May 2011 Flickr Group Critique

Some of the images we'll discuss in this month's Flickr Group critique.

Some of the images we'll discuss in this month's Flickr Group critique.

[Editor’s Note: In attempt to initiate some meaningful and constructive conversation about the work of a group of photographers, each month I select some images that have been submitted during the previous month to The Discerning Photographer’s Flickr Group pool.  I’ll talk briefly about each photo that I selected and why, and then invite all of you to add your thoughts and comments. The hope is that we can develop a discussion that will help the chosen photographers grow as artists, much in the way an actual physical group critique would do, if we were all in the same room…DiscerningPhotog]

I have an interesting group of images chosen from the May submissions to The Discerning Photographer’s Flickr group pool. We might nickname this our ‘Landscape and Nature’ group, since all but two of the images are out in the natural world, and the two images that aren’t evoke organic shapes in their compositions as well. Let’s get started!

‘Trio’ by Ana Matos.

'Trio,' by Ana Matos.

'Trio,' by Ana Matos.

This is beautifully composed. Three stalks of wheat (or some other grain, I’m not sure) against a dark, moody out-of-focus sky. The placement of the stalks to the left of the frame works well, playing off the foreground/background relationship. I like the darkness to the whole bottom of the image; it adds weight and anchors the contrast with the wheat stalks. For me, the monochromatic nature of the image is fine—Ana, tell us how you achieved the toning? My main criticism is that I think there needs to be more details in the highlights—I don’t think it works to have them blown out like this.  Anybody else? Do you think this image works, or not? Like? Dislike?

‘Creature Deep,’ by Anish Sharma.

'Creature Deep,' by Anish Sharma.

'Creature Deep,' by Anish Sharma.

A simple image, but nicely done. The driftwood shape does indeed remind me of a ‘creature of the deep.’ The careful focus on the main element is key here, since more depth of field would ruin this, wouldn’t it? Also, the color is critical here: the yellowish warmth in the mossy bit on the top right of the form vibrates beautifully against the blue in the overall image, yellow and blue being roughly complementary colors. My criticism: I think there was an even better, more dramatic image to be had here! I would love to see the rest of the shoot. Maybe something even closer, maybe a bit wider on the focal length, down a bit lower? Not sure, just wish this had more compositional punch. Anish, tell us about shooting this photograph!  And what do the rest of  you guys think? Thoughts, ideas? How would you approach shooting this?


‘Mystify,’ by C.J. Schmidt.

'Mystify,' by C.J. Schmidt.  Made using a piece of welder's glass for neutral density.

'Mystify,' by C.J. Schmidt. Made using a piece of welder's glass for neutral density.

This is one of a series of images that C.J. has submitted with long ,long time exposures, using a piece of welder’s glass for neutral density. C.J., you get the prize of inventiveness here! Of course, those of you who follow The Discerning Photographer know about my own long-exposure journey, which is ongoing. I like this photograph. What do you guys think? We may need to all chip in and buy C.J. some ND filters though, since I notice on his Flickr page that the welder’s glass leaves lots of imperfections that have to be cloned out in Photoshop…

‘American Indian Museum in Washington, D.C.,’ by Elin M.

'American Indian Museum in Washington, D.C.,' by Elin M.

'American Indian Museum in Washington, D.C.,' by Elin M.

This detail from the American Indian Museum stroke a cord with me as soon as I saw it: I shot a similar image, although not as nice, when I was there last summer. (I had a hazy day and no nice blue sky; otherwise, Elin and I saw this very similarly.) The organic shapes in the design of this new museum on the Washington Mall are shown off beautifully here. I love the hint of a glow comeing through in a couple of spots. Here’s an idea though: could it be even stronger cropped? I’m thinking about a squarish vertical, coming in a bit from both sides…anybody think this would help, or hurt?

Two Wheat Field Versions, by Joe Chan.

Two versions of a wheat field from Joe Chan.

Two versions of a wheat field from Joe Chan.

Joe Chan submitted a couple of different versions of a wheat field before a storm, and I assembled two of them together to discuss them. The top image here is just so-so to me, but the bottom image is a keeper. Why? First of all, the tonalities. In the top image, the wheat is evenly exposed but flatly lit relative to the background sky. In the bottom example, there is drama in the wheat: dark and foreboding, with a three-dimensional quality that’s fantastic. The composition is also better in the bottom iamge, don’t you think? In the top shot, the wheat is just there, all over the place; in the bottom image, it divides across the frame as a strong element in tension with the sky…just my ideas, though…Joe, tell us about these two images! Do you like the top shot or agree with me? Anybody else have a thought?

‘Colors in Contrast, Looking Up Through Antelope Canyon,’ by Konstantin Nikolaev

'Colors in Contrast, Looking Up Through Antelope Canyon,' by Konstantin Nikolaev

'Colors in Contrast, Looking Up Through Antelope Canyon,' by Konstantin Nikolaev

This is a beautiful color study, and nicely composed. I’m reminded of the work of one of my chief influences, Eliot Porter, who put out a wonderful book from this area. Aren’t the colors amazing? Konstantin, was this a hiking trip? How hard was it to get to this location?

‘Untitled,’ by LostMuzak.

'Untitled,' by LostMuzak.

'Untitled,' by LostMuzak.

This scene has a strong, moody sense to it, don’t you all think? I’m not sure I like the blue toning though: is this by choice or something the camera picked, LostMuzak?

‘Main Street Bridge over Rum River in Anoka, Minnesota,’ by Slobo2010

'Main Street Bridge over Rum River in Anoka, Minnesota,' by Slobo2010

'Main Street Bridge over Rum River in Anoka, Minnesota,' by Slobo2010

It’s nice to see another photographer out working in the dark! There’s so much out there if you’re willing to go look…This image benefits from the orange/blue vibration that the colors set up, but I’m wondering if it would be better cropped in a bit from the right side? Say, right after the set of lights closest to the bridge? Just a thought, not sure really. It’s something I would play around with if this were my image.

‘The Vyne and the Macro Lens (2),’ by Tom Roberts

'The Vyne and the Macro Lens (2),' by Tom Roberts.

'The Vyne and the Macro Lens (2),' by Tom Roberts.

One last botanical rounds out my selections for this month. I love the warmth of the colors and the sense of rushing motion that I get, coming from bottom right: it feels like everything is blasting off from that area. I wish there were a bit more detail in the main focus point at the bottom right, but otherwise I like this photograph. Tell us about shooting it, Tom! What kind of ‘vynes’ are these?

OK, so that wraps up this month’s edition of The Discerning Photographer’s Flickr group pool. Please look these photos over and give us your thoughts! Remember, this only works when we start a conversation…I can talk to myself all day long, but that gets old fast!

Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog

Posted in: Inspire

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

16 Comments on "May 2011 Flickr Group Critique"

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  1. First off, thanks so much for selecting my image from Antelope Canyon.

    I flew out west with a friend of mine in late March to hike in the Grand Canyon; I only learned about Antelope Canyon a few months prior but made sure to include it as part of our trip. Traversing the canyon is really more of a walk than a hike – the ground is sandy and fairly level, and the canyon is only a couple hundred feet long end-to-end. The most difficult part of getting that shot was dealing with the hordes of people shimmying through the space (we went on a Saturday morning, and there were hundreds of others there, half of them with DSLRs of their own). If you go, bring a sturdy tripod (it’s fairly dark) and some patience, but it’ll definitely be worth it.

    Of the other photos, I really love the colors and subject matter in Anish’s Creature Deep, and I completely agree that greater depth of field would ruin it. However, I think that it would benefit from a more central composition (as well as a slight rotation so that the horizon’s not diagonal). I also bet that if you pull further out you can mimic the curve of the driftwood in a piece of shore or an incoming wave – really juxtaposing the elements to create a more tangible relationship between them.

    Also, the inclusion of the moon in Main Street Bridge is a wonderful detail. I would actually crop it from the left midway to the foot of the arch – there’s a lot of bridge there that isn’t serving any purpose.

    Truth be told, I find Mystify, The American Indian Museum, and the Wheat Field to be fairly boring. Mystify suffers from the same compositional problem that all beachside photos have – half pyramid of content that only takes up half of the frame, leaving the rest uneventful. The American Indian Museum could be really good but I feel like the curves don’t provide a sense of geometric resolution, instead just sort of going from right to left in a whirl. That museum is built in horizontal layers, and it would be good to see that architectural motif (rising from the ground, based on the horizontality of the ground plane) articulated in a photo. And the Wheat Field, despite a nice foreboding sky, just seems random.

    Obviously these are my subjective opinions so I’d love to know what others think.


  2. Thanks for taking the time to write such thoughtful comments, Konstantin…I’m not ‘bored’ by the examples you site, obviously, but that’s why we having this discussion. Thanks.

  3. CJ Schmit says:

    Thanks for once again including one of my photos in your monthly Critique, it’s always an honor!! Now if I could only get you to spell my last name right things would be perfect 😉 LOL. I plan on buying a ND filter later this year but for now I am having too much fun with the welding glass. I am learning how to work around the imperfections in the glass and even in a few make them work to my advantage. I posed a new one to my flickr account last week that I even left in color. Thanks again, it’s an honor to be included in such amazing work 🙂

  4. LostMuzak says:

    Hey Andrew,

    thank you very much for selecting my photo (the blue misty trees), it is an honor!

    Actually it is one of those images where I did very little pp (mostly cropping), so no tone alteration or similar stuff. I shot it in the morning, right in front of a spooky abandoned mansion so the moody, dark feel is very ‘real’ in here. One of my personal favorites because it works right from the camera output, without any tricks.

    My favorite of your selection happens to be ‘Creature Deep,’. A very simple yet crafty composed image. The special ingredient here is (as so often) the magic light on top of the creature, er I mean the tree stub.


  5. Tom Roberts says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for the critic!

    This happens to be my favorite shots with this lens (nikon 105 micro). I must admit though the title is a little mis-leading. This is a shot of a tulip taken at “The Vyne” which is a national trust garden just outside Basingstoke in the UK.

    You are absolutely right about the DOF of the picture as it is a little too shallow. This was my first real trip out with my macro lens. I hadn’t really accounted for the amount of wind that day so unfortunately had to keep the aperture quite large.

    I do love the thought and ingenuity of C.J’s shot as using the welding mask as an ND Grad. Brilliant idea.

    Thanks again


  6. OK, got it on your name. Sorry!

  7. Slobo2010 says:

    Thanks for including my bridge pic in the May 2011 Flickr Group Critique! It’s an honor to have my work selected from among the many fine photographs that were submitted to the Discerning Photographer last month. I’m grateful and humbled to appear alongside the other wonderful images chosen for review and comment.

    My comments on the other pics in the order that they appear:

    ‘Trio’ by Ana Matos. I love the dream-like quality of this one. It’s the type of picture I’m always drawn to, but never take. The moody quality of the sky and the softness in the wheat contributes to the overall impact of this one. I like it!

    ‘Creature Deep,’ by Anish Sharma. I always try to look for driftwood or interesting rocks in seascapes and am fascinated by the effect of weathering and erosion. Had I taken this I would have been well pleased but agree that a lower, wider view may be even more dramatic.

    ‘Mystify,’ by C.J. Schmit. As you said, C.J. wins the prize for innovation! This, and some other work I’ve seen lately has inspired me to try my hand at long exposures. Have you heard of “The Magic Cloth Technique”? Tony Prower, a Brit in Iceland that specializes in photographing auroras writes about it.

    ‘American Indian Museum in Washington, D.C.,’ by Elin M. Love architectural photography in all its aspects! I agree that a tight crop would give this one a more abstract look and more visual impact.

    Two Wheat Field Versions, by Joe Chan. I agree that the bottom picture is clearly superior. The clouds indicate an approaching storm and the dense composition of the wheat is superb! You can almost feel the wind as it rustles through this wheat field!

    ‘Colors in Contrast, Looking Up Through Antelope Canyon,’ by Konstantin Nikolaev. I’ve recently become aware of this location and hope to get there some day. Amazing geology and great composition. I know from others about the tricky lighting and the difficulty in getting a good vantage point out there. My only suggestion would be to tweak more shadow detail out of the rock on the left, if possible.

    ‘Untitled,’ by LostMuzak. This one could be on the cover of a gothic novel, or the next book by Stephen King. The blue toning works for me.

    ‘The Vyne and the Macro Lens (2),’ by Tom Roberts. Looks like energy bursting forth from right to left and from darkness to light. The background contributes mightily to the sense of movement.

    And finally . . . ‘Main Street Bridge over Rum River in Anoka, Minnesota,’ by Slobo2010. I agree that the comp could benefit by a tighter cropping on the right. Why didn’t I think of that? Thanks.

  8. Ana Matos says:

    Hi to all 😉

    About my photo “trio” and trying to answer Andrew the highlights for me, in this case, give more shiny to the wheat, the bokeh it´s like that because it was a result not of the sky but of a big tree (in this case the part of the leaves) at a long distance. The toning was achieved by choosing one of four split toning of LR3 presets, the dark parts are natural because of shadows created by foliage on that field. I must say that despite of not being a SOOC photo it was a case of a photo not saved by edition but enhanced by edition.

    Creature Deep – I´m not sure if from another perspectives the “creature” would appear so I´m not going further here but it was a good eye catch.

    Mystify – C.J. has great photos but sincerely I would love to see his opinion here in relation to the other photos.

    Wheat Field Versions – Maybe they were not random but they are very simple and are labeled random, to step way from this it needs more: or edition, or other perspectives, or simplicity, etc… the 2nd has more drama maybe but I guess it´s not enough.

    ‘Untitled,’ by LostMuzak – The scenario with that tone I would prefer to see another type of approach, the low angle to me was not enough.

    Main Street Bridge over Rum River in Anoka, Minnesota – A crop to the right yes, but then what would be the main subject in this photo? Only the architecture of the bridge?

    The Vyne and the Macro Lens (2) – If Tom said it was his 1st time with a macro lens it´s understandable that the photo is not 100% 😉

    This is my own and only opinion 😉 greetings to all.

  9. Marco Fiori says:

    As always a wonderful selection and sound analysis and advice. My favourite is ‘American Indian Museum in Washington, D.C.,’ by Elin M. It’s interesting lines and in particular, a nice tone. Plenty of tips to take away for my own photography.

  10. Enivea says:

    I appreciate the diversity of this collection of images Andrew, and the thoughtful critiques. I instantly preferred the second version of the wheat field by Joe Chan, and the discussion then explained to me the why – this helps me to learn enormously.
    Of them all, the one I’d like to have hanging on my wall, is The Vyne an the Macro Lens by Tom Roberts.

  11. Anish Sharma says:

    Thanks for the feedback and privilege to be critiqued. The shot was taken at hot water beach which is a very popular tourist destination so there were people everywhere (even on a cold overcast day) making it difficult to spend too much time taking this shot. I took some wide shots but that left the driftwood out of place as the water overwhelmed the image. The stream on the right gets bigger and takes focus away from the driftwood. A different choice of lens could have helped but i was too worried about changing lenses in the salty sea air. Without changing the perspective, a lower point of view could have been interesting and i would certainly try it out next time. An articulating screen would have been helpful to pull it off as i was already an inch off the ground and almost shooting blind.

  12. CJ Schmit says:

    Sorry didn’t have much time to write yesterday but wanted to give a quick thanks for mine being posted. Now for the rest…..

    “Trio” This is my favorite of all the photos here. It’s simple, love the composition and the toning of the image just makes it pop. I love playing with different tones and I think that is part of the reason I really love this one. Not a tone you see very often.

    “Creature Deep” Old trees have tons of character and the perspective this one was taken in really makes it work well, especially with the shallow DoF. Only thing I would change is the horizon seems a tad off but other than that this one really looks good!!

    “American Indian Museum in Washington, D.C” Love the lines here, Architectural work is my second fav next to landscape and this one is very well done. This image makes you take some time to look at all the details.

    ” Wheat Field” This one has some super details in the wheat and I love that. Against the dark sky they really pop out, well done.

    “Colors in Contrast, Looking Up Through Antelope Canyon” I like this one, canyon shots to me are always very beautiful maybe because I don’t leave near any 🙂 I like how your eyes just work their way up from the shadows up to the light at the top.

    “Untitled” Dark and gloomy, makes me think of a morning in late fall. Can almost feel the cold come off this one. Maybe a tad less blue tone but really even the way it is works very well.

    “Main Street Bridge over Rum River in Anoka, Minnesota” I like it, night work is always great stuff!! I love that the moon made it in this shot. The only thing for me with this one is the focal point seems to be the bridge on the left but my eyes want to focus on the right side of the image where it is out of focus due to DoF. Not a bad thing, just saying my eyes want to go right rather then left with this one.

    “‘The Vyne and the Macro Lens (2)” Macro work always amazes me and this one is no different. Love how the center of the flower just seems to pop out. The yellow color here is very calming too. Overall very beautiful.

  13. Maria says:

    My personal favorites are “Trio” and “Mystify”. For Trio I think it is the cold colors that does it and with Mystify I think it is the fog (??) on the water. But all are great shots.


  14. To everyone who has taken the time to comment, THANKS SO MUCH! I feel like our monthly ‘critique’ is starting to work: people are really starting to analyze the images and write something meaningful that will help each particular photographer grow as an artist. Well done!

  15. Albin says:

    Really enjoyable and by and large I agree with your comments. I’d say, however, on the Museum that cropping left/right to square would hurt the sky contrast and the nice following of the curve on the lower section of the building. One of the great things about shooting architecture is the radical variety of alternatives a building gives to “capture” it, and I think this is a fine capture. On the wheat, I think the first image stresses the vertical and the second the horizontal. With that in mind, I think they’re both quite good at what they do.

  16. joe chan says:

    Thank you Andrew for viewing so many photos posted, choosing and then making comments on some that you have chosen. Personally, as a photographer, it is always gratifying that someone has taken notice of your work. All comments are always appreciated. A critique from a season pair of eyes always gives me a viewpoint that I may not have consider, making me a better photographer. I find it a great honor to be included in the discussion among such great photographers. The body of work that was chosen this month is a joy to view and evaluate.

    Thanks again!


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