Photo: Critique Your Own Work

Do you critique your own work? Here's an example of what goes on in my mind when I'm critiquing one of my own photographs.

This is a shot from Bean Hollow State Park in California. It's not one of my favorite shots - and it won't make it to my portfolio or my website. So why am I posting it here? Well - I believe that we can learn as much from images that don't appeal to us as we can from those that do.

In this case, there are a few things that make this image unappealing to me. The first is that there is no clear point of interest. Where do I want your eye to go? Which element is the most important? Is it the sky? The foreground? Who knows!

The second problem is that the image feels very busy and cluttered. There's a lot going on here. A variety of colors, tons of textures and details... too much, in my opinion.

And finally, do you see the leading line in the shot? The ridges in the rock seem to form a line - but where does it take you? It certainly doesn't lead your eye toward any particularly interesting element. Nope. It points you directly towards a rather nondescript, smooth stone in the mid-ground. I just doesn't work.

The next step is to think about what you might have done differently - and to compare the images you don't like from a location to the ones that really appeal to you. In this case, I could have gotten down nice and low with my tripod. That simple adjustment would have helped this photo a lot. A lower perspective provides a "foreshortening" effect, which would help eliminate some of the uninteresting mid-ground. It would also help to hide that pointless leading line. Additionally, getting down low would bring my lens closer to the details in the foreground. They would appear larger in the frame, and that would help them stand out as a point of interest.

I believe that critiquing images you don't like can have enormous benefits. Understanding what you don't like can help you avoid it in the future, and thinking about how you could improve your own work is a great way to grow as a photographer.

#phototips   #photographydiscussion   #landscapephotography   #photocritique  
Photo: Snowfall at Bryce Canyon

I took this shot in 2007 - but just processed it this morning. It's always interesting to go back and process images from a few years ago.

When I opened this shot in Camera RAW, I knew exactly what I needed to do. I cropped it. Why? Because there were dark trees scattered in the foreground. As lovely as they were, they drew my eye away from the main elements. They were a distraction. If I had taken this photo today, I wouldn't have included those trees in the photo in the first place. My style has changed over time... or perhaps it is just more defined. I've always appreciated simple compositions - but over time, my simple compositions have become minimalist compositions. I find that when it comes to my own photography, I almost always prefer extreme simplicity.

Of course, I made a few other changes as well. I corrected the color balance so that the snow felt clean and fresh. I darkened the sky just a bit to even out the exposure and bring out that pretty blue. And I adjusted the contrast to ensure that the details in the sandstone were crisp.

This photo was featured Photo Extract's Top Ten Photos for December 1st with +Jarek Klimek: http://www.photoextract.com/plus-extract/2012/12/4

Thanks so much!
Photo: The Coming Storm

I get a lot of questions about how long I spend in Photoshop. Well. Most photos take just a few minutes... but this one was a tough one.

This shot from Snowmass Wilderness in Colorado was a real challenge. Taking this photo was an awesome experience. We watched this storm coming toward us for a short time, and then grabbed our cameras and headed out to get a few shots. The first thing that caught my eye were the colors. The brilliant golden leaves were a perfect compliment to the deep blue tones in the approaching storm. I wanted to capture that juxtaposition - and also capture the chaos in the sky. I chose a simple composition - ignoring the lake behind the trees and choosing a single peak to minimize distractions. I took several shots, waiting for a moment when the skies were full of textures.

Processing was difficult. I processed a single image twice - once for the foreground leaves and once for the background. Then blended the two with layers and masks in Photoshop. Blending was particularly difficult because some leaves were blurred and other weren't. So, feathering my mask was difficult. Too much feathering and I'd get halos around some leaves. Too little, and I'd end up with dark lines around others. In the end, I needed several layers, some precision work with my Wacom tablet, and a lot of patience to get it done.

#photographydiscussion   #theexperienceproject  
Photo: Colorado, USA
Photo: Enlightenment

In 1850, there were 150 glaciers in Glacier National Park (Montana). Today, there are 26. By 2020, there may not be a single glacier remaining in the park.

Scientists are studying the region to try to understand the impact of humans on current warming trends - and to find out if humans could cope with severe changes in climate. It's a fascinating debate... and it's sad to watch the glaciers melt away.

On the other hand - the beauty of the park is as much about the legacy of those massive, shifting rivers of ice as it is about their continued presence. The area is indelibly marked by the freezing and thawing and re-freezing of glaciers over time. This might just be my favorite park in the entire US - don't quote me on that, I might change my mind tomorrow... but I do love Glacier.

And next week - that's where I'm headed. We'll be taking a group of students to this most beautiful of places. I can't wait to put my feet on the ground out there again.

Have you been to Glacier? This spot is along Going-to-the-Sun Road... do you have a favorite spot to recommend? I'd love to see your images - and I'm sure others would enjoy seeing them too.
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The Coming Storm

I get a lot of questions about how long I spend in Photoshop. Well. Most photos take just a few minutes... but this one was a tough one.

This shot from Snowmass Wilderness in Colorado was a real challenge. Taking this photo was an awesome experience. We watched this storm coming toward us for a short time, and then grabbed our cameras and headed out to get a few shots. The first thing that caught my eye were the colors. The brilliant golden leaves were a perfect compliment to the deep blue tones in the approaching storm. I wanted to capture that juxtaposition - and also capture the chaos in the sky. I chose a simple composition - ignoring the lake behind the trees and choosing a single peak to minimize distractions. I took several shots, waiting for a moment when the skies were full of textures.

Processing was difficult. I processed a single image twice - once for the foreground leaves and once for the background. Then blended the two with layers and masks in Photoshop. Blending was particularly difficult because some leaves were blurred and other weren't. So, feathering my mask was difficult. Too much feathering and I'd get halos around some leaves. Too little, and I'd end up with dark lines around others. In the end, I needed several layers, some precision work with my Wacom tablet, and a lot of patience to get it done.

#photographydiscussion   #theexperienceproject  

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