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Monthly Critique – What’s Your Opinion

Wadi Rum

This month’s critique comes with a twist.  The photo is from Gary Arndt who is currently two years into an around the world trip.  Around the world may be misleading, he’s roaming around, let’s just say.  I featured Gary’s blog in the recent post 8 Daily Photo Blogs That Provide Inspiration here on DPS as he produces wonderful images from his travels on a daily basis.

Here’s the twist, not only is Gary looking for input on the photo I selected for this month’s critique, but he would laos like input on editing photos while on the road.  Right now Gary is not under what some of us would consider ideal photo editing circumstances; often staying in hostels, spotting internet connectivity, varied light sources and a small travel laptop that hasn’t been color calibrated, uhhhhhhh…..ever.  He treats most of the images he posts as first drafts, doing simple edits just to get the pictures online, until he returns home and can use his desktop machine to edit.

With that in mind, a few of the DPS writers take a crack at critiquing  Gary’s photo (above), taken in the Wadi Rum Valley in Jordan.  Click on the photo for larger sizes.

Monthly Critique - What's Your OpinionHelen Bradley

This photo is a challenge. There is so much going on in it from the beautifully shaped and strong colors of the tents in the foreground through to the people sitting on the side of what can only be presumed to be a road in the middle ground and the spectacular rock formations in the background. There are three or more photos in this single image, each of which I would like to see featured in detail. But the photographer is tantalizingly holding back from showing me what I want to see. Perhaps that’s the true strength of the photograph – it holds so much promise that you almost ache to know more about its subject.

As to tips to help Gary as he edits his images on the road, I believe that a laptop monitor is not the best tool to use when doing detailed editing. I recommend Lightroom because any edits you make to a photograph are not committed to it so they can be tweaked and undone. On the road, focus on picking the shots that you want to keep (P for pick, X for Reject). Delete the rejects and then rate the picks to identify the best of the bunch. Perform only preliminary edits such as Exposure, Recovery, Fill Light and Blacks and crop images if they really need it. Leave other edits till you have access to a good quality, calibrated monitor. One of the benefits of this mini workflow is that you can quickly prepare a slideshow of your best images and enjoy the fruits of your labor as you travel.

Monthly Critique - What's Your OpinionBarrie Smith

What a magic shot! The only way it could be improved is to make a separate version Photoshop using the Spherize filter to simulate a more fishy fisheye lens view! But magic!

Monthly Critique - What's Your Opinion Jim Goldstein

Gary I’m envious of your journey, but I know its got to be an incredible challenge to keep photographing remotely as you’re doing. To your photo…

No disrespect intended this is a nice snapshot. It details the scene well enough, but it lacks punch and not because of a lack of post-processing. The scene is full of subject material calling out to be the center of its own photo. It is human nature to want to capture an entire scene into a single photo, but it often never translates. Photographs even with the widest lens seldom translate an open scene quite the same way as when you see it with your own eyes. As it relates to travel I would hope you include a photo like this in a set leading your viewer through different components of this scene. Photos with the people as the subject, the view out the tent door, detail of the sand and landscape, etc. All of these together would paint a larger scene more effectively than one super wide photo. In addition your personal style and perspective would shine through such a set of images better than what would come across in a single photo like this. That being said this photo is what it is and it suffices, but I don’t feel trying to point out technical improvements or minor compositional changes will make this that much better.

As for travel workflow its tough to give solid advice with out knowing what equipment and software you’re using. In the best of all worlds you’d have a program with you like Lightroom that lets you keyword and catalog your images. Post-processing could also be done and if photosets have similar lighting you’d be able to quickly carry over post-processing settings from one image to the next speeding up the process. One thing I’d hope you’re also doing is backing up your work in the event of theft or catastrophic computer failure. Mailing CD or DVD backups to your home from where ever you are might be a smart thing to do.
Best of luck with your travels and photography!

Monthly Critique - What's Your OpinionPeter Carey

I like all the activity in this scene a lot.  I’m a fan of vast spaces and that’s one thing I really like about this shot, its wide angle.  The wide angle also makes the people small and seemingly lost in the scene, further adding to the expanse of the area (I’m left imagining the whole area to the side and behind the camera is equally as open).  The shadows also interest me and give away the time of day, making me imagine the scene is starting to cool as people gather around the table for ????

The flare on the left side bugs me as well as the rocks on the right.  Framed a little to the left would have been better in my eyes, but it’s entirely possible this wasn’t feasible.  I do like the tents in the foreground and the hills in the distance.  All in all, the photograph really makes me want to be there!!

I can’t offer much help on the photo editing on the road other than what you’re doing.  I’ve edited enough on my travel laptop to know that it’s just not going to cut it when it comes to color accuracy.  I typically use Picasa on the road as it’s easy to upload to various locations and has the simple cropping and color correction I require to get the story out when on the road.  I would though highly suggest being ruthless with deletes while on the road, it will make things easier when doing final edits.  You’re going to have one massive editing job when you do make it home, Gary!!

What’s your opinion of Gary’s photo? Share it in the comments section below, especially if you have any tips for editing on the road he and others might find useful.

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Peter West Carey
Peter West Carey

leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics – A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

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