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  #1  
Old December 30th, 2008, 02:24 PM
John Angulat John Angulat is offline
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Default Raising Quality of OPF Photography for 2009, "Riskit!" Threads & Dynamics of Help.

I'm repurposing some posts from this fascinating "Riskit!" thread. It brings us to the important topic of OPF's policy of helping folk with photographic projects but not teaching. This requires an adult and accountable relationship between those who show generously show work in "Riskit!" and those who give feedback. At the best of times, this could lead to an improved way of expression ideas into a delivered photograph. I hope we'll have comment on the "bargain" between those setting to work out or improve some genre of their own work for themselves and those who devote the time to give feedback. So review this taste of responses to John's work and gauge John's reaction. Asher


Original Post by John Angulat:

I honestly didn't know where to post this image (and don't be wise-guys and say "the trash can") so I'll put it here.
Sometimes mistakes turn out for the better...the intent was to capture the rigging in the tall ship but the backlighting pushed everything except the clouds to black.
I sort of like it anyway.
Thoughts?

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Last edited by Asher Kelman; December 31st, 2008 at 02:48 PM.
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  #2  
Old December 30th, 2008, 03:56 PM
Ken Tanaka Ken Tanaka is offline
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Mike; All photography is the product of decisions. More specifically photography is all about exclusion. Unlike painting or drawing which begin as blank canvases/pages, the photographic frame is always full of stuff wherever the lens is pointed. Deciding what to exclude from a photograph can often be painful, as sometimes it may lead to a decision not to take the picture at all at that time.

That's what I think I might have decided, at least from that vantage point. You have two strong general elements that, by themselves or in a different scene, might combine to create a compelling image. But in this case they don't work well together at all in my opinion.

Th masts and rigging, photographed from that vantage point and with an (apparently) longer focal length lens are all about geometry. We struggle to find the geometric relationships that you're trying to show. But meanwhile, like an impish child in the background, the surging clouds are suggesting that there's bigger stuff to see in the scene. We want to see a wider view because of those damn clouds. Making the photo b&w doesn't help. In fact, it hurts because now it's hard to distinguish clouds from smoke. Making it darker also makes your problem worse.

Whenever you have a majestic background like billowing clouds you have to select your foreground subjects and framing very, very carefully such that they work together to create something interesting. A photo -ANY photo- of the Grand Canyon, for example, is cliche and instantly forgettable. But a photo of something interesting with the Grand Canyon in the background has a chance to be very intriguing.

So, on this image, I would have made one of three choices. (1) Frame wider, showing the entire ship against those clouds to help invoke the viewer's imagination of a day when that little ship was in the enormous sea with only the wind for locomotion. (2) Frame much tighter to create a geometric study of the masts and/or rigging with just enough clouds to lend some tonal variety to the image. (3) Forget this shot altogether. Not having been on the scene I can't really speculate which would have been the best selection (contrary to what I suggested above).
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  #3  
Old December 30th, 2008, 04:32 PM
John Angulat John Angulat is offline
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Default Asher, Mike & Ken,

Thanks so much for the time spent studying this image. As always, I greatly appreciate the help and suggestions on how to improve.
Asher and Mike - unfortunately I can't open up the shadows (other than maybe in the clouds) as the detail was lost in the original exposure. I do see, however, how it would help the image if I had that opportunity. Alas, the shot is was it is (perspective), and sadly Asher's suggestion of wider view is well noted but not possible.
Ken - thanks very much for the detailed suggestions. I totally agree (and now see) what you mean in your suggestions 1 and 2. That's what separates the pro eye from my amateur viewpoint. Also, I'm still trying to get my head around your description of geometry. If you have the time, could you sort of "dummy it down" for me? It would be appreciated.
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Old December 31st, 2008, 08:34 AM
Ken Tanaka Ken Tanaka is offline
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Well there you have it, John. Very different points of view about the potential for your 'umble little snapshot. I'm not at all certain that you've gained much reusable value from the commentary -- can any online critique of a snap offer any real value? But it's always interesting to see such varied points of view. Perhaps that's why the Rorschach inkblot tests were so popular for a while.
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Old December 31st, 2008, 01:22 PM
John Angulat John Angulat is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Tanaka View Post
I'm not at all certain that you've gained much reusable value from the commentary -- can any online critique of a snap offer any real value?
Hi Ken,
I truly believe you are mistaken. As a professional, the comments and critiques offered may seem mundane or almost Photo 101 to you and others. But to us amateurs it represents a priceless resource. I learned things from your post that may not seem like much to a pro, but where else would I have been shown "totality within a scene" or geometric balance within an image?
Happily, I have gained much and will be a better photographer for it.
Have a very Happy New Year!
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  #6  
Old December 31st, 2008, 02:08 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Default Thanks John for your positive reaction to the feedback. This brings us to 2009!

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Angulat View Post
Hi Ken,
I truly believe you are mistaken. As a professional, the comments and critiques offered may seem mundane or almost Photo 101 to you and others. But to us amateurs it represents a priceless resource. I learned things from your post that may not seem like much to a pro, but where else would I have been shown "totality within a scene" or geometric balance within an image?
Happily, I have gained much and will be a better photographer for it.
Have a very Happy New Year!
Hi John,

Your reaction is music to my ears. Riskit! to work, must mean that photographers who start a thread show that they take in and value responses to improve their long term work. This is the bargain OPF has between Professional and Experts towards each other and amateurs.

This highlights another area of strictness for 2009. People who repeatedly ignore detailed feedback will find less of it. Also, our goal is not to be a school, giving lessons, rather colleagues sharing ideas and passion for great pictures. Don't overwhelm us with a torrent of like pictures. We want you to do the work for us! Choose!

In Riskit! any of us can, if we wish, develop a project to an excellent level, I say, "to the nth"! At that point, ideas are expressed and are built into the delivered image. Hopefully it's impressive and all the juices have not been hammered out of it. That way, it's still vibrant, living, never "perfected" and thus dead, with all the questions answered. At this point, least some of us can hopefully "get it".

On the way, some of our responses might miss entirely the photographer's intent, needs and vision. However, when the photographer does indeed advance his/her project, we'll all be energized to respond with even more interest. That's our payback and thrill!

Selecting: Four is not better than one! Significantly, we're going to be tougher in 2009 to folk who just throw up 4 snaps of no particular merit and worse, ignore great feedback. We hope in this way that the standard of photography will be always improved and so everyone's experience will be richer. We each should state what we are trying to do and the picture must make sense for these questions.

Amateurs and enthusiasts and even pros, don't think we don't want picture! We just want it carefully selected. If a second picture doesn't add something new, leave it out. One impressive image followed by 3 mediocre ones gets lost.

That's my rant!

Asher
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Our purpose is getting to an impressive photograph. So we encourage browsing and then feedback. Consider a link to your galleries annotated, C&C welcomed. Images posted within OPF are assumed to be for Comment & Critique, unless otherwise designated.

Last edited by Asher Kelman; January 1st, 2009 at 09:21 PM.
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  #7  
Old January 1st, 2009, 02:37 PM
Alain Briot Alain Briot is offline
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Good point. Also, the idea is not for all of us to agree, but instead for each of us to present our personal opinion about what works and what can be improved in the image.

Being in agreement should be something that happens occasionally and is rather unexpected !

The interest is in having different views. If we all agree we might as well say "nice work" and move on.
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  #8  
Old January 1st, 2009, 04:07 PM
Rachel Foster Rachel Foster is offline
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This is a very difficult topic for someone like me: A bald-faced amateur who started out knowing nothing and after over a year of work, knows less than I started. That's how it feels, anyway.

First and foremost, let me emphasize that I have learned a tremendous amount here. I am aware of how generous people have been with their time and expertise, and I'm very, very grateful. That's one reason this is so hard for me to say.

If you want an open photography forum, with amateurs rubbing shoulders with the pros and those who actually achieve the status of "artist," there has to be an awareness of where those of us at the bottom rungs of the ladder are. So much that comes as naturally as breathing to the experts eludes people like me for a long, long time. (Can we say "photoshop?" Ha!)

In my case particularly, it is frustrating for those kind enough to offer guidance. It oftentimes takes me months to put advice into practice. The mentor may (often does) feel disregarded and ignored. That's not the case at all! What is actually happening is that a piece of advice requires I learn several (three, four, five, more) techniques or skills before I can implement the advice.

Those who have been watching my work since I've been here may have noticed that I eventually do master something I've been given help with. However, that could also easily be overlooked (since not everyone will scrutinize my work as closely as Asher does!).

The point of all of this is that amateurs (like me) may be giving it our all and still not measure up. Well, in my case, remove the may: I am doing my best and most often fail to perform at the level desired. "Four is not better than one" is very true. But beginners often don't know which is the better one! Because of the huge disparity in ability and desired quality of images, I often stop posting images while I regroup. It takes a while to gather the courage to post when I know my work is not good enough.

So, an open forum will have a lot of garbage images. The alternative is a tighter forum with better images that is also less open.

Whatever the forum decides is fine with me and I am, and will remain, grateful for all the help I've received.
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