Look! – for critique

I’m putting up an image today for you to critique. It’s an image shot instinctively yesterday in Islington, London.

It was a cold, but sunny day, and as I walked southwards the sun suddenly appeared from behind a tall building and the shadows stretched towards me. The Canon G10 hadn’t been re-set from its previous shot in a dark corner (the wrong settings again)! The ISO was still at 800, and the other data was 1/1600 at F4. The G10 is hopeless for noise at anything over ISO 400 I find. I glanced at the shot on the back screen and thought – that’s interesting, I’ll wait for another shot. But despite loitering ‘with intent’ a similar image didn’t appear and I was in a hurry to see some pumpkins (sculptures) by Yayoi Kusama at a gallery nearby.

IMG_7301_wpBack home when viewed on the big screen my reaction was – so nearly good. The bottom half of the image is fine (IMHO). I love the inclusion of the word ‘Look’ and the shadows make an attractive composition with the addition of the dotted white line (once I had cloned out some ugly flare patterning). The top half is not so good. F4 didn’t help – the figures are not sharply in focus. There is flare highlighting a woman in the centre – perhaps a bonus(?) – and there is rim lighting, and a London bus. I tried converting to B&W but I don’t think that works – the colour, such as it is, in the top third is important. I’ve cropped the image to the important section and processed it very thoroughly including noise reduction (in other words I’ve tried to extract the max from it).

So…what is it now? Is it one of those ‘nearly’ images from which one learns, and kicks one’s self, saying – think Settings after every shot. Remember to re-set them to something that is likely to be the best guess for an instinctive next shot. (I do wish I could remember to do that). I find objectiveness about my work still one of the hardest traits to learn. Are their merits in this image that I can’t see? And would it be worth just being really bold and chopping the top two-thirds off?

It’s over to you. What are your thoughts? Say it’s rubbish if you think it is! Or, better still, say something constructive. I look forward to your comments.

And it will enlarge for a clearer view – just click on the image.

PS – as a result of all the helpful suggestions I have received, I have cropped and re-worked this image. See the result here.

About LensScaper

Hi - I'm a UK-based photographer who started out 45+ years ago as a lover of landscapes, inspired by my love of outdoor pursuits: skiing, walking and climbing. Now retired, I seldom leave home without a camera and I find images in unexpected places and from different genres. I work on the premise that Photography is Art and that creativity is dependent on the cultivation of 'A Seeing Eye'. I'm not averse to manipulating images to produce derivatives that may sometimes be far removed from the original.
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29 Responses to Look! – for critique

  1. suej says:

    Settings! That’s my bugbear…I just. don’t. think. (Is it my age? Or the MS?) I’ve been taking unsharp images recently because I’ve opened the aperture too wide…I gave myself a serious talking to the other day!
    But I’m rambling….I like this shot insofar as it is a glimpse of busy London, and a street shot. Now, I’m sure I’ll get shouted down, but I don’t think you need perfect settings, necessarily, in a street shot, so long as it captures a moment, a mood, an atmosphere. And those long shadows and the flare of light immediately tell us time of day and season, and you have busy captured….so imperfect yes, but atmospheric yes. 🙂

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Sue – I’ve edited the ‘snarl up’ out! A serious talking too doesn’t seem to have any effect on me. Perhaps I should ask my wife to give me a serious talking too – she’s a bit more frightening than me!! I think there is some truth in what you say about street photography and the concept of catching the moment and tolerating a bit of movement. And that is sort of comforting. But it’s annoying when you know you could have got it better if only you had thought ‘settings’. It’s very easy to get ‘carried away’ on the streets and be impulsive – things happen fast and unexpectedly – all the more reason to try to ensure the camera is best set up for a quick shot.

      • suej says:

        Too right! And I have just moved to a different camera, which can be a tad confusing at times….so I need to just get out and take more photos!

  2. Chillbrook says:

    I spent a whole day taking pictures at ISO-800 once and despite what the blurb says about the D800’s excellent high ISO performance, I wasn’t happy and it pains me to look at that folder of images because there were some good shots that I can’t repeat.
    I took the liberty of right clicking and saving your image to my desktop Andy. I then took it into Photoshop and had a play around with it. I tried cropping the image down and didn’t feel that worked. No matter what I did I couldn’t get beyond the flare. It’s not just the flare behind the lady in the centre but the numerous white patches appearing as if there were drops of water on your lens that are really spoiling the image for me. I can cope with the noise. It’s adds a hard grittiness that I rather like. I wonder if that could be emphasised and perhaps undo the noise reduction? I like the composition and the word look in the bottom right. I like the London bus that gives us a location and I like the long shadows. The sign saying Xmas trees gives us the season. There is so much going for the image, as Sue has said, it’s atmospheric and I can understand your reluctance to consign this one to the darkroom floor but on balance, I’ll be honest, I think that’s possibly where it should be purely because the flare can’t be managed. If it were just the central flare, you could perhaps have got away with it. One that got away I think Andy.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Adrian. An honest opinion which is always valuable. The G10 lens has sadly suffered a little over the years with minute dust particles that I cannot remove – the G10 gets to some very high and inhospitable places, not say the weather too. The particles are invisible under normal lighting conditions but when the camera is pointed directly at the sun, well, they sadly light up – and you see the results. And although this is an image I like, it will never win any real accolades.

  3. shoreacres says:

    I think it’s just perfect as is. Given that it’s the Christmas season, I’d title it “Annunciation.” That re-contextualizes the lens flare, and adds even more weight to the command to “Look” in the lower right. There are miracles all around, after all, and this would be a fantastic, modern interpretation of the story.

  4. poppytump says:

    I think you’ve probably already decided Andy … however I do like the atmosphere, the Look lettering and also the irony in being in the middle of the ‘Congestion Zone’ what with it being the Festive Season and all that 🙂

  5. Well, I have done some wrong settings sometimes, and didn’t see till after. 😉 This one looks good.

  6. oneowner says:

    I like the like the look of this photo, even the flare and grain. I especially like the word “look” and the dotted line in the shadows. I don’t know if there is anything I would do to try to improve on this version. I think if it were possible to open up the shadows in the store fronts in the background but I’m not sure it’s worth the effort.

  7. athyfoto says:

    Your picture tells a story and whether the elements that make up the image are tack sharp or not is of no consequence to me personally. I see a busy scene with lots of shoppers, the low sun, long shadows and the Xmas Tree billboard place the image in time while the congestion charge sign and the No.19 bus gives a clue as to the location. If this were one of mine it would surely be a keeper and possibly would inspire me to try to make a series of street images as a mini project.

    Aside from that, I took a look at your picture in Snapseed. Since a crop may not have worked I applied a ’tilt/shift’ effect to blur and soften all but the lower half and also applied the black and white filter. I thought Snapseed threw up some interesting versions, just a thought.

    • LensScaper says:

      Many thanks for those ideas, Frank. I’ve now cropped the image and re-posted it in a new post today (Friday), which perhaps you already have seen. I’ve heard of Snapseed – in the context of iPhones – is it also available as a desktop product?

  8. vastlycurious.com says:

    It is full of movement, great and spontaneous !

  9. Andy I think it’s already been said…I love the lower half of the image, the shadows, the word look on the street. There’s a good story there and you’ve composed it quite nicely but the lens flare keeps pulling my attention away.

  10. Andy, I hate to agree with Adrian, but I do. What a pity. Without that flare I would like it a lot.

  11. Looks very nice on my mobile screen but not too nice when i zoomed. This grain just killed all the colors. BW can safe this image but you will lost the upper part with the bus. May be just go there again and take some better image with the right settings ? You know – the streets are unlimited for the moments and interesting situations

  12. Len says:

    I am a little late to the party but a lot of what others have said are true. I have a G10 but was so frustrated with the performance over 400 iso, that it sits on the shelf. The lens flare draws my eye away from everything else that is good. Don’t know if you shot in RAW or not but the other thing I would try to do is bring out the shadows a bit in the crowd and buildings. Love the street, look and long shadows of the people.

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