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Author Topic: "Postcard" or Not?  (Read 6840 times)
Paul Sumi
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« on: September 23, 2005, 07:22:43 PM »
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This image really encapsulates the internal debate I am having over what is simply a pretty postcard versus what makes a photograph something "more."  I know that this image is not particularly original (is there such a thing in Yosemite Valley?), but I am still interested in your comments on this subject.

And if anyone also wants to critique this photo overall, I would also appreciate those comments as well.

Thanks,

Paul
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Ray
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« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2005, 08:32:13 PM »
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Yes, it is pretty. I see nothing wrong with a picture merely being pretty. The rainbow adds greatly to the interest. I presume it's there every day between specific times, when the sun's out. I imagine this would be a much photographed scene.

From a compositional perspective, I'm a little disturbed by the flow of water leading the eye off the page at the bottom of the frame. I can't think of a solution to this other than retaking the shot from another perspective.

With shots of flowing water and waterfalls in general, I'm often torn between the choices of using a long exposure with the aid of a neutral density filter, to create that silky flow effect, or a really short exposure (1/500th or faster) to capture every droplet of water clearly. Somewhere in between the effect can be a bit unappealing, like ice-cream melting over the surface of a rock.

Of course, I'll take multiple shots with and without filter if I have the time and am not keeping an impatient partner waiting. In this instance, I'd probably opt for a fast exposure, no blown highlights in the turbulence, maximum micro detail in the rocks and water and good DoF. It's difficult to see in the small jpeg if you have done this. The rocks bottom right could be a bit lighter, perhaps a lot lighter if there's any detail there. With images like this, out-of-focus rocks in the foreground would tend to spoil the shot.
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2005, 11:38:46 PM »
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The exceptionally dark rocks in the corners on the right side bother me, as does the blown-out section of water near center-frame. It reminds me of Ansel Adams' statement about focusing on a subject rather than an image. You have some nice ingredients here, but the cake you've made from them isn't all it could be. A bracketed blend, with one shot keeping detail in the brightest part of the water and the other getting more detail from the rocks, would solve the technical shortcomings. The composition is not bad, but I can't seem to escape the nagging feeling that there's something better possible. If it was my image, I'd go back there if possible to try again. The subject appears to be worth the effort. Or perhaps you have other shots of the area?
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crams
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« Reply #3 on: September 23, 2005, 11:49:57 PM »
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Hi Paul,
While I agree that there is "nothing wrong with a picture merely being pretty," I find it interesting that we commonly assign the word "pretty" to "pictures," and not "photographs" or "images."  So if we are looking for an image to do, as you say, that "something more," we don't actually want it to be thought of as pretty, do we?

That being said, there is much for me to like about your photo.  I'm drawn to the way the rainbow acts as a filter for the sheer, reflective cliff face, and the echo of the aqua water color in that one strata of rainbow.

Ray's observation about exposing the water more dramatically sounds good to me, more explosive (but now I'm starting to impose my desired interpretation onto your image).

What makes it ultimately a "postcard" for me is the tree.  I tried blocking out the tree with a business card, and suddenly the photo seemed to comment on something larger than itself, gave me something to ponder.  That something being the relationship of harsh/impenetrable power in nature and the benevolent myth of the rainbow.  Are they against each other or in conjunction.... this is a brief and simplistic summary of the potential and ideal complication, but you get the idea.  At any rate, there's your nickel's worth.  Thank you for putting up the image.
Cate
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Ray
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« Reply #4 on: September 24, 2005, 12:20:24 AM »
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Quote
What makes it ultimately a "postcard" for me is the tree.  I tried blocking out the tree with a business card, and suddenly the photo seemed to comment on something larger than itself, gave me something to ponder.  
That's a good inaugural post, crams.

Are you suggesting that Paul clone out the tree?    

If this is a well photographed site, that might be a bit risky, but I see your point.
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Paul Sumi
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« Reply #5 on: September 24, 2005, 12:46:42 AM »
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Ray, Jonathan and Crams,

I appreciate your comments and suggestions, which are very helpful.  Some such as those regarding the blown highlights and dark rocks can be fixed by new post-processing. I did try other composition variations, but none that address the various issues you've all brought up.  Darn, I'll just have to go back to Yosemite  

As Jonathan did with his "war memorial" uncropped image, below is a wide angle view of the area and vantage to show the overall scene.  I was shooting from the bridge crossing over the cascade below the falls.  This one is at 24mm, the first at 85mm, both 1.3x FOV.



Again, thanks for the responses so far.

Paul
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jule
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« Reply #6 on: September 24, 2005, 03:37:53 AM »
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Paul, this image does not grab me, and although I can't exactly pin point why, I shall do my best and try.

Such a dramatic location begs for a dramatic image. I think this image lacks 'drama' and may be what is missing, and consequently makes the image just one of those 'so-so' ones.

There is sort of the Yin - Yang thing happening, with the juxtaposition between the the softness (mists and rainbow) on the upper half, and the ruggedness (rocks contrasted against water) in the lower half. This is however destroyed by the inclusion of the green tree on the left.

In some instances blown out highlights and underexposed shadows can be overlooked if there are other strong elements in the image, but in this instance they just stand out.

In a location where originality is perhaps more difficult because of the locations exposure (chuckle), I would endeavour to isolate the essence of what I wanted to capture, keep the number of elements in the composition simple, and take the image from a different perspective than has been done before.

I would take particular notice of the things which attact me and find myself responding to - and really focus on that. If it is the rainbow- (which in this case I think you wanted to highlight), I would ensure that there were no other colours (foliage) to distract from the stunning colours of the rainbow. The rainbow on its' own may end up being "postcardy", so I think that the image would work better if there is the inclusion of the rocks as a contrast.

I would plan another trip, and try to compose images that portray the "drama of the location", and in doing so, the beauty of each of the elements is heightened by the contast and juxtapostion against the other.

Thank you for posting your image. It has enabled me to consciously reflect on my own images which just lack that 'something'.
Julie
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opgr
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« Reply #7 on: September 24, 2005, 07:53:42 AM »
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If I where old enough I might well have been a curmudgeon. This image, even for a postcard attempt, suffers a severe lack of depth, lack of convergence, and I am also desperately looking for something to look at. (pun intended). No story.

Lack of depth
If you are teleshooting a scene, it obviously flattens the perspective. Not a problem, but it means the position of elements and their structure become that much more important. Since this image doesn't seem to be about position and structure, I would suggest to be careful about depth cues.

Lack of convergence
If I put straight lines along edges of contrast in this image, it goes nowhere. It goes nowhere interesting, nor is there a significant point of convergence which could coincide with the point of interest. The lines also do not coincide with perspective which would help gain a sense of depth.
The most dominant point of convergence is at the end of the rainbow on the right which leads me direcly out of the frame.



It seems this image has been cropped to the most interesting parts of the scene. But it has been cropped slightly to tight so that the elements are fighting for attention to be the subject, they aren't "in place", nor are they framed in a context. The framing also doesn't leave any room to breath for the elements. The tree in itself is useful but currently cropped to irrelevance. The bottom left rocks protrude into the frame but are obviously not part of it. The bottom right is dark which is not a problem persé, but then there is a bit of light rock again at the very bottom...

No story.
Because this image is confined to the "pretty" elements, it doesn't allow one to form a story of the place. What is the context? What happens if I would walk further upstream, what is beyond the rainbow, etc... yada yada fairytale yada yada. As for the combination of "pretty" and "picture": the reason we assign that combination more often than the others is because it alliterates better.


The second image looks a lot more promising. The elements of interest are now well within a single point of focus. Depending on the final image size and viewing distance of course. It also seems that there are some interesting opportunities for added structure in the background wall which might also help convergence.

Following is just a sample crop which might work:


The red lines show the obvious flow of the riverbed, the vortex shows how the structure can help the eye move into the scene and end up at the point of interest. The convergence to the right makes something of a story as the mist-in-the-dark creates something mysterious of what-would-be-up-there, what if I move further upstream yada yada fairytale yada yada. The point of interest has more room to breath. The entire image however has become divided into two halves of contrast.

I would certainly try to get closer to the scene. Say halfway, and use a more moderate telephoto. Given a 1.3 crop, perhaps even a normal 50? I also agree about the earlier remarks about water being either still or milky. Not something in between. In this case I think you made a nice balance between the green in the water and the rainbow colors. If you want to preserve that, you probably can't use the milky option. The point of interest should not fight for attention over the distracting elements which you have to cope with anyway. The dark tree on the right which is fairly much on the foreground may easily dominate the scene. If you can leave it out of the frame by moving closer, all the better. I would make sure the point of interest is sharp and contrasty. The darker tree on the bank could nicely complement the lighter tree in the opposite bank.

ps. Remember these remarks are just my opinion, even though I may have used generalizations here or there.
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Regards,
Oscar Rysdyk
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Paul Sumi
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« Reply #8 on: September 24, 2005, 09:57:12 AM »
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Jule, Opgar,

Thank you for your extensive comments and suggestions. Just to clarify, both previous photos are the entire frames, no cropping.  The 1.3X FOV was a comment on the camera's sensor.

I like Opgar's sample crop of the wide angle composition. It makes better use of the trees on both sides of the frame and uses the cascade to lead the eye up to the rainbow.  However, to me the rainbow's impact is diminished.

Looking back on the original image at the beginning of the thread, I see that the water and the rainbow more-or-less divide the frame at the middle.  Thus both have equal emphasis, sizewise, and I think this may be one reason for the lack of coherance.

Below, I've cropped another of my shots (this would be about the equivalent to a 135-150mm tele's view).   I'm not saying this is THE shot, but it places the greater emphasis on the rainbow as has been suggested.



IMO, while it simplifies the composition and elements greatly, it also loses a sense of place.  I guess the challenge is to do both of these things at once.

Thanks again for your help.

Paul
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #9 on: September 24, 2005, 10:11:32 AM »
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Here's how I would crop this image:



You have the river coming from the mysterious misty area in the upper right (the rainbow and darkness kind of play into that theme) and flowing across the frame exiting stage lower left.
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #10 on: September 24, 2005, 10:22:35 AM »
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Heres a rough idea how I would post-process this image to accentuate the themes:



I brightened up the left side and boosted saturation and local contrast to compensate somewhat for the rather flat lighting.
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #11 on: September 27, 2005, 11:17:58 AM »
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PaulS, I find the main problem with the first photo is that it is simply too busy. I much prefer your last one above - much tighter, very dramatic, and somehow evocative of 19th century nature painting.

Jonathan's two efforts just below (or above - however these things display) are very interesting. Totally different mood. I find that the image only showing the crop before post-processing is more successful than the post-processed image. The non-processed cropped version has a kind of shady flatness that creates a subtle and soft mood, gently up-lifted by the time one's eye reaches the equally subtle rainbow in the background. I find this a pleasing treatment. The processed version has every element in competition with every other element and it glares. Once in a while one finds that the less one works a picture the better it is, and I think this is one of those cases.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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leonvick
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« Reply #12 on: September 27, 2005, 10:45:29 PM »
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Given the wide-angle shot, I worked with it instead of the original crop because the crop did not seem to have any discernable point of interest.

This crop is similar to some done above, but I went on to a horizontal format to include the near end of the S-curve made by the stream. I also brought up some of the shadow detail on the right, and used a gradient mask to accentuate the area of the rainbow and mist, as that is what makes this image truly special. I would print this on canvas (maybe 30x24) and frame it like a painting done on canvas. Is it art? I think maybe...
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Leon
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« Reply #13 on: September 28, 2005, 08:02:29 AM »
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Leon, I really like what you did. I think this photograph has improved considerably since it "started". Your treatment presents a tight, effective composition that adds life to the open shade areas, but takes the eye straight to the center of interest, which is nicely accentuated without being exagerated. I could see this framed in a living room.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
Author: "Scanning Workflows with SilverFast 8....." http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/film/scanning_workflows_with_silverfast_8.shtml
Paul Sumi
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« Reply #14 on: September 28, 2005, 10:11:24 AM »
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MarkDS and Leon,

Thanks for your time,comments and input, they are greatly appreciated. I particularly like the crop that Leon presents, it is very effective with the L-R diagonal leading to the rainbow and the framing by the dark rocks and trees.

This entire thread has been very educational and useful to me.  Thanks to all who responded.

If there are more comments, I am interested to see.

Paul
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Tim Gray
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« Reply #15 on: September 28, 2005, 12:46:06 PM »
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Nothing to really add from a critique perspective - but I like Jonathan's treatment.  In my mind what differentiates a "post card" (good, sound composition and technical execution) from the next notch up (portfolio quality - as an arbitrary label) is the degree of uniqueness apparent to the viewer (perhaps the "story" mentioned by an earlier poster).  I suspect that anyone wandering into Yosemite could easily duplicate these shots - rainbow and all.  If you were taking the shot chest deep in the icy stream that might be a different matter, but the uniqueness of that framing still wouldn't necessarily be apparent to the user.  I would venture to suggest that the only way to get this scene beyond postcard is to catch some rare occurrence of light/weather or perhaps human "intrusion".
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