Critique this photo!
Old 02-14-2018   #1
retinax
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Critique this photo!

Hi folks,
inspired by recent discussion, I'd like to put a picture up for critique. For me to improve and for everyone to try what's been discussed. This is one I'm not sure about myself, so I won't be too hurt if it gets torn apart. All aspects are fair game. You can be blunt, but please be constructive. You can also talk about the things depicted of course, that's not what I'm primarily interested in though. I'll tell you later where it was taken if someone whats to know, for now I'd rather let the image speak.
I agree with those who said we need to have an idea of the photographer's intentions. This was a quick snap though, not much thought put into it, I wanted to move on because staring and shooting into people's doorways isn't always well received. Later this image, together with quite a few others from that walk, stood out to me. I like the different shapes, materials and surfaces, and I like doorways in general, the allusion to going inside or coming out of somewhere easily evokes an emotional response in me. Roger Hicks has written something on this on his website. OTOH it's very cliche.
It could become part of a series on doorways or on the place where it was taken, but so far I haven't put anything together, so it'll have to stand for itself.
I'm conflicted about the scooters on the foreground. They don't fit very well with the composition or the romanticism of the old building and materials. But I'm not interested in pictures of a staged past either. I like it when the history of stuff shows thorough in everyday life, what's shaped peoples lives and has been shaped people, becomes part of an aesthetically appealing whole.
As I said, I'm not sure about this one. I know several things I'd improve if I were to go back and take another picture of this scene. But let's talk about what's there.
What do you think?
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Old 02-14-2018   #2
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My first reaction is that I wish there was a person in the bright doorway in the background. Right now my eyes don’t have anywhere to ‘rest’ and seem to be wandering all over the photo. No real focal point, and just seems to be a jumble of stuff. What did you see in this scene that compelled you to take the photo?
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Old 02-14-2018   #3
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Thanks, Vince. I didn't make it that clear in the original post because I thought it might constrain what others see, but whatever... The main subject for me are the different arches. I see 4 of different materials, and visually speaking, 6.
I agree, a person in the frame would be great in a way, but would make it a whole different sort of picture. I agree it's messy. I tried to somewhat mitigate that by leaving the foreground very dark.
My take-away from your post is, to make the best of this capture, crop it tighter.
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Old 02-14-2018   #4
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Congratulations for putting up your picture! I hope this will garner further interest in 'photo' instead of 'gear' interactions on RFF. My thoughts: the picture lacks a specific point of interest and appears to be rather bland with nothing specific catching my attention. The motorbikes are not very well framed and -as the rest of the foreground, underexposed which leaves me wondering why they are in the shot at all. Cheers, Peter
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Old 02-14-2018   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by retinax View Post
Thanks, Vince. I didn't make it that clear in the original post because I thought it might constrain what others see, but whatever... The main subject for me are the different arches. I see 4 of different materials, and visually speaking, 6.
I agree, a person in the frame would be great in a way, but would make it a whole different sort of picture. I agree it's messy. I tried to somewhat mitigate that by leaving the foreground very dark.
My take-away from your post is, to make the best of this capture, crop it tighter.
While I do see the arches, my eyes are wandering around all the other stuff that's in the photo, so here again there isn't a place for my eyes to rest. As Peter noted, there isn't a specific point of interest.

Usually if I'm shooting a scene that doesn't have people in it, I'm always looking for that relationship between the elements -- how does this thing here relate to that thing there? Could be a mirroring, a contrast, some humour, metaphor, ying/yang or something that creates some kind of dialogue between the elements. I'm not really seeing that in this particular shot -- I think there are too many other things going on in the shot beyond the arches that are hindering my ability to visually 'connect the dots', if that makes sense.

I recall having read something that a viewer wrote in a 'comments' book at a group photo exhibition about 25 years ago, and it always stuck with me (and because I had some photos in that show too, it was even more memorable!): "Photographers, like sculptors, should strive to remove what is not necessary."
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Old 02-14-2018   #6
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Quote:
Critique this photo!
....
What do you think?
I only read these two lines and looked at the photo. This allowed me to look at the photo as at the photo.

You cut the wheel. But I'm not sure if it would make any difference.
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Old 02-14-2018   #7
helenhill
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Though I never crop ... sometimes it is a worthwhile endeavour
Just keep the moody dark doorway
and crop the other light wood-wall section off

Would draw me in more as a Viewer...
Makes One appreciate the dark moody atmosphere with the beautiful light emanating in the distance
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Old 02-14-2018   #8
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Not sure that I'd agree with the 'necessity' of a central subject that others seem to want. I think it is quite possible to make images where everything is relatively evenly weighted. Walker Evans, Steven Shore, Linda Connors come to mind.

If there is anything missing for me in the OP's image it's some sort of structure. Both in graphics and subject. Maybe if each area was processed more to stand on its own, see it as 4 or 5 images collaged together.
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Old 02-14-2018   #9
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The first thing that I noticed was lots of vertical lines and I felt that the stone floor drew me towards the planks against the wall in the light. I feel that it would be stronger as part as a series of images as a study of a particular person/place for example.

Thanks for posting it
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Old 02-14-2018   #10
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Thanks for asking for critique.
I like to first take the whole thing in, not examine too many details.
I like pictures like this, I call them wrecks. Arches, doorways, signs of life, signs of use. The building is still of use.
Like it!
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Old 02-14-2018   #11
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I'm an observational sort of person, so all the clutter is interesting to me, giving clues to the fact that this place may actually be inhabited, and is not just a junk pile. I'm not looking at this as a pretty picture, but as a real depiction of the moment.

That said, the perfectionist in me wants it to have been properly exposed (or at least given some more contrast), and the verticals fixed. But those are just technical issues which only slightly detract from the message I get from the image.

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Old 02-14-2018   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Wijninga View Post
Congratulations for putting up your picture! I hope this will garner further interest in 'photo' instead of 'gear' interactions on RFF. My thoughts: the picture lacks a specific point of interest and appears to be rather bland with nothing specific catching my attention. The motorbikes are not very well framed and -as the rest of the foreground, underexposed which leaves me wondering why they are in the shot at all. Cheers, Peter
I kind of agree with this comment.

The planks in sunlight do draw you into the photo, but aren't very interesting in themselves.
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Old 02-14-2018   #13
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There are elements here which make me understand why you were interested in the initial capture but the end result doesn't depict an 'investigation' with your eye (or camera). It feels rushed, not fully considered. How much time did you spend seeking out various compositions?
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Old 02-14-2018   #14
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First, I thought the pic could do with cropping out the light 'doorway' thing on the right, but having looked at what's in that 'room' I think it should be left in as it suggests occupation.

I now think that you should go back with a slightly more wide angle lens and include the bottom of that 'door'-frame, as there may be stuff there that hleps with the 'story', or at least the bottom of the scooters, as they are also part of the story of the 'occupation'.
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Old 02-14-2018   #15
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I like it because it brings up a lot of questions in my mind about who lives there, what all their stuff is doing just sitting around, etc. But I do agree, I'd like to see more detail in the shadow areas that might answer those earlier questions for me - bringing out the details I think would make the foreground a lot more interesting. And, of course, there is the lack of a single point of reference - i.e. a person. I did see the multiple internal framing right off, something I'm always chasing myself, so the lack of a person in the back might not bother me as much as it would someone else. My eyes went straight to the highlight area as a center of focus, then wandered around to the rest of the "junk" at the sides.
Nicely done and thanks for posting
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Old 02-14-2018   #16
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I like this kind of semi-dystopian looking photos. This is the thing I try to photo when walking around in old towns in different cities in different countries. It is difficult to have the photo in a mainstream-y way of good looking unless you are lucky to have a neat scene, or you can tryhard to either find a good spot to shoot or to crop the image after you take the shot. Sometimes it's impossible to do either.

To get a better image to my taste, the wooden door thingy on the right should be removed or bypassed by standing at a different spot. But as I said above, it can be impossible to do it.
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Old 02-14-2018   #17
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This is an interesting photo for me, and an interesting discussion, because these are the types of things that I am drawn to photograph as well.

I like the archways and I noticed them immediately as this was what drew me in in the first place. But for me the purpose of the archways is to lead me into the photo. The dark foreground moving through the arches to the bright area in the doorway is exactly where my eye wants to travel.

Unfortunately that is where this ends for me. I am expecting to see something more intriguing in the doorway than some assorted boards leaning against the wall and it isn't there.

The extra clutter on the right now becomes a distraction and once my eye sees nothing interesting in the doorway it is drawn into this jumble trying to figure out why this was included. Again, nothing there and now the dark foreground is working against me.

To make my evaluation short, this is just the type of composition that I can see HC Bresson using in one of his photographs. He loved to use shapes, lines and other structures to lead your eye into the photo towards a focal point. In this case he probably would have waited for something to happen in the doorway and then would have taken the photo.

Go find a model, give him a saw and a sawhorse, and have him start sawing one of those boards in that doorway. Then everything else works. Without something like that the composition has potential but will never be complete.

Just my opinion of course.
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Old 02-14-2018   #18
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The first thing that comes up for me is that this image does not stand well on it's own.
As part of a series it shows how things look in this place...yet, lacking a central subject, it needs support.

As for the composition, If you had the chance, I would suggest taking a step or two back to include more of the arch structure on the rh side to complete the repeating arches theme.
A wider view would give some distance that could balance the entire scene.

I like the moodiness and grit your exposure and development provide very much.
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Old 02-14-2018   #19
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My eyes zeroed right in on the bright doorway.

Maybe it's my monitor here, but there seems to be quite a bit of mottling in the shadows. Maybe a wee bit underexposed? Perhaps you're just pushing the dynamic range here? Again, hard to tell on the monitor here, but it looks like the floor/ground outside the door may be smashed up against the white level?

Is this a scan of a negative or a scan of a print?

Actually, it looks like a scene I might shoot.
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Old 02-14-2018   #20
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Thank for posting a photo and asking for our opinion.

I think it's true what already said that there is not a specific point of interest. But...I am also attracted by this kind od scene with just a mess, a confusion in the frame and I can understand your interest in this subject.

I think pointing the camera a little bit down the two scooter will be in a better position in the frame, a small detail which can improve the image. A small rotation to the left in order to make the bright pole vertical (being bright the eye goes soon there) would also be an improvement. These two points will make a more pleasant framing/composition.

I'm not sure but probably some dodging and burning could be tried, making a smoother transition among the arches (maybe just me but I find the second arch too dark and the contrast with the bright area interesting but somehow too strong).

What I find very interesting in your photo is that we have almost a diptych : one square part on the left side with the environment and a vertical rectangle on the right side with a few different objects. Both elements tell us something about who lives there.

Not an easy subject but worthwhile to study thanks again for posting.

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Old 02-14-2018   #21
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Thank you all for the critique! Nearly all constructive and useful. I'm glad a few more positive comments have come up later on, some understand where I was going with this.

I'll reply to some points that have been brought up all in one post:

I'm a bit baffled by the judgmental wording some employ. You may not want your yard to look like this, but that doesn't make these things "junk". Does your home look like pictures from a furniture catalog by any chance? I expected otherwise from a forum where many enjoy using old cameras that are "junk" to the general public. I believe this place and the things in it are in use.

This was a quick snap, I didn't spend enough time composing it and it shows. I can't go back soon unfortunately, it's on a different continent.
I realized a didn't mention that I very much like to see this and most of my pictures as an abstract picture even though it's representational as well. Or think of it as an architectural - still life hybrid. So the lack of a central object of interest or a person doesn't bother me per se, but I understand where these comments come from.
Some have suggested removing the wooden door thing on the right, I've tried and it doesn't work for me. That adds a lot of what interests me in this scene.

The exposure is optimal actually, this was digital and it's exposed to the right. The scene just has huge DR and that camera doesn't. Anyway if I bring up the shadows more, there will be even less contrast in important parts. I don't like to use much local contrast enhancement (clarity), it looks very bad to me.

Soooo. To make the best of what I have, I've tried to go a different way and burned quite a bit of the foreground digitally to get a cleaner composition, and cropped a bit differently. I've also tried some tighter crops that also work alright. I think this version is a better image than the first post, and shows more what I like about the scene.
Thank you all for working on that with me. Please continue the critique on this draft version at better post processing:


Last edited by retinax : 02-14-2018 at 12:27. Reason: errors..
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Old 02-14-2018   #22
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I rate the original as an interesting well taken photo and the clutter for me is what makes it interesting. I pick through it visually in the same I would if I was there. I also like the texture of the bricks and see them as the main feature ... not the lit area because there is nothing really there that interests or draws me.

Your remake has no appeal for me because it removes what made the photo interesting for me in the first place and it suffers from the effect of having seen the original ... "what is seen can't be unseen."

Overall I like it and like the tones and exposure ... it's the sort of photo I would take myself of such a scene.

I hope my comments have been helpful.
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Old 02-14-2018   #23
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Great photo. I like your reworked image better. What worked for me in the first image is further reinforced in the second: I like the division of the scene in three zones -dark tones in the foreground, spot-on exposure in the middle area, and slight overexposure after the last gate. Should be used as a test subject for DR :P

I cannot tell where the area of sharpest focus fall. I wish it were at the brick wall of the inner courtyard, but it does not seem to be.
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Old 02-14-2018   #24
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Thank you for your critique of the critiques. I think it is worthwhile for the commenters to gets some feedback on how there own critique came across.
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Old 02-14-2018   #25
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Ok, just because it might be interesting to look at, here come a few more ways to crop it. I still prefer the previous crop I think, which one do you like?
I might also attempt burning out only a few foreground objects I don't like but leaving most in place... later.
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Old 02-14-2018   #26
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Old 02-14-2018   #27
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LOL

[and a couple more characters]
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Old 02-14-2018   #28
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Of the new ones, I like the middle crop (with the light vertical beam in the middle) the best. The third one I think suffers the most from not having a figure of interest in the light. The other two seem to be aiming for having the interest of all the arches (left and right) as well as the change in light. To me they both feel a bit unbalanced given the dual "points of interest" and I'd probably go for something in between, maybe more like below.



I think the original image could work too but due to the foreground detail I don't think that cropping it so would work as well and you'd want to change the framing or field of view to get a similar balance (if you could easily get back there of course). Also, it may be stronger in a group of images about interesting openings.
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Old 02-15-2018   #29
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Retinax, I want to thank you very much for opening up a thread specifically for critiques.

However, I have a problem, right now, finding the time to provide useful responses. That's because, a) I have toooo many assignments and exams to mark!
And b) I'm still so excited about finally being able to post my pix on RFF, tho' putting a second one in The Gallery is driving me nuts - a wee .jpeg is taking very long.
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