[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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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