Early dawn

by Bernath Sandor

early dawn seeking critique bernath sandor

Gallery: Selection+

Tags: seeking critique

Category: Nature

Exif Information:
Orientation : 1
X Resolution : 72.0000000
Y Resolution : 72.0000000
Software : Adobe Photoshop CS5 Windows

Published: Friday 24th of June 2011 07:28:37 PM


Elie Medawar

Wow wow wow!

Elie Medawar

2 thumbs up! Wow

Bob Kurt
Very good photo. congrats...

Marc Apers
Before dawn

Wonderfull atmosphere, looks mysterious ...  Well done !

Hadi Khademi

Cool and mystic!

Alain Deppen

Wow! Simply amazing! At what time did you take this shot?

Best regards,


Jef Van den Houte

Beautiful tones and mood

Stephen Penland

Wow, what superb light and composition.  It's a magical, mystical scene, with the low fog contributing much along with the low, uniform levels of light.  The only thing left to do is to take a series of photos as the animals move and change positions; in some, the heads will be better positioned than in others (this is very good; I only wish the center bird (heron?) and the next one to the right had been looking left or right).

Eliseo Cabrera

Very interesting. I like it.


Wendy de Kok

Wow, great atmosphere and view here!

Love the color tones and mood :)

Paolo Bevilacqua

it is magic

Rajnish Duara

What a composition. Well done.

Svetlana Korolyova

Excellent atmosphere!

Hector Rodriguez
peace inspiration

just to see this photo inspire a moment of peace

Bobby Ho

Amazing capture. Great composition and the blue tone is very nice.

Eugenio Cuesta

A magic environment. Congratulations

Kristina Kraft

This is a rarity, Sandor! Truly an art photo, in my opinion. The bluish-grey tones, the composition divided in two parts: one part of the birds in the water and the other part the land with the deer with contours of the trees, which all coherently create continuity of the composition.

Thanks for sharing it,


Harsha Herle

Just perfect. Sets the mood in. Liked the reflections, the softness and the mist.



Tamas Kapas

Gyönyörű munka, gratulálok.

Mark Young
Great Mood

Beautiful composition and I think the choice of the blue tones is excellent.


Great shot



Bonali Giuseppe

Grande scatto!!!

Patrick Hudepohl
Response to Early dawn by Sandor Bernath

Please note the following:

Starvy Goodfellows
Response to Early dawn by Sandor Bernath

It is not so much a weakness but I would love to have seen this in black and white as well. As for strengths, I find this composition to have so many different layers and so many stories that perhaps there would not be enough words to describe them all. The mysterious tree in the background that could even be thought of as rain cloud. The gazelle or deer in the middle dear looking a little forlorn. Finally, the birds. This is a photograph that is worthy of being seen in a huge print and I feel as if only then would the true stories start to unwind.

Alex S.
Response to Early dawn by Sandor Bernath

I felt this photograph was a trifle murky. I put it through Auto Levels in Photoshop and got a surprise. Then undid Auto Levels and did Auto Color and got the same surprise. See below. This is apparently a black and white photograph to which a blue cast has been added. Rather elementary pictorialism. The photograph in blue cast is more interesting than in black and white. But I think a nature photograph does not need manipulation. It ought to be intrinsically interesting. This is not.

Arthur Plumpton
Early dawn by Sandor Bernath

The photographer probably went to considerable trouble to find and make this image and to obtain a good exposure under variable atmospheric conditions. It has three interesting and somewhat separate horizontal layers from top to bottom, or bottom to top, as you might have it and which suggest a form of art that is not often seen in landscape and animal life images. His portfolio shows many animal and flower photographs but much more conventional than this one and with few as different or unique as this one.

Does it work? No doubt for many, it probably does, and I can understand the awe that might be felt on viewing a grouping of animals as seen here in the early dawn. I do not register a wow reaction. That I think is due to at least two factors, one of which is the very cool blue tone of the image, and another factor, related to the composition formed here by the multitude of subject elements. Although it may be close to real, the blue tone makes me feel I am viewing a sub zero winter ice rink instead of a pond that is full of organic life. But that is a minor reaction. I do feel however that the photographer might have (should have) taken 10 or 20 timewise regroupings of these animals in order to give an increased impact and poignancy to the scene, which presently seems to me to simply be complex. Not an easy task with all these animal actors, but not an impossible one. In his timeless treatise on composition in photography, Harold Mante studied over time a landscape of variously positioned animals and a sheep herder and waited until the lines and visual spaces connecting the various animals and human presence broke into a powerful composition (of linear and circular affinities, and play of spaces). The French photographer Boubat has taken similar and patient approaches with similar landscape and human or animal subjects. The present photograph is very interesting as a fine and curiosity arousing animal image. However, while admiring the tenacity of the photographer to capture such an early morning scene, I think there was likely considerable potential in this scene to create a more artistic visual result by trying different shots based on the movements of the animals over a short period. Pehaps he did just that and this is the chosen result, but the portfolio shows just one visualisation.

Charles W
Early dawn by Sandor Bernath

I like it, but it may improve with 16:9 aspect ratio. As is it looks a little truncated by the frame size in a predominantly horizontal composition.

Alex S.
Response to Early dawn by Sandor Bernath

Okay, someone with a better eye than mine tell me: Is the nature or is this post processing. Looking at it again I think this is a composite. I am willing to be disabused.

Ian .
Early dawn by Sandor Bernath

looks like a comp, please prove me wrong

Steve Vincent
Early dawn by Sandor Bernath

Excellent ~ 7 ~

Gillie Bengough
Early dawn by Sandor Bernath

A magical picture, composite or not, however the faint reflections of the deer, under the birds makes it seem like one shot to me. I also think the blue tone reflects the pre dawn light and adds to he mystery of the scene.

Alex S.
Response to Early dawn by Sandor Bernath

This is murk and glop. There is no mystery in this image.Gloppy trees, gloppy deer and underexposed birds. There is no mystery except for one thing. What's that thing sticking out:

Alex S.
Response to Early dawn by Sandor Bernath

Okay now that I've blown it up I see it is a reflection of the bird's neck and head. That wraps up the mysteries for for this reviewer.

Alex S.
Response to Early dawn by Sandor Bernath

I've had a look at our artist's portfolio and I was blown away by his nature photography, especially of birds. As a nature photographer he is no picturorialist but a realist. And indeed there is a kind of "magic" in his best images, which capture the decisive moments of his subjects. He uses color wonderfully. And his subjects are sharp.

Returning to this POW, I cannot believe the same person did this. The blue cast is dreadful. This was most likely shot in color and desaturated. In ordinary color this might have been a better image.

The framing is all right. I would have zoomed in or cropped closer.

But even with that would this have been a great image? I think at best it would have been an okay image. The main problem is that it is cluttered. The deer in the mist grab your immediate attention, but then there are those bloody birds. They are not interesting and they are distractors.
Someone wrote last week that pictorialism is all right if it done right. I agree, but doing it right is very hard. In this case it is absolutely wrong. This is technically a straight nature shot. Pictorializing it goes against nature. Thus the "magical," "mysterious" or whatever moment is defeated--smothered under glop.

Fred G
Early dawn by Sandor Bernath

<<<Pictorializing it goes against nature.>>>

In many ways, just taking a picture of a natural scene goes against nature. A camera is a machine which results in a man-made, artificial thing . . . a photo.

That being said, I'm in the camp that likes the IDEA of the blue tint (I like the coldness it gives to the morning light and blue seems to support the textural feel of the atmosphere) but don't love it's execution (perhaps over-execution).

If I were the owner of National Geographic and had a no-composite policy, whether or not this was a composite might concern me. Given I'm not that guy, other than as a matter of photographic curiosity, I don't care one way or the other. It's not a photo where "fidelity" seems as important as imagination and overall gestalt.

I think it's good that photography overcame a strict reliance on Pictorialism (which grew out of a desire among photographers to have photography accepted as an art form in the earlier 20th Century and so they were mimicking a lot of what painting was doing at the time) and moved on to find its own unique voice as an art form that didn't have to mimic other art forms. At the same time, I love some of the Pictorialist stuff and love it when it's attempted still today. So, I'm glad that photography can do Pictorialism and glad it doesn't limit itself to that. Nature, among many other subjects, seems a good subject for Pictorialism, which I always felt kind of metaphoricalized (invented word) what it depicted.

I like the fact that this is a bit different than many of the other photos in Sandor's portfolio. I love seeing a photographer stretch himself like this, even if I ultimately don't like the result all that much. It shows me that someone is experimenting and trying to see the world through a multiplicity of eyes and sensibilities. Sometimes our outliers are our greatest stepping stones to new dimensions for our work, even if they quite all quite hit the mark. When I look at someone's portfolio, I am often most drawn to the work that is inconsistent with the main body, not usually because I like it the best but because it shows me a kind of "out of the box" (hate that phrase) vision they are having or pursuing.

Sandor Bernath
Early dawn by Sandor Bernath

First of all, I would like to thank you for choosing my photo for discussion and for your comments.
In order to clear some doubts I have the following notes.
This is an unmanipulated original photograph. Indeed, it was sent to some competitions (e.g., http://varazslatosmagyarorszag.hu/index.php?oldal=kepgaleria&kepid=4128&kereso=&np=&ido=&fotos=268&tag=&palyid=&ev=2011&kat=) and websites (e.g., http://1x.com/photo/43411), which do require the original RAW file to exclude the possibility of manipulations.
The photo was taken on June 23, 2011 at 4:16 AM (f/3.2; 1/5 sec; 400 mm; ISO 800). Indeed, it was so dark, that my camera saw more than I could. The deers stayed there for about 30 sec and disappeared. There was not much time for composition.
Whether or not you like it, the photograph reflects exactly what I experienced in that very moment without any PS editing whatsoever.
Kind regards,

John A
Early dawn by Sandor Bernath

First, I have to say that my own sense is that there is a big difference between "Pictorialist" artwork and this image. This, even before I had Sandor's words, is a straight photograph taken in fog. Now fog might give a look like the effects the Pictorialists were after, but it is a totally different animal--it is natural atmospheric effect not trickery/manipulation.

I don't see any particular issue with the composition. It is very linear and layered which gives a sense of peacefulness as well as defining--or presenting clearly-- the different features depicted.

Where the rub seems to come is in the color of the image. Although this apparently is as it "came out of the camera", there are many factors that affect how an image looks. In this case, I am guessing it is purely the color balance setting.

These things are subjective but often too much color does start to muddy up a scene. This looks like the camera could possibly have been set to daylight balance for instance. If it had been changed to shade, the results would have been much different. Of course, it may have been really blue and even the "shade" setting would have yielded this, I don't know, but I do think it is a white balance issue that could be corrected in raw (we had to use filters with film but most know they can fix these things in raw these days and don't carry the array of color balancing filters we once had to.) I don't know contest rules, but this would seem to be a "non-destructive" modification. So, maybe we just have a choice here or a strict set of rules.

I did pull this image into my raw processor (ACR) and think that a +10 to +20 on the temperature scale makes a huge difference while keeping the early morning look to it--it just clarifies the image a bit. Around 10 is pretty good while near 20 it neutralizes quite a bit.

Personally, although I do agree the blue is a bit heavy, I find the image interesting as a descriptor of an event. There are some funny artifacts around the birds, which might just be upload issues or oversharpening. It does detract from the image. (By the way Alex, the line through the image you pointed out is a second bird looking straight at us--the body just blends with the one looking to our right--it got me at first as well.)

Bottom line, maybe I would prefer the image a little less blue but at the same time I can appreciate what was caught here. I think it is interesting in that regard.

Fred G
Response to Early dawn by Sandor Bernath

John makes a great point that, though something comes out of the camera a certain way without so-called "manipulation" (and I try to remember that one can manipulate in camera as well as in post processing, through camera movement, shooting through glass or gauze, setting weird color balances intentionally or non-intentionally, over-exposing or under-exposing to an extreme, etc.) it can have a very artificial look, which can be good or bad, intentional or not. I think some of these magazines and contests should reconsider what they think of as manipulated and, if settings on the camera are set in such a way as to have a strong effect on color balance for example, I'd think that would be considered as much a manipulation as a color balance adjustment later on in the process.

John makes another important point about Pictorialism often involving direct manipulation of negatives or the surfaces of prints. I guess, for me, if taking a picture through fog has a Pictorialist feel, which this photo does to me, I don't think it disqualifies it from seeming Pictorialist because it's not manipulated to look like that in post. Using fog, gauze, some slight camera movement, etc. are all ways to get a certain look and, though the Pictorialists may have for the most part worked a certain way in their day, one can emulate the look of Pictorialism without necessarily using darkroom or Photoshop trickery. It is my understanding that Pictorialist photographers often used the camera or atmospheric conditions to create the similarity to painting they desired, as well as using a lot of post-processing techniques. I could be wrong there. In any case, when I use Pictorialist about a present-day photo, I'm talking about its look, not the process by which it was made, but I'm still glad to be reminded that the term meant something about process to many of its adherents. And John's comment does challenge me to take a closer look at this and wonder if it does, indeed, look Pictorialist, merely because of its foggy and atmospheric quality even when we know that's pretty much what the scene looked like. Something I will think about.

Sandor Bernath
Early dawn by Sandor Bernath

Dear John,

Thanks a lot for your comments. The "artifacts" around the birds are tree stubs hanging out in the flood-plain.

Best, Sandor

John A
Early dawn by Sandor Bernath

Sandor, I am talking about the white outline that appears around most, if not all, of the larger birds--especially noticeable in the larger size of the image here--not the dark stubble on the water. I believe this probably lent to the sense of the image being a composite early on, as these also happen in masking.

martin h
Early dawn by Sandor Bernath

I much prefer the first photo in Sandor's bird folder, titled Twilight mist: http://photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=13802572.

The color cast is grayish-blue (slate?) rather than the too-strong blue of this picture, and there is a refreshing amount of detail to be seen on the birds.

The composition is simpler (there are no deer, or elk) and doesn't have the "composite" look of this one.

Arthur Plumpton
Early dawn by Sandor Bernath

Martin, while I don't agree completely with your reasons for assessing a superiority for the second photo from Sandor's portfolio, I do agree that elements of it are better, but especially in terms of the dynamic of placement and the composition of the loons (or whatever birds) which form a more harmonious whole than those of the POW. That is why I think that Sandor might have benefitted by spending a bit more effort on the POW image in order to realize that sort of potential. We need to go past just looking at an interesting subject matter to that of effectively seeing it and extending its possibilities.

Louis Meluso
Early dawn by Sandor Bernath

I like this picture. This has a great mood to it. The fog and early morning blue color harmony accentuate the quiet, cool of dawn and holds the image together. The layering effect adds a real sense of depth. It reminds me of images of the multitudes and variety of beasts seen together during the great migrations in Africa or in Edward Hick's Peaceable Kingdom where a variety of beasts live together in harmony. It's a successful picture as presented. If the center bird turns in profile it's impact would be increased and it would be a stunner.

While the maker has decided to join the discussion, apparently to squelch the usual slog about how it was made, I enjoy and appreciate the image as it stands as a scene that is visual engaging. The mood created by the use of atmosphere, back light, color and optical compression is palatable and beautiful. Well done, Sandor.

John Rowsell
Early dawn by Sandor Bernath

Here's where the old adage 'the only good camera is the one that you have with you' is exemplified. Sandor had the resources ready to capture this image in the fleeting moment that these animals were together and there was sufficient light. I wonder how many of us would have come across this scene and said afterwards "if I only had my camera with me". Kudos to Sandor for being ready, and being willing to share this image with us.

Early dawn by Sandor Bernath

I saw this picture one year ago with a different background. So I am not sure if you went there again or you PS a
different background.

Graham Peel
Early dawn by Sandor Bernath

This is a world class image which will stand the test of time. Ignore the nay-sayers (aka trainspotters) - because for some reason this wonderful art/science that we pursue attracts more than its fair share of under equipped egomaniacs trying to compensate for lack of you know what with over sized lenses. Your image is quiet, calming, soothing and compelling. It makes me yearn to be where you were, seeing what you saw. The spontenaity of the composition (i.e. how the bloody hell could you ever orchestrate such a scene) adds to its magical feel. The tone you have chosen adds, not detracts, from the wonder of the image. All truly great art generates controversy in its day and it's often only years...decades...centuries after that its true worth becomes widely recognised. Make a high quality original print of this, secure its provenance, and in a hundred years people will be bidding the equivalent of $10million+ for this. Thank you for posting it.

Fred G
Response to Early dawn by Sandor Bernath

<<<under equipped egomaniacs trying to compensate for lack of you know what with over sized lenses>>>

I guess you're saying those who don't like this have small penises or no balls, right? Ahh, to be back in Junior High School. If we can't disagree on our assessment of photos without being called names by someone who thinks his opinion is the only valid one or the highest and mightiest, well, er, Geez!

<<<All truly great art generates controversy in its day and it's often only years...decades...centuries after that its true worth becomes widely recognised.>>>

This is false. It is sometimes the case that art is only recognized decades or centuries later but not the case that it applies to ALL art. It's a tough one, because while it does happen that something we now don't recognize will wind up being considered great art in the future, more often than not, what's criticized now will end up on the garbage heap of history and never become more than an afterthought. Great art doesn't actually happen all that often, despite the ubiquity of such claims on PN, and this "it's-not-yet-recognized" bit is most often trotted out as a defense against lousy photography. "You can't criticize me. You just don't see the greatness in my work." That and a buck and a half will get you on a New York City subway. As I said above, I happen to like this photo, with some reservations (sorry I refuse to use the same lofty, hyperbolic approach to critique as Graham), so what I'm addressing is not about this photo per se but rather about the claims about art in general and especially the juvenile put-downs of other critics being made here.

Graham Peel
Response to Early dawn by Sandor Bernath

Fred, well said!
Methinks the lady protesteth too much though.
Do you buy any chance happen to be the owner of a Sigma 500mm f/2.8?
Kindest of regards,

Stephen Penland
Early dawn by Sandor Bernath

In my 10 years of participating in PN and the POW, I find Graham's comment to be the most reprehensible and useless of any that I have ever read. I hope the moderators will eventually remove this comment (mine) as well as the last one posted by Graham.

Sandor Bernath
Before dawn Thanks for comments.

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