PhotoZAP 73: Carriage House

Our Panel of Perfectionists Picks Apart Your Pictures

"This is a job for... HDR!" -Russell Hart

© Edmund A. Dworakowski, Allaire Village, Allaire, NJ. Gear: Nikon D300s with Nikon 18-200 VRII equipped with a Hoya Skylight filter taken at 18mm, f/3.5, handheld. Aperture Exposure Priority: 1/250 sec, ISO 3200. Post production was done with Lightroom3.

Photographer’s statement:
I am fairly new to digital photography and purchased my camera from Adorama in 2010 while recovering from an illness which kept me hospitalized for over six weeks. Having recovered, photography has become my therapy of choice and my camera is never far away. I chose this shot because I think it's pretty good for a guy who is fairly new to this preoccupation. The scene presented me with a unique set of problems to solve and a limited time to produce a memorable image. One of the thing that I like most is the way photography gives me the opportunity to be artistic, problem solve, investigate and truly observe my surroundings."

Our critics say...

Russell Hart: This is a job for... HDR! Normally I shy away from recommending High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging because it is so misused these days, but it would have given you more detail in your interior and (if you'd wanted it) more detail or tone in the windows too. As you probably know, you shoot a series of widely bracketed exposures and use software to blend the lighter exposures (for interior detail) with darker ones (for window detail). And since you're a Nik fan, you could use their excellent HDR Efex Pro software to do it, though Photoshop also has this feature. (Many new cameras, including point-and-shoots, have an HDR mode built-in.)

You may say that you wanted a dark interior for mood's sake, and didn't want distracting detail in the windows. That's understandable, but I think you could keep the mood and still open up the picture so the eye can explore it. The great thing about the Nik program is that you can pick any balance of darks and lights you want. A quick, on-the-spot fix would have been to use fill-flash to add some light to the interior, opening it up a bit without completely burning out the windows.

Mason Resnick: The lighting here is dramatic, and as Russell says, the dynamic range in this scene could use some help. But beyond the technical issues, compositionally there's no visual "hook" here to tie this image together. There are several points of interest competing for attention. The bright light landing on the anvil in the lower right draws my attention away from the center of the photo, for instance. In addition to Russell's HDR suggestion, I'd crop tighter, eliminating the brightly lit part of the anvil and the window all the way to the right. If I could do this over, I'd shift my shooting position slightly, moving closer to the center of the room to emphasize the light streaming from the upper center-right window as a unifying element.

Jena Ardell:
I disagree with Mason, I don't think a tighter crop would benefit this photograph. For me, part of the charm here is the fact that there are so many interesting corners for your eyes to explore. This image is sort of like a hidden puzzle--the more you look at it, the more you discover. However, the colors seem much too saturated. I'm not sure whether you over-saturated them in Lightroom, but that's what distracts me more than the composition here.

Maybe I'm an over-achiever but, when I see a scene like this, I see additional things someone can do make this scene more interesting. One thing you could have done was to visit this house later in the evening with a flashlight (and/or external flash) and some colored gels. A longer exposure time would give you enough time to light the carriage (or better yet--backlight it) with a flashlight. Using different colored gels, you could illuminate each object you want viewers to see... the desk, carriage, anvil, etc. You could have even been controlling the light coming in from some of the windows with an external flash or two. It's time-consuming, but it's extra steps like that that turn an ordinary image into an awe-inspiring image.

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