PDF Week 3/2016: Nikon D300, 18mm (on 18-105mm lens), 1/500, f11, ISO 160.

Words of the photographer

What the picture means to me: I like the towering lighthouse sitting on top of the rocks with the clouds sweeping up over it. The photo gives me a feeling of space and expansiveness with a solid ground. Airy but grounded.

I would like GPO to give me feedback on the photo because: The photo has little post-editing done to it. I like the photo a lot but is it a ‘good’ photo or just an average holiday photo? What could I have done to improve the photo a) whilst taking the photo, and b) with post-editing (eg, such as cropping).

For consideration after the publication

Muriele and GPO decided to post a re-edited version of the picture. Maybe you want to comment on the two versions or just the original.



  • Muriele

    on January 15, 2016

    Thank you, Patrik, for your feedback. You have answered my questions and I will take this advice on board for my future landscape photography:)

  • Good Pictures Online

    on January 15, 2016

    Thank you for your contribution. I love the way how you approach photography, how you are open to experiment and move to that next step. In my opinion, that is the main ingredient to producing great photography and fine art. However, it is also the main source, never to be 100% satisfied with your own work, value and enjoy it for what it is. There is always something we could and should have improved. There is always that element that either ruins the photo, is missing or should have been shown slightly different. There is always that side story and detail that you didn't notice during the shoot. The fact that you like the photo is what is really important. Exploring why you like it and what you like about it will give you hints on your future photographic journey. Don't expect the answers from me, but keep asking the right questions. Please don't take insults if I voice my opinion that is based on my own little photographic journey but maybe take them as hints and basis for discussion and self-reflection.

    First of all: I like the photo, too. It is simple and direct, has not many distracting elements. It says: meet the lighthouse tower, the blue sky with nicely scattered clouds and the rock. There are interesting lines and patterns. Everything is decently lit with aesthetic shadows. Almost everything is in focus. Some people will like the bird that can be seen in the clouds on the left side. So, is it an average holiday photo? Lighthouses are pretty much tourist shots aiming at reminding oneself and impressing the audience. So, what did you do additionally and differently? Your choice of the frog perspective suits well. Surprisingly, it doesn't stress the lighthouse (enough), but the closer rock formation, the stratification and erosion. Too me, it is too much rock, but I love that it looks like the water has eroded the foundation of the lighthouse. We don't see any sea or water. But we see ripples in the blue sky, like waves in a stormy sea. My feelings - and I don't expect anyone to share them - don't see the Lighthouse as an authority and a standout. It is almost hidden, dark and gloomy. There is no light radiation that reflects the very purpose of a light house. To me, it is a sad, lonely lighthouse robbed of its purpose in life, only serving as a memory and photo monument. And that, in my view, is quite an unexpected and rarely told tourist story.

    Improving your photo would probably also be its downfall. Look at all the pictures non-professionals produce, all the pleasing, vibrant products of photo-postproduction. It has become so common that honest photos don't even stand a chance of being noticed. I am so tempted to give you advice on how to make it more of a crowd pleaser. But maybe it is more important to stress the importance of staying honest and true to yourself. Your photos - without any make-up - will find an appreciative audience. But I'll still answer your questions assuming it were the right approach trying to please mainstream and photographic amateurs:

    Whilst taking the photo, just choose a different time of the day with different light that accentuates the title of your photo naturally. Tourists normally don't have that option and have to take what they get at the time. Some disciplined locals and professionals plan and choose only the best lighting conditions. Yours was good but not perfect. Of course, you can easily bring in a colourful sky in postediting. Frankly, I don't like the blurry cloud section on the left. Together with the darker rocks at its base, I am confused if that is a story or not. Additionally, I would have tried to make the natural lines of the scattered clouds symbolise lighthouse beams. With your lens, I would probably move closer and left, only showing the first layer of rocks, putting the lighthouse a third from the left screen, vertically centered. All that in some reddish-purplish sunrise light could become an exaggerated kitschy but also honest picture. But it all depends on what story you want to tell and what feelings you want to transport. It is the make of a tourist photo, a happy snap, if you don't plan the photo but literally pop into it. Nothing wrong with that. But what more exciting challenge could I suggest than asking you to go back (and invite me to come along of course) and integrate this picture into a plan of what you want to express. It is a good photo, an above average holiday photo. It is an exciting basis for what you are attempting, namely trying to improve and get clarity on what works. Take a tripod, maybe open up the lens (choose a focus rather than being stuck in picture perfect sharpness), use a longer exposure (getting rid of that lovely bird spec) and catch those late night, early morning colours. Tell the story of the official hero, the lighthouse a bit clearer maybe. It doesn't matter if the tower is leaning (as it does a bit) or if you are using a language that conflicts with photographic rules (e.g. blurry elements). Challenge yourself and the notion that good fine art lighthouse photos are taken mainly from boats or drones showing stormy seas. Just have fun.

    Post-editing allows to make up for shortcomings both of our human vision and our omission as photographers in the field. I do think that the picture comes a bit underexposed. In my books that is good practice and almost a must, if you don't use High Dynamic Range, multiple exposure or filters. Increasing the exposure and reducing the highlights seems legitimate and necessary in this case. On my (uncalibrated) screen, I'd love some more light overall but I would also get rid of or increase the slight red tinge from the morning glow that I see (take purple and/or magenta saturation out a bit if necessary). Especially the lighthouse walls deserve more light attention (I don't do selective exposure control which is definitely needed here) and maybe closeness. A more radical approach - which is against what I am doing in landscape photography - could lead you to go the opposite way, namely darken the whole picture and make it a moderately lit night shot or an early morning shot. Actually, the latter is almost what you got in the first place and postediting could almost become ok and 'honest'. Hard to say without experimenting. Because you have got a nicely exposed photo that is in focus throughout with few and clearly defined objects, you can basically produce any phantasy product quite easily. Since your shot was only about two hours late for better light, I'd tend to darken the scene and maybe get that red in more but loose the blue sky. In terms of cropping, I'd crop to the left and possibly the bottom, keep the lighthouse in the classical two thirds position opening out towards the morning light coming from the right. Landscape photography should not need much cropping since much of it could be done in the field. Of course, we can have a look and re-edit the photo together, maybe even publish it here and see if someone might comment.

    Quite frankly, instinctively you made the right choice, namely to leave the photo almost unedited and discussing photographic tastes and trying to pick the cherries and based on the feedback maybe play some more next time, when you enjoy some holidays in our beautiful backyard.

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