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Author Topic: Critique my work please  (Read 3460 times)
cmi
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« on: June 08, 2009, 12:39:30 PM »
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Now that I started writing in this subforum I felt the need to give me a face and show some images of myself I like most. Dont be shy, take them apart, I can swallow some critique. #5 from last November I believe is my best picture since I started 3 years ago.

Christian

#1 Alone
#2 Deamforest I
#3 New Beginning (Homage to Bava)
#4 The Trap (II)
#5 Dreamforest II
#6 (No Name)
#7 (No Name)
« Last Edit: November 20, 2010, 03:05:39 PM by cmi » Logged
dalethorn
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« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2009, 02:52:53 PM »
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Very good work.

#1: Interesting - could be a stockbroker after the news...
#2: Conveys the chill very well.
#3: There's a concept in physics of potential or stored energy, that I think this conveys, with all of that stuff stacked up. I really like the presentation, colors, etc.
#4: This is difficult - an upward look from an open basement or pit of some kind?  The white sky was rather distracting.
#5: You know the deal here - you could hang this in the average art gallery, no problem.
#6: Didn't make any impression - being in Ohio for more than a year, I've seen this scene many times. Still, good job on color and contrast.
#7: Very interesting, but the bright sun was too much on my monitor - if I dim that area a bit it looks better.
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« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2009, 04:14:24 PM »
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Christian,

1. The first picture would be an excellent informal portrait except for the technical problems. The worst problem with it is the blown-out background. You might be able to correct that by creating an adjustment layer with a layer mask, running a white to black gradient half way over the mask, starting from the upper right corner, then setting the layer blending mode to "multiply." If you don't get enough correction on the first go, click Ctl-J once or twice more. I don't particularly like the light on the principal's face, but that may be a difference in our monitors. The picture looks monochrome on my calibrated monitor, but with an odd color. The composition, on the other hand, is excellent. All the activity going on behind the meditative principal gives a contrast that deepens his expression. The woman's gaze off into the distance on the right is a nice touch too.

2. The second shot sort of loses me. I imagine that what I'm seeing is snow, but I see what looks like sharpening artifacts all over. I like the idea though.

3. No. Junk's okay if there's a point to it. I don't see the point in this one.

4. Excellent. This is the kind of thing that separates the artists from the tourists. This is the one that could hang in a museum. You were looking and you were seeing. The thing comes off as an abstract with entrancing mystery.

5. Very nice. The mist takes it beyond the good tourist-shot level. The colors are very well done.

6. No. This is the kind of thing people bore their neighbors with after a trip to the northeast during the fall color season. It also looks as if you pushed the color saturation.

7. Nice try, but on my monitor the sun just overpowers everything else. On the other hand, I can see what you were trying to do, and if it had come off it would have been very good. The grasses are the dominant thing in this picture. If they'd been able to resist being blotted out by the sun the picture could have held the kind of transcendental jolt I'm always looking for. I'm not sure it's a loser. I suspect you might be able to do something with it as a print. I keep trying to figure out how I'd have shot it in order to preserve the effect of the waves of grass, but I don't come up with a good answer.
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cmi
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« Reply #3 on: June 09, 2009, 05:07:21 AM »
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Answering to Dale:

Thanks for the feedback! Im not sure what "conveys the chill" means. I understand it as "gives a feeling of cold", is this correct? (English is not my native tongue.) This #2 was actually shot at a sunny february day. I wanted it to look like one of these muted down illustrations one can find in old books. A friend once said it looks like after the final atomic strike. It was intended to look depressing.  

The men in #1 was shot at a festival taking place in my neighborhood. The mood was very very good, people where partly extatic wich shows in the woman at the right, she looks to the stage. But then there was this guy, first acting funny, but not anymore. He didnt react althrough he knew I was shooting. Altrough that doesnt show here to much, it was a stark contrast, having him sit like this in the extatic crowd.

#3: I like your idea of "stored energy". For me it was almost brutal, obviously beyond repair, and a bit frightening.

#4 is indeed an upward look, but for me the white sky isnt distracting at all, I deliberately burnt it out. I like especially that you cant clearly tell what it is, and if you turn it to the right, it gets even more unclear. Might even remove the wall at the bottom someday to remove the last hint.

#5: Glad you like the colors. Indeed I had to resist pushing it too contrastry, wich would destroy the look. I have even a version muted down a tad more wich also looks good.

#6: Fair enough you dont like it, thats ok with me! Autumn is my favorite season, and I like this one very much. These many little trees where overwhelming to me. But maybe im biased and it is really nothing special

#7: Yeah the sun is too bright now that I think of it. I reworked it and now its much better. This one is just a v1.
« Last Edit: June 09, 2009, 05:08:29 AM by cmi » Logged
cmi
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« Reply #4 on: June 09, 2009, 06:50:51 AM »
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Russ,

I almost didnt put up the first one because I shoot people very seldom. What I like particulary about this picture is the guy at the very left wich is so intensely staring, I think it was a very good moment.
The overblown back its not bothering me too much. I dont shy away to let parts of the image blowing if subject demands it, through Im trying to avoid that. If I printed it I would probably revise that to see if it gets better with non-blown background. Wont do this now because the image is too old. Its done.
When you say you dont like the light on his face, is it just the light, or the colors? I guess you mean the colors. These come from a grey version, mapped greenish in the lights and blueish in the darks. They are meant to depict the general, overall mood in this part of the city. But then I believe this works only, or at least better in a series, so I can understand how it might look strange. I'll put the others up if theres interesnt. So, IF I will print this one big and as a single picture, its very possible I might change the toning, thanks for pointing that out.

The second picture, I wrote already that it isnt snow, but just the post work. I dont know what you mean exactly with sharpening artifacts. Undoubtely this file is really pushed right to its limit, but also has a lot of cut off highlight range so that might be it as well. To be honest I dont care here, it looks ok in print.

3: Very interesting you mention exactly the same doubt I had with this one: Even if it looks good, there is no obvious point to the light inside and outside. That was nagging me all the time. I couldnt make work what I had in mind with this one, so I eventually left it at this point, totally unhappy. Very possible that I will make another version of this. But nontheless, over the time slowly liked it more and more, despite that undeniable weakness.

4: Haha, thanks for the compliments! I feel humbled  Think I made a quite good job here... if I could only repeat it more often  My original fascination is  how the steel rods are forming a second frame, and I tried to get that. That you dont know what it is add to this I think, and that also shows in the series. It became clear very soon that it works quite good as B/W.

5: I throught too that apart from the color and the framing the mist is really the only thing wich makes a difference, wich is somehow a bit scaring, meaning there is nothing special about the own ability, it was just the right weather... ...well I guess Im being negative here... it really means "dont waste your time with bad weather days"  And this day was superb.

6 was done on the same day as 5, and no, I didnt push saturation too much. The colors where like this, it was just the perfect autumn day.

7: As said, I reworked this one to a much better v2, but Im not yet done. Many thanks for pointing out the bad light and that the grass really is the key, I was not fully aware of that. Thats exactly what I was hoping for when I posted here. The answer how to shot it better turned out to be easy, I just took another shot wich was exposed one stop less and this works (after some PS-massaging).

Im at a point now where I feel it now makes more sense to invest more care and time when shooting. But then there comes the difficulty that sometimes (not always) the more care I invest, the worse the image gets, and I get unsure with framing, as if Im loosing it when Im trying to be especially good. Has anyone encountered that? Can I do anything about that?

Sorry this got really long, hope I didnt bore you all to much, originally wanted to keep it short but it kept growing and growing

Christian
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dalethorn
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« Reply #5 on: June 09, 2009, 07:05:37 AM »
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Quote from: cmi
Answering to Dale:
Thanks for the feedback! Im not sure what "conveys the chill" means. I understand it as "gives a feeling of cold", is this correct? (English is not my native tongue.) This #2 was actually shot at a sunny february day. I wanted it to look like one of these muted down illustrations one can find in old books. A friend once said it looks like after the final atomic strike. It was intended to look depressing.  

#4 is indeed an upward look, but for me the white sky isnt distracting at all, I deliberately burnt it out. I like especially that you cant clearly tell what it is, and if you turn it to the right, it gets even more unclear. Might even remove the wall at the bottom someday to remove the last hint.

#6: Fair enough you dont like it, thats ok with me! Autumn is my favorite season, and I like this one very much. These many little trees where overwhelming to me. But maybe im biased and it is really nothing special

#2 impression is correct.

#4, lost me. Could not get any impression at first, had to search for clues as to what it is. Too much mental effort. I believe every photo should create a first impression at least.

#6, nothing wrong with photo, it's just very generic. There are many ways to add a unique flavor if you like to experiment.
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RSL
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« Reply #6 on: June 09, 2009, 02:04:48 PM »
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The overblown back its not bothering me too much. I dont shy away to let parts of the image blowing if subject demands it, through Im trying to avoid that.

Christian, You need to shy away from blowouts. The problem with the background blowing out in this particular picture is that you have a good, well-composed photograph -- a really fine informal portrait, but the blown background immediately dominates the scene and spoils the good work you've done. There are situations where it's okay to accept some blown-out areas. In fact, there are situations where you want a fair amount of specular light (what we'd otherwise call a blowout). Here's an example. Letting the specular highlights blow out creates a kind of sparkle you wouldn't be able to get by reducing them to the point where you can see texture. But this kind of situation is very rare.

[attachment=14409:Boca_Raton.jpg]

Quote
When you say you dont like the light on his face, is it just the light, or the colors? I guess you mean the colors. These come from a grey version, mapped greenish in the lights and blueish in the darks. They are meant to depict the general, overall mood in this part of the city. But then I believe this works only, or at least better in a series, so I can understand how it might look strange.

It's the color. Why did you decide to map to a greenish version? Green faces don't come across well. They look as if they're ready to barf. Try converting the whole thing to black and white.

Quote
Im at a point now where I feel it now makes more sense to invest more care and time when shooting. But then there comes the difficulty that sometimes (not always) the more care I invest, the worse the image gets, and I get unsure with framing, as if Im loosing it when Im trying to be especially good. Has anyone encountered that? Can I do anything about that?

Christian

The main thing to invest in is experience. That means doing a lot of shooting and spending a lot of time looking at pictures by the masters. When you say that the more care you invest the worse the image gets, I'm not sure I understand what you mean by care. It sounds as if you're pushing too hard. Relax. Don't worry so much about framing. If you've absorbed the work of the masters and done enough shooting yourself to feel confident with your camera, the framing will come naturally. I've said several other places on here that the best shot almost always comes from your first impression. Good framing comes from an intuitive appreciation of the geometry of the scene. HCB said it best:

"For me, content cannot be separated from form. By form, I mean a rigorous organization of the interplay of surfaces, lines, and values. It is in this organization alone that our conceptions and emotions become concrete and communicable. In photography, visual organization can stem only from a developed instinct."

It's that instinct you need to develop. You're doing fine. Keep at it.
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« Reply #7 on: June 09, 2009, 04:08:31 PM »
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Hey Christian, and welcome to this subforum.  I hope you find it useful (I certainly have).

I will start by suggesting that you post one image at a time, so that the lazy folks like me don't have to type so much at one sitting!    I'll comment on #3 for this post:

This one really works for me, because it conveys a dark, chaotic mood that's pretty frightening.  I like the clean contrast of the blue of the foreground door/wall against the yellow of the background wall, as it serves to anchor the image, preventing it from dissolving into a zillion little details.  However, if I were personally shooting this image, I would use large format film/high res digital back or employ mosaic stitching to capture as much of the zillion details as possible, thereby creating another contrast: clean simple colors/lines vs. disorganized minutia (maybe you did- I can't know from this image).  The post treatment you accomplished is just right- you've almost morphed a photo into some kind of graphic art (yet another contrast- one art form vs another).

John
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RSL
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« Reply #8 on: June 09, 2009, 04:22:51 PM »
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John, So there you go. Just goes to show how tastes vary. There's a saying about this: "You to your fancy and me to my Nancy," the old lady said as she kissed her cow.
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« Reply #9 on: June 09, 2009, 04:30:57 PM »
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Russ:

Christian- I forgot to tell you that you should look at some of the stuff on photo.net.  Your image reminds me of some of the stuff I see over there, which I almost always find inspiring.

John
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cmi
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« Reply #10 on: June 09, 2009, 05:42:40 PM »
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Ah, some more answers  I was checking the topic the whole time.

First, to Dale:

My answer to #2 is somewhat misleading. It was shot in February, but there is no snow in the picture. It was sunny. And very interesting for me to know why exactly you dont like #4.





And, in answer to Russ:

You are quite persistent with this overblown thing in image #1! Guess I will try reducing it just to see if it fits me better. Regarding the color, I like green very much, and at that moment, this particular green/blue combination. For me it gives a feel of general wrongness and distorsion, unnaturaleness, thats what I wanted to achieve, and to this I stand. But that said, I get what you say, it could be seen as a mutilation. Is noted.

With "the more care I invest, the worse the image gets" I mean, that my best images are these wich I take spontaneously, instantly without thinking. Sometimes in post I encounter I could have done a better framing at shooting time. But when I try to frame better at the shot, I can become unsecure to the extent that I screw it up. On some motives I have no difficulties at all, then there are cases where the images get worse when I try to find a better view (the first one then is the best), but indeed there are also cases where the last image, my consious try, is the best. I guess I need to get more relaxed at shooting time, and need more and more (and even more) training. One advice I read today is from Bill T I like to much I will cite it:

Quote
Newbies tend to look at parts of the the subject THROUGH the viewfinder, but do not look at the overall composition WITHIN the boundary of the viewfinder. Best practice is to frame the composition in the viewfinder looking first at the overall frame, then placing the central subject within that in a way that makes compositional sense. Compositional sense usually means that all the objects in the frame fall into some geometrical arrangement, and that stuff that does not relate to the subject is left out. But most importantly the photographer needs to "zoom out" his visual perception to include the boundary of the finder. Seems obvious, but it is usually elusive to the beginner. The most mysterious aspect of cropping is that anybody can crop reasonably well in post, but very few can do it in the viewfinder, under pressure.

I was stumped by this as it made me realizes that until now, I pretty much looked through the viewfinder, but did not really analyze the image like I do when in post. And regarding learning from the masters, I must say I learned a big deal from Art Wolfe after reading his essay "Seeing like a painter". What he said, and the images he had up at this time at his site really inspired me. Alone being exposed to all the images here is very valuable. And very infrequently I come across one image wich overwhelms me with its composition. That was the case with the lenticular sunset from Michael, I wouldnt even have throught abozt framing like that.

The citing from HCB is a good, an interesting one. I have to think about it for a while. Especially the last part, visual organisation from a developed instinct, that sounds right.

Christian
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cmi
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« Reply #11 on: June 09, 2009, 06:06:16 PM »
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Hi John,

I usually always post only one image. But since I wanted to give a first impression I decided to post some more. And I dont expect comment on every image from everybody, that would be a *bit* inappropriate

This frightening athmosphere is what I was after exactly, and Im very glad you like it  Im afraid I cant shoot this again because the place demolished by now. Its a plain single RAW file. I like the notion that you suggest this being bigger through. What you say about transforming it to graphic art, yes, thats what Im trying. There are some photos where Im starting to experiment what I can do with them, and then it developt into some, often unexpected direction. I had no clear concept with this one, it just happened. Starting as a pixel-artist way back with an Amiga, I still consider my pixel-pushing abilities stronger then my photographic experience.

Oh, and I do know Photo.net. There was a time I was frequently browsing images there, I do not now, but might be again in the future. Beside the images, I liked them esp. for their clear written camera and gear reviews.

Christian
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« Reply #12 on: June 09, 2009, 08:48:20 PM »
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Quote from: cmi
With "the more care I invest, the worse the image gets" I mean, that my best images are these wich I take spontaneously, instantly without thinking. Sometimes in post I encounter I could have done a better framing at shooting time. But when I try to frame better at the shot, I can become unsecure to the extent that I screw it up. On some motives I have no difficulties at all, then there are cases where the images get worse when I try to find a better view (the first one then is the best), but indeed there are also cases where the last image, my consious try, is the best. I guess I need to get more relaxed at shooting time, and need more and more (and even more) training. One advice I read today is from Bill T I like to much I will cite it:

I was stumped by this as it made me realizes that until now, I pretty much looked through the viewfinder, but did not really analyze the image like I do when in post. And regarding learning from the masters, I must say I learned a big deal from Art Wolfe after reading his essay "Seeing like a painter". What he said, and the images he had up at this time at his site really inspired me. Alone being exposed to all the images here is very valuable. And very infrequently I come across one image wich overwhelms me with its composition. That was the case with the lenticular sunset from Michael, I wouldnt even have throught abozt framing like that.

The citing from HCB is a good, an interesting one. I have to think about it for a while. Especially the last part, visual organisation from a developed instinct, that sounds right.

Christian

Christian,

Bill T's advice is right on the money. He's echoing what HCB said. Ignoring this requirement is what's wrong with the idea you should shoot loosely and hope to frame your shot in post-processing. The whole image should be there in front of you when you shoot. The geometry is critical. You've got to learn not to focus on a central object to the exclusion of the geometry of the scene. That's exactly why I emphasize studying and studying the work of the masters. Look at the geometry of those pictures. You're not gong to copy them, but what you are going to try to do is learn to recognize good geometry in an instant. You're doing good work. Relax and enjoy it. Photography should be fun.
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dalethorn
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« Reply #13 on: June 09, 2009, 09:03:54 PM »
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Quote from: cmi
First, to Dale:
.......And very interesting for me to know why exactly you dont like #4.
Christian

Actually #4 is very powerful.  Taking another glance at it right now, it is very stark and unpleasant to my eyes, reminiscent of photos of third world prisons.  I spent a day in Dachau two different times in 1967 and 1968.  Very much like that - in the summer in a concrete facility, with the sun beating down, white walls and pavement everywhere reinforcing the sun.

So you have a very good photo, very powerful, and my only wish was to soften it somehow, since I imagined falling into that place and being stabbed by all of those projections coming out of the walls, and then laying there with that ghastly white sky staring down at me.

Yes it's a good one, at least when good means provoking a strong response.

My general feeling (not always 100 percent true) about a lot of white in an image is that the more white there is, the less information there is on the one hand, and the harder it is to see what's there because the white is overpowering the rest of the image, on the other hand.
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Kirk Gittings
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« Reply #14 on: June 09, 2009, 09:09:34 PM »
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#4 is the one that moves me. It is the only one that shows me the potential uniqueness of your vision. The rest, though well done, follow pretty well worn photographic ruts.
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« Reply #15 on: June 09, 2009, 11:00:10 PM »
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Quote from: Kirk Gittings
#4 is the one that moves me. It is the only one that shows me the potential uniqueness of your vision. The rest, though well done, follow pretty well worn photographic ruts.
I'm in complete agreement with Kirk on this. #4 makes me sit up and take notice, while the others are conventionally pleasant.
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cmi
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« Reply #16 on: June 10, 2009, 03:34:42 PM »
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All your answers get my head spinning. Esp. that you all object to #4 as the best. I realize I have to think more about what I want to say, and how I want to say it (with my images.)

To Russ:  I feel I had my nose to high in the air. I retouched #1 and you where right with everything, you have seen it from the start and I didnt wanted to realize it. Was quite easy to do. Still a bit overexposed but feels better now. As I was retouching #6 the discussion went through my head. I feel it is wrong to retouch it like I did, because my retouching was due to my sloppyness and fuzzyness of the general idea at shooting time. (I manipulated a second image to match the #6 v1, still Im not satisfied with the new version.) But enough said. Your answers helped me a great deal. I'll attach the new #1 (and #6) just to show.

Thank you all.
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« Reply #17 on: June 10, 2009, 08:46:09 PM »
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Quote from: cmi
All your answers get my head spinning. Esp. that you all object to #4 as the best. I realize I have to think more about what I want to say, and how I want to say it (with my images.)

To Russ:  I feel I had my nose to high in the air. I retouched #1 and you where right with everything, you have seen it from the start and I didnt wanted to realize it. Was quite easy to do. Still a bit overexposed but feels better now. As I was retouching #6 the discussion went through my head. I feel it is wrong to retouch it like I did, because my retouching was due to my sloppyness and fuzzyness of the general idea at shooting time. (I manipulated a second image to match the #6 v1, still Im not satisfied with the new version.) But enough said. Your answers helped me a great deal. I'll attach the new #1 (and #6) just to show.

Thank you all.

Christian,

It's normal to be defensive about the photographs you just made. The most recent work always seems the best -- at least that's the way it always strikes me, and a good friend who's a very successful fine art photographer agrees -- until time has given you a little perspective. I found the same thing to be true about poetry. I've written poetry most of my life and started getting the stuff published when I was 19. My most recent poem always seemed the best thing I'd ever done -- until I had a chance to think it over and make a serious comparison.

In any case, both of these re-dos are excellent. Converting the street shot to B&W and toning down the blown background make all the difference in the world. The B&W is a fine piece of street photography. In the color shot the sun on the grass is very good. Bringing down the brightness let the grass hold the sunlight -- in waves, and either the reduction in brightness or some additional sharpening enhances the delicacy of the trees on the left. Bravo! -- on both.
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