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PhotoZAP: We Critique Your Photos
PhotoZAP 53: On The Stoop


"The strong vertical lines guide the viewer through the frame, taking stops along the way to enjoy the body language of the various people."—Mason Resnick


Photo © Asher Mechanic. Gear: Canon 50D, Canon 17-40mm f/4L EF lens. Exposure, 1/160 sec at f/9, ISO 400. Shot in RAW.

Photographer’s statement: “I was walking along the sidewalk in New York City and saw the lady on the balcony watching a parade go by. After taking five shots of her I noticed the whole dynamic surrounding her. Due to the lack of space I had to zoom all the way out and lean the camera on the sidewalk to get this shot.”

Our photo critics say...

Joe Gioia: Wonderful, beautifully composed; The eye is drawn very naturally across the image by layers of vertical and diagonal lines, echoed by the graceful poses of the two women in the foreground and the rather more prosaic figures above. In another PhotoZAP, I remarked how strong a low camera perspective can emphasize a vertical composition. Here's a perfect example, literally a street shot! And I really like how the presence of the photographer is felt here, how his instincts helped create, and then caught, a lovely moment.

Jack Howard: My years in photojournalism lead me to weigh the emotional moment more heavily than some of the hard-and-fast rules: meaning, I'd rather see a great moment caught with some "technical" issues, than a perfectly composed shot at a non-decisive moment. I love the positioning of the four women, the body language in particular, especially the woman in green in the foreground and the complementary red dressed woman on the balcony. There's such a sense of anticipation of something out of frame in these four gazes, and it works so well  for me that I can get past the sense of vertigo from the uneven vanishing point point angle that would absolutely kill this shot if it were just architecture. But here, in this human moment, that's much less an issue.

Mason Resnick: Although this seems like a casually made shot, it is, as Joe says, very carefully composed. The strong vertical lines guide the viewer through the frame, taking stops along the way to enjoy the body language of the various people. The photo almost becomes too much about how the photographer composed this shot—to put it in terms familiar to followers of Garry Winogrand, form is in danger of overwhelming content. However, I think it succeeds because the combination interesting of poses is just as compelling as the architectural elements.



Editor's note: Here is what I meant by "uneven vanishing point angle":

This is a two-point perspective image, meaning parallel lines appear to converge to two points. Vertical lines are traced in blue and horizontal lines are traced in red. Neither set of converging lines appears to follow a symmetrical or right-angle trianglular construction and no quadlilateral formed by two red and two blue lines would be regular: no rectangles, parallelogram, rhombi, squares, isosocles trapezoids, kites, or even a trapezoid with one right angle corner appear. Overall, this gives a bit of a disorienting feel to the architecture in this image. But as I say, the human moment trumps the architectural angles in this shot.   ~ Jack


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