PhotoZAP 77: Choppy Waters

Our Panel of Perfectionists Picks Apart Your Pictures

"I believe this image can be saved by carefully cropping the lower-third—and telling everyone you meant to capture the water’s beautiful crenelations as waves collapse and intersect all along."  -Brandon Partridge

©  Vincent D. Supetran, Subic Bay, Philippines. Gear: Canon EOS 7D with Tamron 18-270mm taken at 18mm, f/5, handheld. Aperture Priority Mode: 1/250, 100 ISO. Spot Metered on Landscape Scene Mode. 

Photographer’s statement:
"The shot was taken at Subic Bay, Philippines. We had rented a boat for the day and this was taken handheld lying on top of the rook of the boat as it was maneuvering to dock. I metered off the sky above the mountains with Cloudy/Overcast White Balance
I would love to hear your thoughts and get tips so that I can improve on my landscape photography."

Our critics say...

Mason Resnick: Rules are made to be broken, but if you are going to break one of the most basic rules of photography, you better have a good reason. Unfortunately, the rule of thirds is completely ignored here, with no reason whatsoever. The horizon line is just a bit below the middle of the image, kind of in a visual no-man's land. It should be sitting on the invisible lines that cut across the lower or upper third of the image. I would even take the bold step of placing the horizon as close as possible to the top with just enough sky visible so you can see the boats' masts, and turn the camera to horizontal, and do a study of the beautiful reflection in the water, because for me, that's the only interesting part of this picture.

Brandon Partridge: I have to agree with Mason; I was first drawn to the silky ripples of the water and their reflection of the red/orange hued sunset. But by the time my eyes had lifted to scan the horizon my interest in the image was lost. I’m not a hardliner on following established rules—but in this case; making a little effort to abide by some of them would have perhaps saved this image from the dangerously listing pile of photographs that will never grace my walls. I believe this image can be saved by carefully cropping the lower-third—and telling everyone you meant to capture the water’s beautiful crenelations as waves collapse and intersect all along.

In order for your photo to qualify as “landscape photography,” the focus (or subject) must be nature itself. The mere inclusion of nature amongst man-made objects is not a qualification. At most, man-made objects present in landscape photography should illustrate signs of having succumbed to nature through neglect, deterioration, or overgrowth—providing no immediate or recoverable utility—in other words, what once provided some purpose or usefulness to man is now but an extension of nature itself.


Jena Ardell: Your exposure is spot-on, but a tiny bit of added contrast in post-production would make this image look more polished. I agree with Mason and Brandon about the composition issues. As is, we are forced to focus on the boats, but the boats are too far away to really focus on. However, I disagree with Brandon when it comes to the the qualifications of "landscape photography". Man-made objects can certainly be included in a landscape or seascape, so long as they are not the photograph's primary subject. I think that this image (and you) would benefit from investing in either a polarizing filter or a 3-stop soft-step ND graduated filter. Most landscape photographers swear by them. After you master landscape composition, venturing into the world of advanced light manipulation will be smooth sailing!

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