge was depth of
field. I’m not sure how “deep” this
flower goes. It looks like a melaleuca
blossom, and sometimes they’re long
like a bottlebrush or they’re more
rounded but shallower. So your
decision was, how much do you want
in focus? Do you want just the tops of
the buds as they’re opening in focus?
Do you want buds and red flower?
Do you want buds, red flower AND
background in focus?
Photography was much easier when we didn’t know so much. When
I first began, I would have thought, “Oh, pretty flower. Click.” But
no more. Now I (we) agonize over lighting, depth of field, angle of
view — it’s not so simple any more. So in your case, when you were
working this flower (and now that I’ve seen you photograph in
person, both in Santa Fe and in Half Moon Bay), I kind of know
your thought process. So I’m guessing that yeah, you had a
challenging session with this flower.
You selected a lens aperture (f/stop) that would put the buds in
focus as well as the top “tier” of the red flower behind them. Focus
begins falling away as we move down through the flower and to the
leaves. By the time we see the very background, everything’s soft.
What you’ve done is you’ve presented a flower that’s extremely
sharp, where we can see how the new “tendrils”
emerge from the buds; we see the details in the
red tendrils and then all goes soft in the
background, but not so soft that we can’t see a bit
of the leaves. The background is soft enough,
however, not to be distracting, and so it sets off
your flower most dramatically.
What I also like is the terrific complementary
color combination of red and green. Extra drama
as a result.
Your lighting is very soft, very subdued. And as
a result the red really pops, really seems to glow.
We’re also able to see a lot of detail; nothing is
lost or obscured in dark shadows. If you’d had bright, harsh sunlight on this blossom, the look
would have been completely different.
Terrific focus. Very good lighting. Wonderful use of depth of field. Great colors. Beautifully
done.
I’m wondering, however, about the background on the left side. You’ve got lots of leaves on the
right, leaves that are pretty much the same color green as the green buds on top. But then on the
left side, almost splitting the photo in half, we’re seeing purplish non-leafy stuff. If your photo
is all about red/green/texture/symmetry, then “purple lines” doesn’t fit in with your concept and
becomes a distraction. Had you been able to put those same leaves in the left background, I
think your picture would have even more drama than it already has.
So for this “difficult red,” you handled the situation beautifully. You have no idea how
impressed I am with how you’ve jumped into photography with all four feet, and how much
you’ve learned about shooting,
your camera, and (I’m assuming)
Photoshop in just 12 months.
Major kudos to you, madam.

SIERRA LAKE

Holy crap! What a terrific shot! If
this is Convict Lake in the eastern
Sierra, I’m thinking it’s one of the
better photos I’ve seen of fall
color there. If it’s not, then what
do I know? 🙂 It’s still a good
photo.
It’s often tough in scenes such as
this to expose properly for
everything. Most of the scene is
relatively dark — the
background valley coming down,
the trees, the reflection, etc. And
then there are much lighter areas
such as the hillside slanting
down from the upper right
corner, the patch of whiteness on
the hillside on the left (which is
reflected in the water), and little
bits of light grey granite rock
sticking out here and there.
When we have mostly dark
surroundings such as this, we
naturally meter for them, and as
a result, anything that’s much brighter can easily be overexposed and blown out. And since
those lighter areas are what our eye is drawn to first, they become major distractions. Not good.
In the case of your photograph, you handled the lighter areas well. They’re not so bright that
they’re annoying. The only spot I DO find distracting is the white patch on the left hillside and
its reflection in the water. I think that if this were my photo, I’d clone out both the white spot
and the white reflection.
My only other suggestion would be to straighten the photo a little bit since it looks as though it’s
leaning toward the left. This might be an optical illusion, however. When I line up your horizon
line with a straight line on my monitor, your horizon line seems to be straight. But if it LOOKS
wonky in the picture, even though it’s straight, I’d still rotate the picture a hair to the right to
visually dewonkify it.
Two excellent photos from you. You should be very pleased. Thank you for posting them.
Carol Leigh
January 26, 2009

(I wrote the following back to Carol Leigh.)
Carol,
Thanks for your critique. You know me well. Your critique was so right on I wondered if you were hiding behind a bush watching me attempt this shot. I did have a challenging session with “Difficult Red”. I spent a very frustrating hour and a half on this one photo, racing the setting sun and hoping to get the shot I wanted before I had to leave for an evening engagement.
All camera tries were on a tripod, except the last try with my little fanny pack camera. The sun was just about to set behind Mt. San Jacinto. The sideways light on the flower was perfect. The background sucked. I moved this way and that way for a better background flower angle. When I first used the 100mm macro lens, the background was blurred and not a distraction. The background looked ok. But….the flower had too much depth for the macro lens; I couldn’t, as you mentioned, get all parts of the flower in focus enough as there were too many varying planes. The flower was about 2/3 inch deep.
I noticed I wasn’t getting what I wanted because I kept shooting some shots and then taking my card inside to view the shots on the computer. After the macro lens, I changed to a 50mm lens. Too much in focus – ugly background. I even tried a 70-300 lens and of course I had to back away too far from “Difficult Red” and that lens didn’t work. Then I thought, try my little Sony A640 fanny pack camera. This little camera is the camera I used for this shot. It gave me more depth of field, more of the flower in focus from front to back. Remember I have that rotating LCD on this little camera that I hold out away from me as I focus close up to my subjects when I shoot. So when I got back to the computer I noticed I was holding the camera out and shooting slightly down on “Difficult Red”; I wasn’t on the same shooting plane as the flower. This shooting slightly down on the subject angle changed the distance from the top of the flower to the bottom enough that the bottom of the flower was slightly out of focus.
Once I realized I had another stumbling block to getting everything in good focus, I was mad, the sun was gone and I was late for my evening plans. I sat at my computer with my head in my hands feeling very defeated, UNTIL………..this thought came to me…….Look at all you learned trying to capture this shot Linda. It even dawned on you while your head was in your hands that you weren’t shooting on the same plane as the flower. And then this thought came…..My god, you learned more about what different lens do, you learned more about depth of field, you learned more about level/angle of shooting, you learned to pay more attention to ugly backgrounds so you don’t have to spend so much time trying to make an ugly background not so ugly and you learned more about your camera and your tripod. So…..Linda be happy because whether I you got the shot you wanted or not, you got the point……You LEARNED.
I thank you Carol for these classes that make me pick up the camera when I don’t think I have time, and do what I love, learn to see through the lens of the camera. By Jove, I think I may be learning a little something.
Regarding the Sierra Lake, I had this photo labeled Convict Lake in my photo folder, but I think it was a lake north of June Lakes, named Parker Lake off 395. I noticed the white fleck in the water and started to clone it out when I realized it was a reflection of the remaining snow on the mountain. I decided to leave the snow in. But I did see it! I agree the photo would look better without it. And, I too thought the photo of the Sierra Lake looked like it was listing.
Thank you for your critique.
A happy,
Linda

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3 Responses to “Lesson #1 – Symmetry critique.”

  1. Susan Lowery says:

    Gorgeous shots.

    I differ however with Carol on the flower regarding the “purple.” Going with color theory, the red and green combined in paint, ink, etc., (especially in a “rainbow roll” – a gradual blending of one color into the next)would gift you with a beautiful violet, so I find the purple to be very pleasing and interesting.

    Your use of composition is incredible. Especially in “Sierra Lake.” Absolutely beautiful use of the curved line leading in and out, up and down, and successfully bringing the eye around the page – to horizontal and back again.

    The red blossom also continues to bring my eye back to center, then to the right hand corner, center and left……..

    Beautiful.

    You are “seeing.” That’s what an artist does.

    Love,

    Susan

  2. gottago says:

    Wow, thank you. What a compliment, especially coming from you who is such a great artist.

    Thank you my friend for taking the time to send me such informed feedback.

    I love you,

    Linda

  3. pcthiker says:

    Linda, I am so impressed with your photography. You have inspired me to try to move beyond snapshots. By showing me what is possible, you make me want to improve. That is a true gift from a friend. One of the reasons I love you. J J

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