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.