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Hoping to enjoy photography again...


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#61 of 77 JohnRice

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Posted June 28 2014 - 09:58 AM

BTW, I'm not trying to argue with Scott or David.  I'm genuinely trying to figure some things out.  Here's another shot that comes to mind with this conversation.  I probably don't have to name the photographer.  My question:  Is this a good composition?  From an analytical point of view, it fails on virtually every level.  There are essentially no compositional rules or guidelines represented.  There is a hint at the rule of thirds, but that is only minimally executed.  Aside from that, it is just a garble of elements.  So, is it "Great" simply because of who clicked the shutter?  Does use of the Zone System make it great despite the almost complete absence of good composition?  In fact, Adams wasn't particularly good at composition.  His works are considered great due to the science he used.  Does that make a difference?  Is someone with a great eye but absolutely no technique more valuable?

 

Ansel+Adams+-+Mt.+Williamson,+Sierra+Nev


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#62 of 77 Scott Merryfield

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Posted June 28 2014 - 05:53 PM

John,

 

I really like the last shot of yours that you posted -- even if it is upside down. ;)  It has an intimacy about it. The one with the fence and trees just doesn't stir anything in me -- in fact, I didn't even really notice those clouds on the lower left side until you mentioned the one in the upper left corner. Sometimes, though, it only matters if a photo strikes a chord within the photographer who captured the image, and not if it reaches anyone else. I have some shots like that, as I'm sure we all do.

 

While I do subscribe to the "rule of thirds" for many of my landscape shots, I have no problem breaking those rules at times. Sometimes it works for me... sometimes it doesn't.

 

As for that last shot, I think the contrast between the geometric shapes in the foreground and the mountains in the background, along with the rays of light, makes for an interesting -- if somewhat busy -- shot. I certainly wouldn't rank it amongst the best of a master's work, but it certainly merits some study.

 

I think landscape photography, like an other form of art, has a very personal component. We all have different likes and dislikes.I will say, though, that just about every shot of yours that you've posted over time here I have really liked.



#63 of 77 JohnRice

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Posted July 02 2014 - 10:05 AM

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I've officially decided I love this shot.  My stuff tends to be fairly minimal and clean, and this is definitely neither of those.  It also does best printed large.  I did one "cheat" to fix something I found very distracting.

 

_DSC1303-1-1k.jpg


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#64 of 77 Cameron Yee

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Posted July 02 2014 - 10:10 AM

I think the fix you made is the main thing that made me want to see a little more room on the right side. Did you make it a duotone as well?


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#65 of 77 JohnRice

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Posted July 02 2014 - 10:17 AM

Cameron, the more I looked the more I realized how distracting that long fence rail was.  Even if it had more room on the right, that span of rail still would have looked wrong.  Plus, there was a new crop of trees on the right, which would have screwed up the composition.  A second "cheat" I did was to eliminate the few branches coming from them on the right, which makes a small, but ultimately significant improvement in the framing.

 

I've stopped doing duotones because they screw up the tonal range by adding more density.  This is the same basic result using modified curves instead.


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#66 of 77 Scott Merryfield

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Posted July 02 2014 - 02:09 PM

John,

 

I do like the new photo with your "fixes" better. The fence does look more natural, and the removal of those few branches on the right side makes more of a difference that I would have thought. Mostly, though, I like the change in tone. It makes the photo come alive.



#67 of 77 DavidJ

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Posted July 02 2014 - 05:50 PM

I'm curious.  Since this is a "Landscape", is it possible people might be getting caught in a trap of it needing to appear a certain way?  Is it possible that since it has trees, ground and a sky, that we require it to conform to certain standards?

 

Below, I posted a shot that has always been a personal favorite.  As far as I can recall, nobody else has ever shared that opinion.  In fact, most of them have insisted I was displaying it "wrong".  "It's upside down."  Anyone can see that, and a lot of people have been downright annoyed that I insisted on positioning it this way.  The problem is, to me, when it is displayed the "right" way, it's not very interesting.  When it's displayed this way, I find it fascinating.

 

attachicon.gif'City-Park'-Final.jpg

 

The more I look at it, that recent shot is a bit surreal.  There are things that aren't quite "right" with it, but is it possible that adds more than it takes away?  One of the (probably many) things that burned me with photography was a growing obsession with "flaws" in photos.  It can get to the point where the flaws are all you can see.

 

The question is, what are you missing?  That big, white cloud on the top left just doesn't belong there.  But it WAS there.  The trees and sky on the left don't look right, but that's how they were.  I didn't put them there.  I'm not sure where I'm going with this...

 

I actually like your "upside down" image too. On the one before it, the top left of the frame ends up feeling cluttered to me because of that cloud and how it is almost tangential with the leaves on the tree. It would feel more comfortable to me if there was some sky between the two or if it slid behind the tree more (hopefully I am making this somewhat clear). A slight shift in the positioning of the camera or a slight shift in the time the shot was taken could accomplish this. What I don't know since I wasn't there is if this would work with out creating other issues (sometimes you have to go with what you have or compromise in other ways).

 

And by the way, I don't take it as arguing and I hope I do not come across as too critical or a know-it-all. One thing we've been doing in my classes is spending a lot of time discussing and dissecting photos. In addition to the effect that this has on my students, it has helped me to see images in different ways and to understand better the different ways others see them. We all learn from this discussion and dialog. 



#68 of 77 DavidJ

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Posted July 02 2014 - 05:56 PM

BTW, I'm not trying to argue with Scott or David.  I'm genuinely trying to figure some things out.  Here's another shot that comes to mind with this conversation.  I probably don't have to name the photographer.  My question:  Is this a good composition?  From an analytical point of view, it fails on virtually every level.  There are essentially no compositional rules or guidelines represented.  There is a hint at the rule of thirds, but that is only minimally executed.  Aside from that, it is just a garble of elements.  So, is it "Great" simply because of who clicked the shutter?  Does use of the Zone System make it great despite the almost complete absence of good composition?  In fact, Adams wasn't particularly good at composition.  His works are considered great due to the science he used.  Does that make a difference?  Is someone with a great eye but absolutely no technique more valuable?

 

Ansel+Adams+-+Mt.+Williamson,+Sierra+Nev

 

In some ways, I think this does use a thirds organization. The transition to the mountains appears at the upper third to me and their seems to be a line of light across the lower third line. It divides the picture into three bands---the mountains, the rock field, and the large foreground rock that is centered. It actually strikes me as quite organized. 



#69 of 77 JohnRice

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Posted July 02 2014 - 06:29 PM

David, regarding the Adams image above, what you say is why I said it only minimally uses rule of thirds.  The lower third division is barely perceived.  Not enough to really qualify in my book.  The top third is clear, but that part of the rule is only the setup, because the full rule suggests sectioning the image vertically as well and having something of interest near one of the line intersections.  I still say this shot fails to follow any of the basic composition guidelines I am aware of more than superficially.  From a purist standpoint, it's not a good composition.

 

As far as critiques, I just wanted to mention that I spent four years and graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology School of Photographic Arts and Sciences, a long time ago.  I don't think I've ever typed out that entire name.  I'm sure I sat through hundreds of crits, and sometimes they were a blood sport.  So, I'm plenty used to critical discussion.  I also know that if a student submitted this Adams image, it would have been applauded for its technical merits, but the composition would have been ripped to shreds.  Critiques are an excellent tool, but I've only been to a few since graduating.  Those were all at camera clubs who asked me to speak and I would hardly call them critiques.  Nobody really challenged anyone or had any defense for their decisions.  I hope you encourage your students to really challenge each other and defend their decisions.

 

As far as the cloud in my image, for good or bad, it's exactly where I wanted it to be.  I waited for it to emerge from behind the trees because I didn't want them together, but I kept it close to the trees because I really didn't want it too close to the edge of the image.


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#70 of 77 DavidJ

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Posted July 02 2014 - 06:41 PM

That's interesting, because I think the composition is quite strong in the Adams shot. And I understand that it doesn't fully adhere to the rule of thirds, which to this day is still one of my favorite guidelines for composition, but it does show deliberate organization of the picture elements within the fame.

In regards to the cloud, that's obviously your prerogative and by no means do I think it's bad. I do like the one with the edits better. It feels more balanced to me. This would be another area where we might be different though because that's a change I would not make to my shots. And I don't mean to imply that you shouldn't, I think that's a decision down to the individual photographer (as long as it's not an editorial image).

#71 of 77 JohnRice

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Posted July 02 2014 - 07:16 PM

As far as the "cheats", and there's a reason I call them that, almost my entire photography life was with film, and it wasn't entirely possible to do those things with film.  A lot of things are done digitally with images that, as far as I'm concerned, are the result of incredibly lazy photography.  I can't count the times I've heard "I can fix it on the computer" when it would have been much better to just not be so lazy and sloppy to begin with.  With something like this, it can't be changed prior to pushing the shutter.  Given that, and since these are very small fixes which have an enormous benefit to the image, I did it.  Allowing myself to do that and not beat myself up is actually a major accomplishment for me.  I can't fully convey how much I came to despise photography, primarily because of how this ability and other ones like it are so severely abused, in my opinion.

 

By the same token, I'm completely entranced with the capabilities of HDR, even though 98% of the stuff I see using the technique is absolute dreck.  Because of that, a lot of people trash the entire idea, but what a shame that is.  It is, without a doubt, the single most exciting capability that digital has brought to photography, even if most photographers use it to create garbage.  I think of all those years working with pull processing, spot meters, two bath developing, flashing (I bet nobody here knows that one), silver masks and how many other techniques, just trying to do what HDR allows.  It's a fabulous time for photography, even if so many entusiasts just push a button and then play on the computer.


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#72 of 77 DavidJ

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Posted July 02 2014 - 07:30 PM

John, I respect your point of view on "cheats." And I especially agree with your point regarding "lazy photography." That's one of the big reasons the course I teach is focused on getting it right in the camera. We talk some about post-processing techniques, but they turn in images straight from the camera for evaluation. I will occasionally pull them up in Lightroom to discuss framing using the cropping tools or exposure with the histogram.  Of course another reason is because there is only so much you can cover in a semester long course. 

 

I too love the capabilities of HDR. I don't have near your experience, but I do come from a film background and can appreciate what HDR allows us to do. I haven't done a lot of HDR, but when I do, I am trying to represent the scene as I experienced it and saw it. I avoid the extreme look. 



#73 of 77 DavidJ

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Posted July 02 2014 - 07:46 PM

I hope you encourage your students to really challenge each other and defend their decisions.

 

I read through this post earlier on my phone and I must have skimmed over this part. I teach several courses where critical critiques are integral to the learning process (for that matter our program and department uses critiques throughout). I'm sure students get tired of me saying "why?" but they also learn they have to justify their critiques and their decisions. With some students it can be hard to get them past "I like it," but I feel like we've gotten pretty good at it.  It is rewarding when as the semester goes on they start to hold each other accountable and ask the types of questions of each other that I'd like to see them ask. I'm trying to train thinking photographers. 

 

One of the books I have referenced from time to time as I initially prepared and as I refined my class is 

Teaching Photography: Tools for the Imaging Educator by Glenn Rand and Richard D. Zakia. Zakia is a graduate of RIT and taught there as well. Do you know him? 

#74 of 77 JohnRice

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Posted July 02 2014 - 09:29 PM

Yes, Dick Zakia was in charge of the science part of the photography school.  Optics and chemistry, as I recall.  I think he was an emeritus prof by the time I graduated.  Some of my other Profs...

 

View Camera Technique: Dr. Leslie Stroebel:  Who wrote several technical books with Dick Zakia

 

Colleagues: John Retallack

 

Uncensored Songs: for Sam Abrams  - Sam was a Lit prof, but an awesome educator and quite memorable.

 

Andrew Davidhazy - Who is well known in technical fields of photography like high-speed and circuit.


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#75 of 77 JohnRice

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Posted July 14 2014 - 08:44 PM

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I've been severe HDRing again.  After decades of spot metering and working within the dynamic range of different films, it's just fun to virtually remove that limitation.  Maybe the stuff is "good", maybe it isn't.  I don't care.  I'm having a good time playing in the extremes.

 

_DSC0763_tone_1k.jpg

 


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#76 of 77 Scott Merryfield

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Posted July 18 2014 - 09:21 AM

I like that last shot, John. I am a sucker for a good sunset shot. Wonderful cloud formations.



#77 of 77 JohnRice

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Posted July 18 2014 - 10:21 AM

Thanks Scott.

 

That shot and the B&W trees one have been the most divisive.  In general, enthusiasts have tended to bash both of them, but ordinary people absolutely love them.  I ended up doing probably 5 different HDR merges of this last sunset photo, since there's so much going on.  I'm happy with the final one (the one above is the first attempt) because I mellowed the clouds just a little bit, so they aren't so completely overwhelming.  I also brought the mountains out of the shadows a bit.

 

This has been interesting, since this is really an exercise for me to try and figure out why I came to despise something (photography) that I've always loved.  I really like both of those shots, and I hope that is a sign I'm learning to let go on the ruthless criticism I level on my own work.  I think both of those shots are very enjoyable, once I let go of my prejudices.

 

 

BTW, both the sunset shots in this thread were the same evening.  They're different lakes, believe it or not.  That was a productive hour of photography.


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