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| "A Second Look" - Professional critique of reader-submitted photos by Judah S. Harris (Feb 1)

Judah S. Harris    
Thursday, 08 February 3:55 PM
Ed #2

Professional critique of reader-submitted photos (Edition #2)

By Judah S. Harris

- Submission info at the end of the post
- Read past editions of A Second Look in the ARCHIVE

 

man looking at dome of the rock
Aryeh Joseph 

Here we have two iconic Jerusalem subjects - a chasidic man wearing his shtreimel (fur hat) and the Dome of the Rock. I can't say that I find the photo exciting, but at least there are some things to contemplate. Firstly, where is the man standing? This is not a view that I have had access to. The Dome (on the Temple Mount) appears rather close, to those of us who are used to seeing it from afar, and accustomed to not being able to see it at all when standing in many parts of the Kotel plaza level. This man has the advantage of a balcony located somewhere in the Muslim Quarter.

What's missing here is a connection on the part of the viewer to the man in the picture, and that is a result of two things. We don't have enough activity happening. The man is standing and looking and that doesn't involve us. We can't partake of his experience, assuming he was experiencing. We also don't have the human form to draw us in. Defined forms and recognizable shapes get our attention. Here we have no face, and the collar of his robe clouds up the form of the individual. We lose his neck. The photographer has a few choices in a situation of this sort. They can skip the picture altogether, wait for the person to adjust his position, move to a slight angle and hope for something better to emerge, or ask the subject to position himself differently. A better photo usually requires some more effort on the part of the person taking the picture.

You've probably noticed that this photo has a soft diffusion around the edges. The photographer submitted three photos and each had filter use, with two pictures having added colors in parts of the sky. This might have been accomplished digitally, or the photographer has a round filter that screws onto the lens. I have a box of 30 or more filters that I don't use much - most of them for color correction, polarizing light, or B&W effects - but they can be helpful when they add to the photo. In my own work, I am less inclined towards splashes of color, light bursts, or diffusion, but photographers can choose as they wish to accomplish their goals and further their message. The viewer will judge if the attempt is successful or not.


 

family hike outdoors

Devorah Ginzberg

 

It's clear what's going on here - a parent carrying a young child while traversing a path or trail somewhere in the great outdoors. The two older girls have made it down on their own from the higher-up area and are looking back, waiting. The location seems visually interesting and offers us a chance to get away from our own confines for a moment. We might be indoors in our homes or at an office, or outside on a city street. If we see this photo while on our own tiyul, all the better. The sun and shade contrast is quite helpful, as it imparts a sense of the reality of the situation, reminds us of hikes we've taken, and on warmer days - notice how they are all dressed. This is not winter.

I wonder why the girl is holding her sister. We don't have enough information to know if it's consequential, and it might just be part of their communication. As I look again at the photo and try to surmise relationships, I am now wondering if this is in fact the father of the two older girls. The dress discrepancy is what triggers that question. The girls are in Bais-Yaakov-school attire, white shirts. "Dad" is more casually dressed. The answer I'll go with is that this is the father or an uncle. Simply, the photographer is less likely to have photographed a random person carrying a child. Unless one is an ardent photo enthusiast, there needs to be some familial or friend connection present. It could be a family friend. The mystery will remain...

Two final comments: The painted trail marking on the rock is distracting, but then again it may put the picture in context - a hike. The girl on the far left is cropped off. That was not likely intentional and it doesn't matter much, but photographers need to frame carefully and decide what does and doesn't appear in the frame. We don't always have total control, but at least we can attempt.

 

 

field of yellow

Yonatan Court


A field of sunflowers? Or, agricultural tarps? I think some sort of coverings, but was initially not certain. If the car door would open we could find out. But stepping out of the car - even if feasible - would lose the effect of the blurs of color, enhanced and blended by the window still wet with rain. If there were no yellow, this picture wouldn't make it. The yellow, greens, and browns are somewhat muted, yet have a level of contrast, since the sun has gained some access through the cloud cover.

I find the glare in the middle unwanted, though it does break up the photo. Put your extended finger close to your eye to cover the glare and re-imagine the image. Is the glare helpful? What I would really like in its stead is a tractor with a person on top, or something else to taper the present uniformity of the scene.

This picture is a reminder that as we travel by vehicle, many landscapes will present themselves through our window. We can traverse many during a short span of time, depending on the route we take. With the wet window and the blurred effect, I would suggest photographers also try to look for a smaller crop within the frame. After photographing a wider scene, the camera can be zoomed in to a smaller portion of it to go for something that may not even be recognizable and more abstract (do consider minimum focusing distances in tight quarters; there's a limit to how much you can zoom in and still retain focus). In this image that "picture in a picture" might be a closer detail of the yellow rows or somewhere along the tree line, not to mention the cloud formations. 

 

 

snow on kotel
plaza

Yankee Goldstein 

 

The photographer submitted a number of snow scenes taken at the Kotel between 1971 and 1973. I chose this one to comment on. It's pretty gripping. The people - there are more than 50 in the picture - pull us in and keep us looking around the image. We move to scan what's happening and can, if we study the photo, identify groupings of individuals, relationships implied by their proximity or interaction and stance. Because of the distant perspective and the fact that people are wearing hats and facing in different directions, we can't see faces at all (even in a large print of this image only a few faces would be identifiable).

What we can see is the activity. There are a number of people here who are making snowballs, or throwing them. The most obvious is the person on the far right in gray jacket, arm outstretched and ready to throw, almost in a pitcher stance. Midframe someone is reaching down to get some snow, and another person is also doing that on the left side of the photo. We also have on the bottom-left corner an individual with an umbrella. These are micro-moments within the larger frame. Collectively the picture exudes a specific moment - one experience (a snowfall in Jerusalem) that happens, but with rarity.

Instead of cropping this photo ever-slightly for presentation in the column, I left the borders of the frame as submitted (notice the top and also the bottom corners). They show that this is a scan from a mounted slide. Many photo enthusiasts and even everyday picture takers used to shoot with slide film. One recognizes this as a slide image (transparency) from the frame of the image, the color qualities, and even the lack of sharpness of this scan (the image can always be scanned better for an improvement in resolution quality).   

 

 

 

yaffo at night with light rail

Yonatan Court 

   

Know Jerusalem and you know this moving train in the background is the light rail. The photographer identified it as "along Jaffa Road," part of the route that the train takes as it moves around parts of the city. When you look at a photograph there usually is something that first catches you. Rarely do we look at everything at the same moment, when the photo has multiple points of interest. ideally, we are motivated to look around the photo to see what it offers (some photos offer a lot, others may have only one subject and still offer a lot of information or emotion to ponder). The first thing I notice here is what looks like tables, but then I think perhaps they are chairs, even fountains. Either way, the shapes are interesting and they offer something different to look at, which together with the black and white quality of the photo, and coupled with it being nighttime, give the viewer something novel.

The couple is essential to the picture. They fill in the space to add the human element to the scene. They are tourists, travelers, wearing backpacks (his is actually resting alongside), and the man is drinking something in a plastic cup. They are engaged with each other. A real moment, and the solitude is highlighted by the blur of the train right behind them. This couple is not completely alone - notice two people sitting behind the man. Another plus in this photo is the quality of light, and the resulting gradations of tones from light to dark. 

 

 

 

cat and sculpture

Aviva Karasik

 

I look at this photo and I go right to the sunny spot on the left. I might look first in the middle, but I then head real quickly to the left. We are drawn usually to bright areas of an image first.

But the left area here is not at all what the photographer wants us to look at. This is an example of the need to crop a photo - while framing it - to include only important information and nothing that will pull us away from what we should really be looking at. There could be different ways to approach this. Whenever there is a discrepancy in overall illumination - as there is with the sun and shadow variance here - the main subject has to dominate our attention. The main subject is the symmetry of the cat nearing to drink at water's edge and the deer sculpture doing the same thing. That is what is interesting and kudos to the photographer for identifying this as a picture-worthy scene.

I sympathize fully that it is hard to think about framing when trying to quickly catch something that might be gone in a matter of seconds. But that is what we do - we think quickly and try to frame in a responsible way. No one is asking the photographer to go into the water to get the right composition, to travel to a photo store to purchase a better lens for the job. But with the equipment we do have and our own ingenuity we strive to compose a photo that relays to viewers what attracted us in the first place. Not the sunlight and rocks on the left, rather the pair of figures in front of us. Crouching down and framing more to the right would have helped this photo immensely. If a zoom lens can be used to get tighter, all the better.   
  

   

 

flower and hand  

Aviva Karasik

 

Flowers make great gifts and also fine photographic subjects. But to capture them well requires the right angle (e.g., a high or low vantage point, or straight on), the right camera lens, the right light (sunny or cloudy, slightly overcast, or lit by the use of flash or reflector), and a photographer's own creative ability to transmit the qualities of the flower(s) to the viewer. Those qualities include, for instance, color (flowers can also be photographed in B&W, as some of the master photographers have done), shape and form, and minute detail, which is captured by getting visually close and even employing a macro setting on the lens.

Flowers alone might be nice to look at, but without a creative effort they lose their impact when photographed. Take this photo - it's a nice flower, but the image is pretty standard, or would be were it not for the addition of the hand on the bottom. That is a lifesaver. It adds to the photo's story. It suggests that someone is reaching for the flower, trying to grasp it. I might want more of the hand or different placement of the fingers, but this seems believable enough (even if posed) and the human element can often save the day when it comes to picture taking.

Something I noticed, but not on the first glance, is the balance between the petals and the fingers. There are five of each. I am not sure if that was a thought on the part of the photographer, but it's there. There are two life forms in this picture and though one seems to be more able to take (the hand takes the flower, or pulls off a petal), it's not clear who the winner is. The flower seems to have some strength and can hold its own. The fingers have not fully encroached and the human admiration and reach is not yet physical.



gate and floweringbush

Yosef Symonds

There are certainly some nice colors at play in this picture of a gate with a flowering bush, topped off by a blue sky and some dollops of clouds. I'm glad that the photographer shared a scene that involved including individual elements on multiple planes. He could have opted to photograph through the fence to try to access the flowers and sky only, but he chose to include the foreground elements, namely a fence, and to kneel down to get a good angle. The continuation of the fence in the distance adds an additional diagonal to the image, and we follow the fence from start to finish (almost as if we're watching a marble roll down the incline), as we eye the picture. Successful photos keep our attention, move us around the image.

Regarding the exposure: This picture is a bit too light - overexposed. That could be fixed to a degree in editing software, but it's really only about three-quarters of a stop less light that's needed (a faster shutter or smaller aperture would correct). It's better, in my opinion, to have a darker image with the white clouds more stark against the blue background and the flowers and trees less blown out (i.e., overexposed and detail lost). That would be richer, more saturated.  

  

 

landscape

Yosef Symonds

 

I won't claim to know where this is, but the photographer seems to have found a vista worth exploring. There are paths for walking and we all need to get out more - right? The trees and the brown landscape that we see here would lend themselves to some excellent nature photography opportunities. This wide shot can be used sort of like a map to survey some of the overall immediate area. The photographer caught some atmospheric mood in this photo, muted colors, and even found us some parking spots (seems no one is out at this time - the place looks empty).

While the overall image is pretty and helpful, to give an idea of what the area looks like, I would like to see what the photographer can do within this space, during a trek up or down a hill or through a cluster of green trees. Or even when focusing on patches of ground, the different shades and hues accentuated by the lower angle of the sun. This picture is a starting point. It's quite fine to look at, and there is what to look at as we scan the scene, but there is probably some greater beauty of nature to be found when more time is invested in this particular spot. Photographers should never be satisfied with their initial acquisition, and only tire after they have immersed themselves more in an area that suggests potential. There is more here to be found.  

 


 

 

A photograph from Judah S. Harris...

soldiers and
fighter jet

Judah S. Harris

 

This photograph took some ingenuity and a number of hours. I opened a box of toy soldiers and arranged some of them on the surface I had set up (white seamless paper). I also had a model fighter jet, which I tied with clear thread in four places and then strung over a long tubular-box that I had placed lengthwise, horizontally across the scene, a bit above the frame. The soldiers are already fashioned in animated, active positions. I kept them as a group, varying the precise placement on the surface and angles of each. I don't show the feet, since they are molded with a base and that would take away from the reality of the scene

One has to always check how things look through the camera to get a sense of how it will look as a photo. Arranging it without checking the camera's view is not a good idea and will not give a correct impression of the resulting image. Away from the viewfinder, it's hard to judge distance and closeness at such small sizes. A centimeter can make all the difference in relationship. I would arrange the soldiers and then look, then adjust again as needed.

To blur the plane, I moved it during the exposure. I pulled it back a drop and let it swing. This was done on film, so I couldn't see the results until the film was processed. The soldiers are partially silhouetted, the lighting I used shining on the white background. Some of the light bounces back to the soldiers and I also may have had small mirrors to reflect some light for accent on the model figures.

I was proud of the photo and showed it to the New York Times for possible publication on the Op-Ed Page (they'd published a number of my images on those pages). This was back about 17 years ago. The Art Director of the page at the time liked it a lot, but there was no place for it. It has not yet been published. I still have the model soldiers and at least one of two planes I had purchased from a hobby shop for my photo shoot.        
 
 

 

I recently photographed an event for Chabad of Baka (Jerusalem), as they celebrated 10 years and also the occasion of Yud Shvat. There was a nice crowd present and lots of faces to focus on. I used available light and two lenses, a very-wide-angle lens and a longer-length 85mm 1.8 prime lens that allowed me to isolate faces in the group and work in dimmer light. See the photos here:

Chabad of Baka's 10th Anniversary Yud Shvat Melave Malka
http://bit.ly/chabad-of-baka-melave-malka


 

Read past editions of A Second Look in the ARCHIVE

Have a technical or art-related question about photography that you'd like answered in this column? 

Send your photo question to photocritique@janglo.net (put "photo question" at the start of your subject line). Select questions will be chosen for publication. Be sure to include your name and city.   


Take a photo class with Judah S. Harris

More information on group and private lessons 

 


   

Janglo invites readers to submit their best photographs for professional critique and comment. A selection Will be chosen for each weekly column. Photographer and filmmaker Judah S. Harris offers honest and valuable feedback to strengthen picture-taking skills, plus shares some of his philosophy on the art of photography and visual communication. 

 

Instructions:  

Readers may submit up to 5 photographs at one time
Photographs should not have overlay of text or design
Images should be at least 1200px in width
All images must have been taken in Israel
Technical information is not required, but may be included 
Send everything to photocritique@janglo.net

About our columnist... 
Judah S. Harris is a photographer, filmmaker, speaker and writer based in Jerusalem and New York. A noted photo educator and founder of Judah S. Harris Photo Workshops, he teaches group workshops and offers one-on-one coaching sessions for all skill levels. Judah's eloquent narrative photography has been featured on the covers of more than 40 works of literary fiction, in advertising all over the world, and on the pages of a variety of Jewish and general publications ranging from The New York Times to Mishpacha Magazine.  

Judah S. Harris Photo Workshops (Facebook page)   

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