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Charles River - critiques welcomed!

Discussion in 'Landscapes, Architecture, and Cityscapes' started by BostonRott, Aug 3, 2007.

  1. I'm trying to learn how to shoot landscapes and took a short hike to the Charles River today. Here are three shots, I'd love to hear suggestions/comments/critiques! :smile:

    These were shot hand-held with D200 and 28-70mm lens.

    View #1
    I liked the "triangular multi-trunk" tree in the center of the photograph, and wanted to try to capture tree and reflection as something of interest in the general landscape view.

    Is the overall shot too wide? Boring?
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    View #2
    The Charles is over-run with these lovely purple flowers right now. I wanted to try to capture the flowers and their reflection. Felt that a portrait shot just didn't look right, but also feel that this is too wide and there's no detail in the flowers. Like it? Hate it?
    View attachment 109441

    View #3
    Different location on the river. Wanted to try to use the near flowers to frame the rest of the shot. Not sure this really worked. Tried several different angles/levels and just wasn't seeing it. Comments appreciated.
    View attachment 109442
  2. Lowolf


    Jan 26, 2006
    view 2 works for me
  3. yamo


    Jun 28, 2007
    Santa Cruz, CA

    Greetings. Some comments:

    View #1: Nice pastoral feel. Not apparent subject of image, especially if the central tree is the intended subject (trunk is all shadow, foliage blends with the rest of the greenery).

    View #2: Nice depth to this image. Subject (where the eye is drawn) seems to be central bright yellow green grass.

    View #3: Washed out. Needs levels/curves adjustment. Flowers seem too spread out to be coherent subject. Perhaps a better to open up aperture limit DOF.

    Some thoughts... your mileage may vary.


  4. Gretchen,

    I hope "comments" includes opinions, because there are few "rules" chiseled in stone which can't be broken to fulfill an artistic statement.

    In image #1, I personally like the subject, but not the cropping. I think the mirrored tree you chose to center would have looked more "anchored" had it been on the 1/3 line to the left of center. Otherwise, it is a beautiful image.

    The second image is quite nice................once again, only in my opinion.

    The third leaves me a little cold. I find myself wishing the flowers in the front were a little more saturated and the background a little more out of focus to bring more attention to the foreground. Other eyes might disagree. (Ain't subjective art KOOL?):biggrin:

    There are lots of good books on Landscape Photography, and most any you purchase will give closely related comments on the same type of subjects. The main thing is to keep shooting. Personally, I can't shoot birds worth a darn....................because I don't do it often and haven't read about all the "tricks of the trade", so to speak. The more landscapes you shoot, the more you'll improve. I started shooting landscape photography in the mid-60's. My "teacher" was National Geographic Magazine. Tried to emulate as many of the pictures as I could. Can't think of a better example of landscape photography. Made a good living for 27 years with that type photography. (well, as good as most artists make!):wink:
  5. Lowolf, thank you!

    I did these on my calibrated monitor, and they all looked a bit better (with respect to curves/"washed out") on that PC then they do on this one (uncalibrated laptop). Hmmm.........may be time to re-calibrate the monitor! :smile:

    I agree, #3 just wasn't working for me. I was trying to use the foreground flowers as a frame, but just couldn't make it work.


    Thank you for your comments. I agree with you on the cropping in #1, I will go back and try that again. I've been trying (lately) to use the 8x10 aspect ratio when cropping (vs. unrestricted), so that if I do decide to print, things require no further adjustment. Sometimes this leaves things not as I really want them, but as they will print. With that shot, I do have room still on the right in the full sized image, I'll see if I can't get that multi-trunked tree over to the left 1/3rd line. :smile:

    I do have Tim Fitzharris's book on landscape work, and am reading through it (along with Understanding Exposure and Developing a Creative Eye). I feel that we have so few real landscapes around here (especially compared to the beauty out west) that it's frustrating to me as a novice. I'm working on it though and hopefully improve with practice and constructive criticism. Thanks for your help! :smile:
  6. Gretchen,

    99% of my professional work was shot with 2 1/4x 2 1/4 and 4x5/5x7 formats. Most of my prints were in the 8 x 10 format, printed from 24x30 all the way up to 4 foot by 5 foot. So it has taken me a long time to get used to this strange (to me) rectangle. Even when I shot wide angle, it was in a 6 x 12 and 6 x18 format. So I can certainly relate to the difficulties you are having going the other direction. When I shoot now, I have to be aware of what format I want to preserve the image.

    Tim's book is a good one..............but there are lots of others equally as good. There are also some really good landscape photographers here on the site....................some who haven't been shooting all their lives, either. I won't name names for fear I'd leave someone out, but there are a lot of really talented photographers here who shoot a lot of landscape.
  7. Gretchen--kudos for trying and being bold enough to ask for C&C!
    I agree with what's been said about #1--it applies to so much of my work too! I see something that capture my fancy, but then I fail to work it down to a simple, focused subject.
    #2 works for me--sometimes showing only the reflection makes for a stronger picture, and maybe a ND grad on the sunlight portion would even up the scene. I do like the dark corners as you have them--so maybe ND is not the answer.
    #3 is a neat attempt at foreground framing, but with no apparent background subject.
    I find that shooting on home territory is the most difficulty and intimidating place on earth!
    Keep up the great work, questions and comments--you inspire all of us!!
  8. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Gretchen :

    Hurm. Critique, eh ?

    Well, OK. I'll offer you a direct and to the point series of comments.

    I'd suggest getting much closer to ground level for these kinds of photos, especially in Shots 1 and 2. Both of these shots could have benefited from a lower perspective. You could consider using more of the "near-far" approach to landscape and scenery shots. You'll see this discussed in various forms, but essentially, a large portion of the landscape/scenery photo is within a short distance of the photographer. This gives a sense of distance and proportion. Using the near-far approach with a lower camera position provides a sweeping view that usually gives the viewer that sense of "Aaah !"

    Now, near-far approaches, like any "rule" are meant to be broken, but to be broken consciously, and with a plan in mind. Where I find my landscape shots failing is when I just blaze away without thought to the lines of the photograph, the various elements and how they coordinate together (or horribly clash - that's another approach to use, again, consciously !).

    Then, as the next comment for you, I'd suggest either backing up several steps, or zooming out (if it's a WA zoom) to maybe 20mm. The first two shots didn't capture enough of the reflection to work for me as you perhaps intended. Look at the top and bottom of the second photo - are the flowers holding enough space to anchor the shot as an element ? Are they too small or too large ? Do you want the colour as a block element, or the flowers as individual parts of the block ? Is the reflection something that's going to be a dominant or subordinate element or balanced with the shore subjects ?

    Put more simply... What do you want this image to be for the viewer ?

    Which brings me to the next issue. Portrait vs. landscape mode for this kind of shooting. We all tend to think about the grand landscape or scenery shots as being done landscape mode, but some of the most dramatic photos of this type have been vertically oriented. Think about Adam's often imitated Monolith, and ask yourself, "How would this look in landscape orientation ?"

    In shot 1, you could have shot this vertically, closer focus to the tree of interest, still captured the subject and reflection, and possibly had a more powerful composition. Personally, I'd have shot from another vantage point, but perhaps one wasn't available. In that case, I'd have tried several different positions (low again as one of them), and maybe changed over to a longer piece of glass to get the image closer to what I wanted.

    In shot 3, aside from the exposure issues (we can discuss those at another time if you wish), I'd again ask you what you planned or wanted from this image. Was it to get the closer flowers with a water background, the flowers with the opposing shore's blooms as backdrop, a feeling of flowers in an endless carpet than almost transcended the water ? The plan for the shot would tell me what to offer critique upon, and more to the point, allow you to better self-critique your own work.

    For the most part, when I shoot static scenes, as very much compared with my wildlife shooting "of the moment", I try to think through what I want to achieve. Sometimes, I get images I didn't plan for, but then I can say, "Wowee... Neat stuff ! And now I know how to get that effect." When the shots flop (and for some odd reason, I never post the plethora of images that I take that truly suck :confused:  :rolleyes: ), I can think back to what I did, and then say, "Aha ! Well, I won't do that again !!!"

    Of course, not as much of this applies to street-shooting or photos of the moment, like when your daughter decides to kiss a goat or something. But even then, having the way you shoot in a hurry thought through can allow you to capture more of those fleeting instants with the camera.

    Even the best photos we take offer a lot of good lessons. It's said that it anyone can learn from failure, but that learning from success takes real discipline, and man-o-man, I'm a good example of needing to pay more attention to that, instead of patting myself on the back for hours... :wink:

    One of the things that I've been trying to do when I shoot with other people is to ask them why they shoot certain ways, and a lot less of "that's a neat lens" kinda stuff (I still do that, of course, but I'm trying to be better). I can buy new glass or camera bodies, but I can't buy a new brain. To that end, I also read books like Adams' Examples Making 40 Photos or various other photographers whose works I want to learn from. I have no interest in trying to duplicate Adams, Cartier-Bresson, or Rowell's photography -- for me, that's like wanting to be the best lip-synch imitator of a famous singer... blechhh... -- but I do think that I can learn more about how to better plan and execute my photographs from far more experienced and talented photographers.

    Good start on these, Gretchen -- by being strong and tough enough to ask for critique you're placing yourself on a road paved with many interesting moments at the camera (and one or two frustrating ones, to be sure). I'm not sure if this was the critique you were seeking, though. PM me if you feel like it, and we can chat over the 'phone sometime where I can offer comments more focused (pun intended) to what you're looking for. :biggrin:

    John P.
  9. Gretchen

    I find landscape photography a challenge! One which I enjoy mind you, however one where I find myself continuously looking for opportunities. Not just opportunities for whole shots, but looking for sub elements (mist, water reflections, interesting perspectives, nice cloudy skies, etc....) that I might combine with other elements to get the shot I am hoping for.

    The key to me thought is the subject itself! Adding nice elements to improve the image is the next step, but I think you really need to start with an interesting or compelling subject.

    Finding one(s) is the challenge and going to a place where there are lots of nice sub elements may work, if you can put them together but frequently I find this is not possible (for me that is). Your shots in this thread remind me very much of a neat hiking trail beside a small river not far from my home and I have tried so many times to get good shots there.... to no avail! I did get one by virtue of how the land is fashioned, that is not bad, but no winner really. Here it is:

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    So what's the secret? I think it's about setting yourself a challenge to find something subconsciously if you will, 24 hours a day. Once you find it you can think about the best angles, time of day, weather conditions, etc....

    I believe many good photographers travel significant distances to find good sites and I truly believe that some of the more gifted of us (not me) can actually see things closer to home. Usually things that most of us miss and yet they still fashion great shots.

    Of course looking at lots of others' landscape images can give us all good ideas that we can build upon, so this may be another good way to start out on your landscape journey.

    Good luck and have fun!

    BTW those pretty purple plants look like "Purple Loose-Strife" a non native species that is taking over from many indigenous plants.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 4, 2007
  10. John P,
    You have managed to say a lot of what I was thinking, and have read, but somehow I fail to remember and verbalize. Thanks for the lessons, and to Gretchen for the opportunity for us all to learn!
  11. That is an excellent piece of advice, and is something I will remember/use in the future (along with near-far). Thank you! :smile:

    In this particular instance, both of these were shot from the same location and that particular spot does not offer the ability to get low. If you look to Dan's post and see the pitch of the slope from the tree straight down to the river, that's about what I was standing on (about a 45 degree slope, covered in loose rocks/gravel). The path itself was literally one body wide, with poison ivy encroaching in from both sides.

    I had hoped to get the reflections with the glass-smooth water that was there. However, a certain two yr old (with a heck of an arm!) was enjoying tossing good-sized rocks into the water. :redface:

    I think that's what I did. Wanted to just capture that purple loose strife (thanks Dan!), and went to a location where I knew I could get right to the water. However, I didn't think about any of the elements (and haven't read far enough through Fitzharris's book to study them yet........that's next on the list!).

    These were shot with the 28-70, but I do have the 12-24 so that would be quite feasible.

    I do have larger originals, and will try re-cropping. I had told Elements to use the 8x10 aspect ratio, and that was the best I could fit of flowers/reflection with that ratio. If I get rid of the ratio, and tell it "no restriction," it may look better. :smile:

    Holy cow, not sure I even know the answers to most of those questions! :eek: :smile: Certainly I've never thought through a photo like that, and that in itself is a huge learning point for me, thank you! :smile:

    I liked the purple, that's what I was trying to photograph. I wanted to include the reflection. I do wish there had been more of it in the area, but there wasn't and I couldn't change position within that section of river.

    I thought of that while shooting, and do have a vertical of that tree but it's not worth wasting space with. I didn't like it, felt it was boring. Didn't capture enough of the reflection and the tree was too high in the shot. Just didn't like it. Guess I don't feel the tree in itself is that interesting, it was just a neat focal point within the photograph.....something for the eye to pause on. Does that make any sense?

    Is this somewhere that you'd use a grad ND? I spot metered the close flowers and obviously blew out the background. It is RAW, so I could adjust it more, but tried to stay close to what I had shot.

    I had wanted to use the flowers in the foreground as a frame, and the rest as a background. Beyond that, I didn't think it through any further. In looking at your questions, I wonder if I just don't have the creative mind necessary to plan out landscapes? I've never thought of things in the way you phrase them below. :frown:

    To add to this heresay, I'll also tell you that I find art museums and paintings/sculpture to be infinitely uninteresting. I admire people's skill/ability to create such works (as certainly I have zero talent or ability to do the same), but I don't get excited about them, don't feel any of the emotion that I do get from photographs. I often wonder if my brain is simply too stuck in "science/math" mode. :redface:

    I've seen some of the great masters' work, and if I never saw another Renoir or Van Gogh again, I wouldn't care. But I'll take any chance I can get to look at Ansel Adams' work.

    I think this is where I need the most work. I can rough out an idea, but to put all the specifics and details in seems to be where I fail miserably and that is certainly reflected in the photos themselves. :smile:

    Since I always shoot without other adults around, I'll have to work on asking myself that! :smile: It may well make me concentrate more on what I want to capture and how I'd like to portray it.

    Completely agreed!!

    Your insight and provacative questions are very much appreciated (as well as your time), thank you John!! :smile: I have found in life that one of the best tools for learning is critique from others. And yes, learning from success (to be able to look back and specifically define why something worked and what critical element/process would cause it to fail, were it not there) is sometimes more difficult. :smile:
  12. Gretchen, One more thing to add. For myself, I find shooting a scene like this works best very, very early in the morning, late evening or when it is overcast. You dont get as much harsh or uneven light. You did a good job of not including the sky in 2 and 3 and 1 could benefit from not as much sky.
  13. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Gretchen :

    Poison ivy ? I'd rather get absurdly close to a cottonmouth snake (not that I'd ever do that ! :wink: Watch...)

    Yup. Goes with the trade. I was trying to get photos recently of a heron with reflection, but some kids were throwing rocks at the heron (encouraged, of all things, by their ignorant parents), and the shots just didn't happen.

    Sure, perfect sense. It's your vision for the photograph. And your understanding that you didn't want that as your photograph is very important in taking the photograph that you want.

    Maybe. A GND can only do so much however, and this shot would have required a pretty big gradient to meet your needs. That angle of light is tough to photograph successfully. Maybe a GND and a CP together would do it...

    ... but sometimes the light is such that we can't (short of other technological steps like HDR software) land the photo that we want.

    Hummphh... Nothing of the sort, Gretchen. Not thinking of all of these issues at any given moment doesn't mean you lack creativity or any such things. Thinking about them in the light of your photographs after the fact and understanding that there are alternatives the next time you shoot is a part of the learning process.

    Understand that I regularly take photographs that fail. Appallingly Regularly. As I noted in the earlier note, I don't post the failures on the forum ! But, I do try to look at the failures to see if I've had common themes that led to the lack of success, specific items I can eliminate (hopefully) in the future, or even just a realisation that some things/people/scenes couldn't be photographed as I'd like in given conditions.

    Phooey. I have degrees in science and engineering, work with high technology every day, all that silliness, and I reject the idea that I can't be a good photographer because I'm a bit geeky [if you remember that classic thread on the topic (How nerdy are you?), I scored a lot higher than you on the scale.]. I've seen some really solid photos from you, and I simply don't believe that you can't switch modes.

    Again, phooey. I was out shooting sometime back with a friend from the Café when she made a similar remark, and I said about the same thing. Shooting should be fun, like playing softball, or cross-country skiing, or sculling on the river, but nobody said any of those activities didn't require some practice to make it all go smoothly (what they sometimes call "swing" in rowing). It takes time to learn to get the bat in just the right position to hit the softball on the sweet spot, practice to get to the rhythm where your legs propel the skis backward and your arms thrust forward on a long winter trail, and by goodness, it does take some time to get these pesky cameras and lenses to cooperate in landing the photograph we see in our mind's eye.

    It will come. I've seen your photographs here at the Café, and you have the eye and the skills to make this all work. It's just a matter of finding that moment where things all align...

    You have the interest and the drive for all of this to happen, Gretchen. I'll just be looking with interest as each photo hits the Café. :biggrin:

    John P.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  14. John,

    Thank you sooo much! :biggrin:

    We're heading up to Canada on Thursday for a few days, in a very picturesque area. I'm picking up some Emilie-watchers at the airport in Montreal (read: my parents :smile: ), and hope to be able to spend some time focused on photography. I will be sure to post pics and look forward to more critiques/analysis! :smile:
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