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
1. FEEDING FRENZY
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 . . .
2 STACY’S KOI
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
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.)
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.
Lane called tonight. What a great talk we had. He called because he knew something was up with me. I hadn’t blogged for the last 5 days. He figured it was computer related problems. He was correct.
So, to please my son, and you readers, I am posting some daily shots I had taken and intended to post as blog photos. They’re not master pieces, just my life.
The afternoon of the Academy Awards, not having seen one of the nominated films, Ray and I went to the movies and saw Slum Dog Millionaire. The movie was great. But what was really great was this was the first time Ray and I went to the movies and did NOT eat popcorn. We actually ate lunch and then went to the movies (on a full stomach). I never understood why people went to movies after eating a meal. I always thought the point of going to the movies was to eat popcorn. You don’t eat the meal, saving the calories, and load up on the refillable popcorn. I couldn’t imagine going to see a movie and just sit there with my hands in my lap.
Sitting there with my hands in my lap before the movie actually started was difficult, so difficult I took out my pocket camera and started taking shots of the theater to record our first ever movie without popcorn. Mind you, this was a big deal. I’m not sure I can do it again. But we DID do it once.
This shot was taken last night as I was driving over to Sandi’s to pick her up before our 6:30pm meeting. I was a few minutes late to pick up Sandi. I stopped and clicked off two photos. This red sky was not going to go unphotographed by me.
A guest photographer I’d never heard of, but won’t forget, made this video rather than write a blog on Scott Kelby’s blog as Wednesday’s guest blogger.
The video is about 8 minutes or so. Watch it all the way through. I hope you too feel just a little bit better after watching it.
I have been in another computer crash funk, only the 2nd in the last 5 months. I’ve put my life on hold trying to get my life back. Funny how my life is now on my computer.
Keep it simple. Right.
Karen spent the night last night. She got up early and drove out to the start of her 5 K race in Palm Springs.
When she arrived home sometime after 9am she was smiling, holding her race number and exclaiming, “I ran a 33:36 minute first 5 K!”
I remember the days when racing was all I thought about. I asked Karen to sit down and share every detail from the beginning when she arrived at the race, including her thoughts and feelings during, to the finish. She didn’t walk a step. After the first mile, she knew she could do the remaining two miles. She wasn’t even tired at the finish.
It was so much fun watching and listening to Karen talk about her race as she realized how much more she can do than she thinks she can do. Boy, do I relate.
She’s already got her second race, The Great Race of Agoura Hills, a 10 K picked out and even a possible marathon (before the end of the year!).
I heard Ray quietly walking over to me at 6:30 this morning. I wasn’t asleep and I wasn’t awake. Ray was so quiet as he tip toed over to the side of my bed. He couldn’t tell if I was awake with my eyes closed enjoying the comfort of my warm cozy bed or sound asleep. He decided to say, “Linda. Come see the moon over snowy Mt. San Jacinto. It’s beautiful.”
I lifted up my head, looked around Ray, out the window where, in the still somewhat dark sky, the full moon was positioned perfectly over the peak of Mt. San Jacinto, shining down on the newly snowed on San Jacinto mountains. Aaaah.
I thought, “I’ve got to get up and take this picture”, as I simultaneously placed my head back on the pillow. For 3 seconds I stayed put under the covers, feeling guilty, fearing I was missing a great photo op. Then I got up. Peed. An went outside with my tripod and camera, not concerned with the cold because the moon was rapidly moving lower in the sky, minutes away from slipping out of sight behind “the Mountain.”
CRITIQUE: Linda Jeffers
MISSION CREEK PRESERVE BUILDING
The first thing that hits me is a set of three strong
vertical elements. You’ve got (as did Jill
Margeson, I believe it was, in a previous critique)
three strong stripes running vertically in your
photograph. Tying these stripes together are the
bold horizontal lines. What does this give us?
Vertical movement in the three stripes, and
horizontal movement via the black stripes. Lots of
movement, and I think movement is good.
The bold stripes against a relatively unobtrusive
background really stand out, and as a result you’ve
created a strong repeating pattern up and down and
across your photograph. There’s a thick black
vertical stripe toward the left side of your shot, and
I think you placed it well, pretty much in
accordance with the Rule of Thirds (see Rule of
Thirds grid superimposed on your photo below).
That thick vertical element divides your photo into
one-third left and two-thirds right. It’s where we
begin and end our photo journey around your picture.
What about the rough stucco on the far right? Does it create interest because it’s not smooth, or
is it a distraction because it’s so rough and unlike the rest of the scene? I don’t know. There’s a
part of me that likes it and another part of me that doesn’t. What I do
like, however, is that triangle of blue sky in the upper right of your
photo. That vivid patch of color really livens up your otherwise
As with Tom Kidd’s bridge photo, the bright sunlight that you were
shooting in is what makes your photo. Bright sunlight can create
incredibly bold and strong shadows that become integral parts of a
composition, and it all works beautifully for you here. Good shot!
Here’s where it gets tricky (for
me, not for you). Up until the
previous online class, I
specifically said I didn’t want
radical Photoshop-like effects
applied to photos. My reasoning
was that I didn’t know enough
about Photoshop to fairly critique
them and that those who were
NOT using Photoshop were at a
slight disadvantage. My main
reason, however, was that it’s
really tough for me to critique an
image where I can’t tell if something is or isn’t in focus or how depth of field affects the shot, or
if a polarizing filter was perhaps overused, etc.
All that changed in the previous online class. Why? Because I’m now more familiar with
Photoshop and am using it a lot, and because I know people were using it anyway, albeit in a
subtle manner. Am I qualified to teach Photoshop? Heck no. I don’t even know how to “select”
something using it. Photoshop is here to stay and I am very happy about it. I love it! It’s enabled
me to create photomontages that feed my artistic soul.
The main thing I need to keep in my head is a phrase I’ve used forever: “Just because you can,
doesn’t mean you should.” And my usual stupid example is, “Just because you can make a daisy
look like it’s encased in plastic doesn’t mean you should!”
So what do we have with your photograph? Is it a case of “just because you could?”
What I love about your effect is how the colors are so very soft and subdued, almost like a
Chinese ink painting. What you did was break the wind turbines down into sort of an ink sketch
that outlines all the strong elements and thus creates an interesting pattern across your photo.
The hills in the distance are gorgeous, with a grainy, soft “wash” of color going across. And yet
here and there is a touch of brilliant red or a bit of cyan.
When we use various effects in Photoshop or different plug-ins, I think it helps if we know
WHY we’re using them. What is it we want our photo to convey and does this or that special
effect or filter help get our message across, or does the special effect become the subject? It’s
sort of like putting a really fancy triple mat and ornate frame around a photograph. If people
comment, “Great mat! Love the frame!” you know you’ve lost the message in the photo.
In this case, do we lose the message of “wind turbines marching across hillsides” because we’re
entranced with the pen-and-ink-like special effect? Perhaps.
This effect is sublime. It’s soft and delicate and almost Asian in appearance. Is it appropriate to the subject matter? I’m thinking that maybe it isn’t. It
might be more appropriate (especially given where
you live) for an early morning photo of the
mountains in the distance with a large palm tree or
trees in the immediate foreground. That would give
you a wash of serenity in the background with an
outlined bold form in the foreground.
In the case of these wind turbines, I think the
watercolor wash-like effect, especially in the middle
over toward the left, is blocking things up and
creating smudges rather than outlines, almost negating the fact that there are hundreds of these
things spread out in front of us.
What am I trying to say? I love the effect. (And I would really like you to post something after
this critique regarding what this filter or plug-in is and what it does and how can others in the
class obtain it.) I think it’s an effect that has a definite place in our artistic arsenal, but is this the
appropriate photograph in which to apply it? I don’t think so. But oh, I’m loving what it did to
Let me know what you think, Linda. This is cool stuff. Do you feel I’m off regarding using it on
this particular shot? And if so, let me know. I, too, am in a learning mode when it comes to
using/not using various filters and plug-ins and pieces of software. Thanks.
BLACK AND WHITE WIND
“Turbinettes.” Love it! What’s
really neat about your photo is
how you (I’m guessing) used a
very long telephoto lens and shot
down the row of wind turbines
and, because of the long lens,
created a shot that makes the
turbines look as though they’re
really packed in tightly together.
This is one super use of a long
telephoto lens, and we see the
same effect sometimes, when
people shoot down a busy street,
such as in Chinatown in Los
Angeles or The Strip in Las Vegas. Long lenses tend to compress distance, making it look like
the subjects in our frame are really jammed in there. Your using a long lens here makes a lot of
sense and I like the look.
The other thing I like is how that one wind turbine’s blades are at right angles to everyone else,
spinning to a rhythm heard only by him. That one “rogue turbine” catches my eye and my heart.
The wires running across the bottom of the frame are, to
me, really distracting, however, and take my attention
completely away from the clean line of turbines. Having
lived in Palm Springs, I know the challenges you faced
when photographing these things. It’s hard to get a really
clear shot from the limited vantage points you have.
The hills in the background are great. I like how the
turbines stand out against them, and I like the two
shades of grey you have there.
Does the black and white effect work or not? The “look”
that the picture has is a sort of flat, old-fashioned look.
It’s kind of grainy and kind of muddy. If you wanted an
old-fashioned look to perhaps set off a more modernday
energy solution (well, it’s not a new idea at all, but
I’m not going to go there), then the processing worked.
But I’m not sure that it’s the most effective way of
presenting the turbines.
So what do I suggest? Well, to minimize the power lines
in the immediate foreground, you COULD turn the shot
into a vertical.
That way instead of having a really wide
swath of power lines, it would be a short set of lines.
Going for a vertical, too, would get rid of the black pole
and the lighter-colored pole immediately to the left. It
looks like there’s part of a fence pole down at the bottom
middle of the picture, which (at least for me) would be
hard to clone out. And, personally, I’d like to see a
photograph with more depth and sparkle, more solid
blacks and bright whites, which would catch my eye and
hold it longer.
So, do I think that this photo works? Not really. But I do think that you’re on the right track and
that if you can find a similar set of tubinettes with a better foreground, then please continue
along this same vein.
You’ve jumped into photography and Photoshop with all four feet, Linda, and I know you’re in
a huge learning curve and are trying out all sorts of things — not only becoming more familiar
with your camera, but with all the post-processing possibilities. You don’t do things in a small
way, and I commend you for your intensity and your ambition. Major kudos to you, madam.
February 9, 2009
How do I feel about my critique? I’m still sorting out my thoughts. I really love the Turbinettes photo the way I shot it. But I will respond to my teacher once I have the time to think about the shot more and why I post processed it as I did.
While at the Zoo last week, I asked Stacy and Sandi to give me their best fish impressions in case I couldn’t come up with 3 fish photos from my next assignment.