Safe Harbor photo critique


This is a photo I quite like that I took yesterday in my exploration of a rented Canon 6D.

I’d just like any tips and advice you might have regarding processing, composition, or other.

Gear: Canon 6D, Contax 85/2.8 at f/8 (I think) and ISO 100, 2 seconds.

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Not bad, but very hard on the eyes… There is a patch-work of in-focus and out-of-focus areas that makes your eyes try to focus on blurry objects. By contrast, the big rock at the top looks blurry until you focus on it… Or maybe I’m too old for this shot :slight_smile:


My eye seems to jump around on the shot. I think it is because there doesn’t seem to be a focal point for image. The right half of the image seems to fight with the left half of the image. I would have tried to just shoot the upper left quadrant of the image. I like the circle of rocks and leaves with the reflection of the sky in the middle. The exposure is good. I may have boosted the chroma a bit. The right half of the image may have made a good shot, also.

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You’re right about the upper left possibly standing on its own (assuming that I refocused).

Here’s a (completely) different shot of the same phenomenon that would work better than the right half alone, though:

(Pat David) #5

I wanted to comment on this last night, but was on my mobile when you posted it. :slight_smile:

I like it. That is, it’s a pretty scene of a small slice of nature and I like that. I’m wondering why a 2 second exposure was needed (or ƒ/8 for that matter)? Was it to allow for a blur on the water surface?

While I like it, I have a similar issue as @Wilam in that the image seems to lack a focal point. Perhaps a tighter crop would help a bit? My eye wants to wander around the scene a bit and doesn’t really have anything to linger on for too long. This may be because the sky reflection in the water on the right side of the image competes for attention due to its brightness. Maybe try reducing the brightness of that region and see if that snaps the overall focs back to the rocks/leaves (while still leaving pretty details in the water)?

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(Pat David) #6

See, this one has a nice focal point for my eye to initially get captured by. Once I’ve had a chance to soak in the visual details of the focal object, my eye can then sort of wander around the scene and appreciate the water/reflection (the other main focal point). This one is nice in that it visually simplifies what I’m processing (almost zen!), while providing two nice things to look at (it also helps that they are metaphorically opposites as well - hard/rock soft/water).


That’s not focal blur you’re seeing, it’s ripples in the water moving that creates the blur effect. In the “safe harbor” on the left, the ripples are attenuated, so the reflection is blurred much less.

I noticed that it would cause a kind of dissonance between the deep depth of field of the main image and the apparent shallow DOF of the reflection (much stronger in the f/16 second image where the rock’s reflection is not blurred because it’s close).

The second image I shot away from the sun instead of towards it, but obviously I didn’t have the same subject anymore. Maybe I should go back there in the morning to have the sky be darker…

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That’s why I didn’t post that photo for critique, because I felt like Safe Harbor needed more help.

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Well I just went back to the scene of the crime (the same brook) and took some more shots at a longer focal length, at perhaps a better time of day. We’ll see how they turn out.

(Pat David) #10

Looking forward to seeing them! :smile:


Tighter crop:

Even tighter, different perspective:

Another very tight one, off to the right some more:

A completely different rock:

I notice that these are cooler overall; the sun hadn’t really hit the treetops yet and so there are no bursts of warmth in the reflection.


I like the third image, with the frog in the upper left. I also like, and now for a completely different rock.

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Huh, I didn’t notice that frog at all. I spotted some more frogs in another picture that didn’t turn out, though.

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“Tighter crop” definitely better than your first shot. Not too convinced by the two others…

Btw the frog is in all three images (top right for the first two).


I’m not completely happy with the way any of those three came out, either. Maybe I’ll go back to try it again, again. Maybe wider instead of longer, but closer to the water for a different perspective.

(Carmelo Dr Raw) #16

I agree with the others saying that the initial image is too “crowded”, and lacks a strong element that focuses the attention. The tighter crops work definitely much better; among them I prefer the last one, as it doesn’t have any distracting element at the very bottom.

Personally, if I would have to go back to this place I would also try shooting some details of the autumn leaves floating on the water, and play with their reflections… maybe some back-lit leave framed with the camera close to the water level?

You have some very nice colors there, and there is plenty of room for experimenting!

(ump) #17

Re. the first shot:

There’s no composition because there’s no subject - instead there are two competing subjects the “prominence” of rocks and the reflections on the water. They don’t support each other and neither is strong enough to work by itself. Texture shots of stones and leaves alone can work, but if you were going for that you need to remove distractions like the reflections from the frame.

Processing seems fine.


That’s a good succinct explanation.

You’re right about the two subjects competing without really balancing.