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PhotoZAP: We Critique Your Photos
PhotoZAP 43: Whatever Floats Your Boat
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PhotoZAP 43: Whatever Floats Your Boat

Our critics praise and pan your pictures


"I’m enjoying the visual game that’s being played here, with the boats seeming to float slightly above the horizon line."—Mason Resnick


© Justin Soderquist, Langley, British Columbia, Canada. Gear: Nikon D40 with 55-200mm VR lens, Hoya UV filter. Exposure: 1/2000 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200, handheld in Programmed Auto mode. Exposure compensation set to -2/3 stop. Some spot healing and color adjustments in Photoshop.

Photographer’s statement: “The near continuity between the water and sky prompted me to take the image and portray the sailboats as if they were floating. I hoped that it would take a bit for people recognize the distinction between the two at the horizon and that would keep them in engaged long enough to discover the subtleties of the slight reflections of the three largest boats as well as the faint ripples in the water. I submitted the image because I think it’s a bit flat. I like the minimalist look, however, so I don’t know that being flat is necessarily such a bad thing in this instance. “


What our critics say...

Joe Gioia (special guest Zapper!): Deciding where to place the horizon line in a picture is one of the central, and I think greatly overlooked, considerations in photographic composition. You create a mood when defining the photographic space, and a poorly situated, or missing, back line (it does not need to be a literal horizon) can make the difference between an okay shot and something people might look at again and again. Here, nature and the photographer have co-operated to nearly eliminate the horizon with this elegant and maybe-too-subtle result. Technically, it's neat. The photographer saw a kind of mystic balance of sky and water and captured it beautifully, weighting the composition 2/3rds ocean--and keeping the horizon dead level. The vignetting seems a bit heavy, but the result wrings a nice mood from a lot of empty space. The problem is that though the picture isn't, as Justin says, 'flat', there's little in it to reward repeated viewing. It would sequence perfectly in a photo essay on sailing; but as a single image, I think, it's a well-made one-off.

Mason Resnick: There are two things I really like about this picture, and one that I don’t.  First, I’m enjoying the visual game that’s being played here, with the boats seeming to float slightly above the horizon line. Second, I think this picture teaches a valuable lesson about coaxing the most out of the gear you have on hand. If the photographer had, say, a 400mm lens, or a 2x tele-extender on hand, he would probably have succumbed to the temptation to get the longest lens and get as close as possible, and that would have ruined this picture. But clearly, he didn’t need to because he made this space and composition work, creating an unusual and enjoyable shot. The main thing that bothers me about this image is the vignetting (dark edges), which can be easily fixed in Photoshop.

Jack Howard: I love this picture. I love the balance and spacing of the eight boats and the way the sail completely pops off the canvas on the far right boat, due, in part, to that telescope-like vignetting around the edges of the frame. This image makes me want to hunt for magic light of my own. I am drawn into the simplicity of this image. Well seen!


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