PhotoZAP 74: Prickly POV

Our Panel of Perfectionists Picks Apart Your Pictures

"The fact that a subject matter has been shot a gazillion times before shouldn't deter you (or anyone else) from shooting it again." ~Jena Ardell

© H. Allan Jemison, Chandler, AZ. Gear: Canon Rebel T2i with EF S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS taken at 35mm, f/13. handheld. Manual Exposure: 1/1250 sec, ISO 3200. The picture/scene mode was set to landscape and the white balance set to cloudy.

Photographer’s statement:
"The scene came about as I was coming down RT60 from Globe, AZ from a mountain photo shoot. I realized I was in a perfect place to capture one of Arizona's best features, sunsets. I composed the shot so the sun was always behind the cactus to create a silhouette effect.  I took a number of shots in various positions and distances. I have a couple of other shots from various angles, but I liked this one best."

Our critics say...

Mason Resnick: I have seen this image a gazillion times before, so I demand that it be better than perfect so it can stand out from the crowd. Alas, despite the spot-on exposure and appropriate use of the rule of thirds, it fails for three reasons. First, the undefined shape on the horizon on the right side of the image is distracting. Second, the photographer shot this at ISO 3200, a completely inappropriate ISO setting for this situation because it results in a noise-filled, un-enlargeable image. ISO 100 would have resulted in an exposure in the neighborhood of 1/250 second at f/8, plus overall image quality would have been better. Thirdly, the bottom third of the picture needs help. Perhaps there's interesting foreground detail, lost in the silhouette, that could give this image dimension-easy enough to make visible up either by using HDR and with or the addition of a flash either on or off camera. You can capture that kind of detail without compromising on the quality of the beautiful sunset.

Russell Hart: Mason has hit all the key points... I like the composition's being weighted to the left, but I too am distracted by the "undefined shape," even though I think it's an ocotillo cactus. If you really like this image I'd consider cloning it out in Photoshop, which shouldn't be too hard given the relative lack of detail in the sky.

That lack of detail also makes depth of field less critical, which is why Mason is saying it would have been OK to shoot at f/8. And as Mason has pointed out in other places, shooting at such a high ISO also reduced your dynamic range, and lowering the ISO might therefore have pulled in a bit more detail in dark areas, though nowhere near as much as HDR would have. (I'm not convinced that adding flash would have done the job very well, since it wouldn't have filled in the foreground very evenly, and would have looked artificial). It does sound as if you converted to JPEG from a RAW file, and given that RAW capture preserves more detail than JPEG I wonder if you could go back and try to pull something back into the foreground.

Jena Ardell:
The sunset is gorgeous and I am a sucker for silhouettes, but as Mason and Russell mentioned, this image is far too cluttered. Had you zoomed in/moved closer and focused on the single cactus to the left, this image would have been much stronger. You mentioned you shot multiple angles of this scene, and I hope the cactus on the left was framed to the right, with open space to its left in a few of your shots.

The fact that a subject matter has been shot a gazillion times before shouldn't deter you (or anyone else) from shooting it again. Capture the moment for personal reasons, and then set a higher standard for the next person who comes across this scene. Brainstorm ways to make this image 'new'. Whether it's adding flash, filters, adding a person or even cut-out cardboard shapes... there are endless possibilitles.

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