It’s Boxing day (the day after Christmas) and I’m enjoying what I now consider to be the greatest luxury: time.
The setting is a family walk around an artificial lake built in the South of France to use as a damper between the torrential rains and long periods of drought. Every now and then, something grabs my lazy attention and I grab a lazy shot of that.
Back home, I quickly process the files on a laptop with shaky colour fidelity and in a room bathed in Christmas illumination. And then a selection gets sent to co-author Philippe.
A while later, he answers a few words, among which “one of them is superb”. My boosted ego musters the energy to browse through the email attachments to look back and decide which he is referring to.
Very quickly my mind is made up. My favourite is this one (above). Composition is balanced. The muted colours spell winter but the collapsed netting adds a little dynamism and drama while the cooperation of the shag in the background adds a touch of life and interest. Wildlife, human interference, winter, serenity, interesting light. This is my winner.
Obviously, it isn’t Philippe’s. In our unavowably numerous exchanges, we rarely settle on common favourites. Such is the nature of photography and the human mind. And that’s a good thing as artistic preferences must always remain personal.
This morning, we get to talk a little longer and he reveals his fave to be the last on the page (also the banner image). He likes the serene emptiness, menacing feeling and the fact that there is enough info in the empty areas to maintain attention. The rays, colours, sharp background and veiled mountain all contribute to the success of this photograph for this one-person audience.
Beyond the obvious ego-boost provided by friendly remarks, this sort of exchange is precious to improve as a photographer.
Over the past few days, I’ve overslept, overeaten and generally relaxed from a year of hard work. I’d made that series of photographs more as a reflex activity as a deliberate training exercise. Philippe’s note set that right.
Always be practising!!
An important part of this practise is evaluating your photographs, and those of others, trying to understand exactly what it is that makes an image work for you. Also try to compare this with your initial intention. For example, does the boat ramp above convey more serenity than the 3 boats next to it, and photographed in colour? My use of low-contrast B&W was intended to help but some viewers see more sadness than peace. To me, it is the second best on the page.
What do you think and, more importantly, why? What would you have done differently? Ask yourself these questions while reviewing your photographs and those of others. The better you are able to answer these questions, the more deliberate and effective your photography will be. So, what say you?
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The photos are all technically correct and well composed. The story line of each is well stated, but really dependent on your personal perspective. To me the best photo is the one with the three boats tied along the shoreline. The reasons are: There is dramatic color in an otherwise pale winter day. The context of the boats being tied and therefore unused on the calm water in the winter speaks to the inactivity of life in the Winter. The God rays add an additional element not present in the skies of the other photos, bringing the views eyes full circle several times.
Thanks David. The inactivity of life in winter is also what I was going for in the B&W boat ramp. Both scenes are barely 10 yards from one another and I find the differences between the two really interesting. The God rays are pure luck but do add interest in the photograph you chose. One is pure shape, the other conveys more emotion I guess. None of this was really pre-visualised, though. It’s great to be intuitively capable of creating interesting photographs. But the fact that I wasn’t conscioulsy going for those mood differences during the shoot is also proof that the road ahead is still long. Or maybe let’s put that on account of too much champagne and truffles 😉
The three boats for me as well. I think it’s the foreground color against the muted background that pulls me in. Conversely I skipped right over the boat ramp it felt very flat to me at first glance. After reading the comments etc. I took a harder look and the word that kept jumping into my thoughts was BLEAK, perhaps it’s just my mood today……
Hi Ron, bleak is also what I dislike and fear in winter. In fact, I’m one of those who need a daily dose of strong white light not to go crazy in the sun-starved months.
The fact that you interpret the boat ramp as bleak where others see serentiy is either down to your mindset, as you suggest, (or your screen, who knows) or simply personal photographic preferences. And that in turn would mean that your gear choices should lean towards more vivid lenses such as the FE55 or more vibrant post-processing. Here’s a second version of that photograph with a slightly more pronounced top-end (highlights). Any better ?
It’s all very interesting, thanks 🙂
I love them all, Pascal – and mostly, for different reasons. Which is the point you made – that “. . . we rarely settle on common favourites. Such is the nature of photography and the human mind. And that’s a good thing as artistic preferences must always remain personal.”
It’s like “taste” and “opinions” – with some glaring exceptions, these are intensely personal, with no real “right” or “wrong”.
Besides, if everyone did the same thing, the whole lot would be dreadfully boring.
Thanks Pete, I’m flattered 😉
The problem in photography is that the strongest forces out there tend to make us think the same. Competitions are all geared towards ultra colourful landscapes, sunrays, sunstars … Social media 1-second evaluations favour the spectacularly obvious over the subtle and manufacturers push us towards the same gear choices. Very often our evaluation of our own photographs are based more on what others think of them than on the closeness to the previsualised photograph. I think these little exercices bring us back down to Earth and make us focus on what matters most: understanding ourselves.
I have to go with your boatramp shot. Serene, calm and beautiful simplicity it conveys that wonderful winter emptiness yet full of life that can be so elusive. I love it most. Bravo.
Thank you very much Paul 🙂
This post had me smiling. Ain’t that just so true! So, what’s wrong with the two of you? I’m with David and Ron – the three boats are supreme, with composition in play, the serene calm of the muted sky and water, with light rays bending down and a bird in flight, all offset by the color of the boats. 😉 For this reason, I find Instagram helpful in understanding how different audiences react to different photos. @scottchicago Even better is Facebook, because I know my audience, post more selections and they’ll cull down their favorites and “confirm” or dispute my own thoughts and instincts. Happy New Year to all!
Happy New Year, Scott and thanks for the interesting comment. I recently started an Instagram account (@dearsusanphoto) and will follow you.
The 3-boat photographs is receiving the most love, offline as well as online. To me, it is reassuringly warm in a colder setting, so probably appeals deep down. I had gone for the starker Boat Ramp version, which feels even quieter to me, almost meditative. But reading the various comments on “3 boats” has been very useful to undertsand what drew me to the scene in the first place. Goodie 😉
My favorite photograph is the one chosen by Philippe: the last one. But I don’t feel a bit serene. I am struck by a “menacing feeling.” My first thought (honestly) is of “Twin Peaks,” the American TV series created by Peter Lynch and David Frost (1990-91). I imagine the plastic-wrapped body of Laura Palmer waiting to be discovered on the dark distant shore. Unsettled ominous clouds set the emotional tone. The opaque surface of the mysterious lake divulges nothing. The haunting music of Angelo Badalamenti begins playing in my mind as I ponder the question provoked by this image: Who killed Laura Palmer?
Hi Mel, Twin Peaks is one of my fave series of all times. They are apparently thinking of bringing it back to life, though I can’t imagine how that wouldn’t feel second best to the original. Still, I get what you mean and this comes as a real compliment 🙂
The last two are my favorites. I enjoy the bleakness, as it speaks to what Winter is all about.