Discussion in 'Seeking Critique' started by dcstep, May 16, 2019.
Any and all comment/critique is welcome.
Low Bridge by David Stephens, on Flickr
This is a hard one because the range of values is so great. By normalizing the exposure outside the bridge as much as possible, reducing highlights and sharpening a tiny bit it would appear all that is lost are the traditional gondolier shirt stripes. In exchange, you pick up some extra detail on the gondola & the water. Not a large difference - can post a version if you like.
I'm always happy to see other interpretations.
So, Dave, what is it about you and extreme dynamic range? This is another wonderful composition that is challenged by the very elements which make it so interesting. All good regards to Sandy, but I like your original treatment better. I understand and agree with the direction he's headed, but I would do it a different way. My eye wants to be tuned to more correctly expose the background, hence rendering the foreground, with gondolier, boat, etc. in near profile. I agree with Sandy that I'd like the outside to have a bit more contrast and detail, but not at the expense of losing the already very limited detail in the gondolier's shirt and other features. For me, the essence of this image is that the shaded features must be in near-profile against the bright background. It's that contrast that makes the image interesting, while preserving enough detail in the foreground to engage the viewer's eye and curiosity. So, to that end, just a bit more detail and contrast in the background might be nice, but not so much as to change the essential character of the image. I'll assume that such a level of processing would be far more effective using the original, raw data than on a low resolution jpeg.
Oh, and by the way: I'm quite jealous of your travels and photography in Italy.
Composition seems awkward. I feel somewhat forced into a strange position. Contrast also doesn't work for me, though much better in the original than in the reworking, which just looks like a reworked mistake. The original at least does have an organic quality to the lighting, but it's just not great to look at and the light/dark doesn't seem to go, photographically or otherwise, with the feel of the scene.
Gotta remember David, I am a mediocre Post Processing guy - and lean toward a very old timey monochrome style. Fortunately, I only have to please myself with my own photos. In respect to others shots, if I don't like the photographer's efforts quite a bit, I won't comment or run edits.
FWIW, I think the original looks great! I'm not sure why you're asking for critique.
As always, I think PP very much depends on how YOU want the photo to look. No-one else can tell you that. If you're happy with how it looks now, that's fine.
The only comment (as a question) I can make is that the people in the boat are in deep shadow and the transition from 'shadow' to ''light' is great and sudden. You might want to experiment with a more gradual transition: exposure/shadows a bit lighter, highlights a bit darker.
But it's your photo. No-one else can tell you whether it needs to be otherwise or how. Use their tips to experiment with. But make your own choice,
As this is the "Seeking Critique" forum, it seems obvious, at least to me, that the OP is asking for feedback and thoughtful opinions. I agree completely that the final outcome is solely the purview of each individual photographer, but it also seems reasonable that we can, and should when asked, give one another constructive feedback. I frequently learn as much or in evaluating and formulating critiques as I do from receiving the same. It can and should be a constructive, interactive, and uplifting process. Perhaps I'm a bit more sanguine about critical commentary and evaluation of creative processes, given my background. However, most people on this forum seem to be sincerely desirous of being positive in providing meaningful feedback, which I find refreshing and helpful.
Constructive feedback can, though doesn't often enough, consist of asking probing questions in the hope of getting the photographer to think through on his own some potential solutions. When I was a beginner, I had the tendency to want direct advice on what to do, specific suggestions. A couple of my mentors adamantly refused to give me that, preferring to assist me in deciding what I want and seeking various ways of getting there. That helped me with a personal photographic journey and I'll be forever grateful for their insistence on my independence, including from their specific feedback. They might suggest that something I tried was too much or too little but rarely did they direct me to a specific interpretation of a photo or way of taking pictures. Most often they would ask what I saw in a photo or what I thought the image expressed and then would tell me if they thought I'd accomplished that.
I do agree that telling someone or showing someone how we would do it can offer reasonable alternatives but it can also offer unnecessary personalization of someone else's photo. Likely, we would all do something differently. There are a million ways to skin a cat. So, I think, moderating the specific suggestions and increasing eliciting the photographer's point of view and helping to get that across, if that's what Mike was suggesting which I suspect it was, is a good reminder.
I seek critique partly because I want to help get this Forum off the ground and, hopefully, come vibrant. I'm also interested to read what others have to say. I like this image and consider it strong, as I presented it, but I was curious to see reactions to the huge dynamic range, which I find myself gravitating toward and which excites some strong opinions.
Thanks for your question.
Nice try and thank you Sandy. Getting more information in the background and less in the foreground doesn't work for me. Maybe a graduated EV filter, giving more detail in BF, while maintaining FG would be better. Your example has me thinking about a 1:1 crop, to just get rid of BG and maybe blur what's left, even more.
Interesting, thank you. What do you think of my idea of a 1:1 crop? I understand the jarring nature of the BG. Maybe reducing its proportion would help those having trouble.
I’m having more trouble with the comp. of the foreground felling awkwardly positioned to me. The only background issue for me was its relationship to the foreground in terms of contrast and that the blown highlights against the blackness of the shadowed areas under the bridge all seemed to undermine what seemed like expressive textures the scene was offering.
LOL David. Yes, I seem to be drawn to high DR, like a moth to a light. Also, yes, I'm blessed with many travels to wonderful places, with wonderful friends that put up with me hanging back to get a shot.
So, after reading all criticism, I think that too many people are worrying too much about the BG. I LOVE the contrast, BUT maybe there's too much of it. I'm about to leave town for NYC and I'm running around with too much on my plate; however, I'll try to find a minute to rework this to see what reaction I get. I'm thinking about a 1:1 crop with a graduated filter, lowering the EV of the BG, but not changing FG at all. I agree, there's a lot of negative space and it's BRIGHT compared to the main subject. Hopefully, I'll get a minute or two to rework it. My post-tools are more powerful than when I first did this.
I love all the constructive comments. Even if I don't change the image, it makes me think about legitimate alternatives. I'm really hoping that his sub-Forum will take on a life of its own.
Maybe I'm getting my point across and maybe not. It is indeed awkward under that bridge, as this gondolier makes room for my water taxi under a very low bridge, where the taxi had to take the center path and the gondolier had to, nicely, get out of the way. The gondolier is ducking and his beautiful boat is actually hitting the edge of the bridge's underside. I didn't want too much emphasis on the boat hitting, but I did want the gondolier posture to be clear.
I don't think the photo is getting this point across. I do understand now what you're saying and what you were trying to accomplish. I as viewer had no way of knowing what was actually going on so all I see is awkwardness. If the camera had been taking in the whole scene, including your water taxi or even some noticeable water trails from your taxi, the narrative you offer or at least some sense of the awkwardness making sense could be a nice feature of the photo. But without benefit of context from the photo itself, the awkwardness isn't expressive of awkwardness so much as it's just plain awkward, to me at least as a viewer. Compositionally, the scene under the bridge just feels cramped, with no visual or narrative context for the cramped composition, so it just feels off to me rather than telling your story, a story, or being suggestive of one. Now that you've talked about your motivation, however, there doesn't seem much reason for the background or high contrast, so working with a 1:1 crop might allow you to zero in on something under that bridge that might work photographically.
Sam, you don't think that the title contributes toward the interpretation? Without my narrative, you don't know why the gondolier has himself and his boat pressed up against the underside of the bridge, but I thought that you'd get the idea that it's tight under there, without my further explanation.
I'll politely and respectfully disagree with Sam. I very much like the original composition, as the background gives meaningful context to the image, and I would prefer to keep it as-is over cropping it out. (Though, of course, that is entirely up to Dave!) The peak of the arch is not so much higher that it begs the question of the gondolier's position. (Note the hunched posture of the gondolier in the background.) Also, based on the photographer's position, it implies an unseen element which impacts the relative position of the subject gondola. There can always be factors outside the frame which impact what we see. What matters more is the strength of the composition and it's ability to tell the story the photographer wants to tell. In this case I'm quite comfortable with Dave's stated intent versus what I'm seeing/feeling in the image. I find it expressive and engaging, even if I would choose a different tonal value for the background.
As you know, I'm a big fan of the vignette approach, particularly when backgrounds are distracting or otherwise detract. However, I don't find that to be the case here. The substantial difference in EV between the foreground and background is essential to my understanding of the image and the story I see it tell, even if I would vote for slightly less differential. It's probably worth the experiment, and I'll be interested to see what you get, but I would not characterize the 1:1 crop as a way to "rescue" an otherwise weak image.
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