Friday, May 30, 2008
Improving Images, Accepting Criticism
NOART wrote a very effective criticism of the above image.
Let me try to critique this image.
George, my reactions to your images are quite different, and I do like many of them. This one looked too busy in small, so I clicked to see the large version.
My first reaction was very positive, but after a minute or two of looking, I was not so sure any more.
Obviously a lot of care has gone into choosing the image crop (mostly in camera, I assume), and the composition looks very well balanced. The darker stump on the left balances well with the two larger ones on the right. I find it good that the parallax distortion has not been corrected -- the not quite vertical tree trunks start a nice arch that is continued by the very light needle tree in the lower left. This arch is nicely picked up by the two large stumps on the right and returned back into the image by the thin branches in the upper corner.
While traveling along this arch I notice the interesting water swirls, but the dark stump in the lower middle of the image stops me dead in my tracks. Obviously there is nothing you could have done about it, but I find its presence nonetheless unfortunate.
OK, so now I've looked at the entire image. What it is about? What is the main subject? Do I want to look at it any longer?
That's where I'm left hanging in the air. The entire image is in focus and the entire image is almost equally bright. The arch that I was talking about exists because of the shapes in the image, but not because of the tones. There is no depth. Due to the uniform sharpness and brightness, all elements of the image appear to be at the same distance from the viewer (which of course is not true). And they appear to have equal importance, which too is not true.
I suspect that the original image had more tonal depth and maybe even more focus depth (this might be a blend of several images). I read your blog regularly and know that you go to great lengths to bring the tones and the focus under control, but I think for this image you've gone too far.
Apart from this main critique point, I'm also slightly bothered by the alignment of the dead tree trunk (second from left) and the needle tree behind it.
Overall, I'd say I like the image, but not enough to bookmark it and come back to it later. (But I have bookmarked several of your other images.)
Do you care to critique my critique? I'll be happy to hear your thoughts about this image.
My own assessment of the image, before reading NOART's comments was nice, but hardly great, simply the best I could do on the day, and with nothing better to post, it was marginally acceptable for showing on the blog.
Having now read NOART's comments, I have to agree. First, it does need to be seen larger, second, there is an evenness to tonality which makes the image harder to 'read' and less effective. The black stump I have mixed feelings about - certainly there's nothing else quite like it in the image.
Frankly, I may be simply trying to work on an inherently mediocre image, but I thought I'd play with some of NOART's ideas on the image and while the result still isn't a great image, I do think it shows substantial improvements, enough that it's worth showing the difference that a little editing can make.
Here's my thoughts on the 'new and improved' version.
Pretending that the original version never saw the light of day, I'll comment just on what I see in this new version.
This is an image in which there are several good elements, but they don't quite come together. The waterway would have been better had more been seen, a def. pathway through the woods. The stumps on the right would have been better without those branches in front on the far right. The only thing balancing the stumps on the right are the dark trees further back on the left and given the different nature of them and the higher position on the print, I don't think they do an adequate job in this balancing act.
Overall, even in a goodly size, the image is just too busy. Though it was photographed in the rain, there is absolutely no sense of atmosphere in the image, nothing to suggest the weather.
In the end, while I can improve the image, it is flawed at a fundamental level and I should probably stop trying to rescue it.
This raises some thoughts about the value of having spent 4 hours in the rain, if this is the best I could do. The following points occur to me.
1) practice is never wasted. The work on that day, will pay off sometime in the future.
2) getting out in the rain and enjoying the forest and streams, floods and the brilliant fresh green of spring growth in the rain is never wasted.
3) I got some exercise and fresh air - never to be sneezed at.
4) You can never predict whether today is going to be the day. The only way to ensure failure is to not go out in the first place.
5) Who says failure is such a bad thing. Imagine if you never ever lost playing chess, I suspect it just wouldn't be as interesting.