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An Alley in Cairo - C/C welcome

Discussion in 'Street, Documentary, and Portrait' started by phrenic, May 15, 2013.

  1. phrenic

    phrenic Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 13, 2010
    In the spirit of the recent 'critique' threads, I thought I would give it a shot. I often ask for c&c in the image threads that I post, but I think people are still being a little too easy on me. ;:wink:

    Here is a shot that I entered into a recent challenge thread. I was pretty happy with it, but the judge noted that while he liked it, he would jhave personally cropped out the dead space on both sides, and I think he was right. Maybe it would work better as a more square shot, or in portrait orientation where there would be stronger leading lines and the subject matter in the middle would be more pronounced. Or is there a benefit of having more environment squeezed in with the UWA lens?

    8743172382_fe3b5ebef9_b.
    P1030659 by illvilliaNY, on Flickr
     
  2. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    I might take a bit off of the lest side of the image, but I like that the alley leads the eye into the image. And, I like the poster on the right side. the large box next to it on the right, not so much. All in all though, a nice image. Just curious, what program did you use to post-process the image to B/W?

    --Ken
     
  3. caimi

    caimi Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 13, 2012
    middle US
    Caimi caimiphotography.com
    On my iPad I can crop the picture so the side walls of the alley are reduced and I believe the picture works better with them. They lead the viewer into the light and they add an atmosphere of age and decay that gives the picture more bite. It's missing when you crop them out. They also provide a contrast by making the alley look forbidding despite what appears to be a bright marketplace on the other end. I hate to disagree with the judge but that "dead space" adds interest to the story that's missing if it is cropped out.
     
  4. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    Despite having a little bit of a hard time seeing what's going on in the photo (at least at iPad size), I like the interesting setting of the alley and the light here a lot.

    I agree about cropping dead space, I really don't see it losing anything by cutting the dead space, and there's nothing in those areas of the frame that strengthens the context or atmosphere enough I'd want to preserve it.

    Other than that, I would want to do two things in processing this photo, but they're probably more in the realm of personal taste so take them as you will:

    1) more contrast, maybe higher black point - an image like this is all about dramatic lighting, textures, and shadow for me so I'd probably want to play that up a little.

    2) in the same vein, those crepuscular rays from the sun filtering through overhead are awesome. I'd probably tinker with clarity/contrast etc. to try and make those pop a bit more, without going overboard.
     
  5. My first inclination would be to apply a little perspective correction to reduce the tilt of the verticals on the edges. I think that that would help the image look better in it's present aspect ratio.
     
  6. Crdome

    Crdome Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 11, 2011
    West Central Indiana
    Chrome
    Trevor,

    it is a wonderful shot.

    Before I respond, I have this question for you. Did you try the Judge's proposed crop or just post this question without evaluating it yourself? My first observation when mentally analyzing the 2 possibilities was that the 1st worked because it funneled or invited the viewer into the scene. The second removed some of the visual atmosphere.

    Your image is perhaps a bit visually disturbing (unstable) by the way the structure on the left leans into the composition, while the on the right is square to the frame. Here is how I played around with your image:

    Trevor's Original with guide lines demonstrate the left side building tilts to the right, while the right side building is square to the frame.
    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/95688968@N02/8742508129/" title="Original Trevor Quan by FotoCrit, on Flickr">"500" height="377" alt="Original Trevor Quan"></a>

    After doing a perspective crop on the left, buildings on both sides of the frame are parallel to their edges. also I altered the figures and the shaded background space they face using the burn tool at 4%.
    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/95688968@N02/8742503869/" title="Modified Trevor Quan by FotoCrit, on Flickr">"500" height="379" alt="Modified Trevor Quan"></a>

    Here the images are stacked to compare.
    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/95688968@N02/8743620452/" title="Photo by Trevor Quan by FotoCrit, on Flickr">"331" height="500" alt="Photo by Trevor Quan"></a>

    Now, which is better. It's subjective. While the modified one squared the image making it visually stable, it did made the alley look less claustrophobic and perhaps diluted some impact of the funneling effect.

    Regarding the burning more attention is directed toward the subjects. In doing so did it make the image less ethereal?

    My first metalsmithing teacher drove me crazy when I asked for technical advice. He always responded "You can do it this way.... or this way...or this way" I often wanted to scream "Just tell me the right way!" Afterwards I would use one of his suggestions or come up with yet another. I came away with some of the most valuable lessons of my adult life. There is not one correct way, and often nothing is impossible.

    My challenge to you is to rework the image and to see if you can an alternative.

    -Chrome
     
  7. caimi

    caimi Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 13, 2012
    middle US
    Caimi caimiphotography.com
    I like jloden's suggestion regarding burning in the rays and amping up the contrast a bit. It makes the people and the market stand out as intended.
     
  8. the_traveler

    the_traveler Mu-43 Veteran

    204
    Sep 12, 2011
    Columbia, MD
    Lew Lorton
    I think that the real problem with this picture is that the subjects walking at the end of the alley are really indistinct and they merge into a sort of jumble of grey tones.
    I want this to be good because it does have the elements but, in the end, the subjects are too hazy.
    Even at 100% it is difficult to parse out the people from the background

    alley.
     
  9. phrenic

    phrenic Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 13, 2010
    Thanks. FYI LR4, with tweaked B&W pre-set. I recently picked up SilverFX but haven't really gotten into it yet.
     
  10. phrenic

    phrenic Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 13, 2010
    Thanks for all the replies! I will try to address the various comments/suggestions together:

    I didn't notice the tilting verticals at first, but indeed they are distracting. Nice catch!

    I also agree that it could benefit from some extra contrast, clarity and perhaps some burning on the central figures.

    As to the degree of cropping, I can see arguments for or against it..I could imagine it could work with many different styles of crops, it would be a matter of trying out different options and personal preference I suppose. Hurray for digital non-destructive editing!

    (I've tried the first 2 editing themes above, and will try some various crop options after work and post up some alternate versions)

    Thanks all, it really is neat to see the what details you missed or what would help the image benefit through just a little more work.
     
  11. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Keith
    Disclaimer: This critique is written before I've read what others have posted as I want to provide you with my thoughts that haven't been colored by the comments already provided.

    The first two things that strike me about this image: it appears to have a bit of a lean to the right which is distracting (this can be simply fixed) and there doesn't seem to be much of a "focal point" to the image (which is much more difficult to address).

    The light and the strong diagonal lines are great and they naturally lead my eye toward the two figures walking in the center of the frame further down the alley, but there is nothing about these subjects with which I connect emotionally. Their positioning (facing away from the camera, which obscures their faces), their size within the frame, the pack being carried by the figure on the right, the clarity and light of that area of the image and the focus are such that I cannot really understand these people's story which would help me connect emotionally with the image.

    Without something to connect with, the other technical aspects of the image are almost immaterial. The lighting is quite striking although I would try to increase the overall contrast and drag the blacks down a bit more, even if that ends up causing some (or more) shadows to clip. I don't think I necessarily agree about the suggestion to crop the sides of the image as I like some of the details (e.g. the sign on the right) in those areas. If I did crop it I would try a square aspect ratio to retain some of those areas -- I think a full portrait crop would go too far.
     
  12. jjviegas

    jjviegas Mu-43 Regular

    86
    Apr 18, 2013
    Madrid, Spain
    This is how a topic should always be, people could learn a lot and improve, not only the poster but all participants. Said this, I like the suggestions made by Crdome, besides that great photo as it is.
     
  13. Crdome

    Crdome Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 11, 2011
    West Central Indiana
    Chrome
    Lew - Good interpretation!

     
  14. Crdome

    Crdome Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 11, 2011
    West Central Indiana
    Chrome
    Keith -Well thought out with great ideas. Your secret's out. You must be a lawyer with the prefaced "Disclaimer".

    -Chrome


     
  15. phrenic

    phrenic Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 13, 2010
    1) Interesting point about trying to skip the other comments before it colors your own opinions. I will have to try that when providing feedback on other posters' images.

    2) Re: focal point, that's a fair comment. Personally, I always thought of the two youngsters sitting on the stairs (at least I thought they were more interesting) as more of the focal point. Or arguably it's all 4 figures highlighted in the light (/copout).

    3) Regarding relative size in the framing, I think I prefer having the subjects smaller in the environment with the context and various details/textures around the subjects and I think it helps with the leading lines. However, it's certainly a risk of going ultra wide and losing the subjects in the middle.

    4) Re: emotional connection to the image. Another one that is hard to address. Perhaps it falls into the issue with a lot of street photography shots, is it just another image of people going about their day? Is it really capturing a pivotal moment or expression or is it just 'congrats, you took a picture of people on the street'? I have to say a lot of what gets posted up in the street photography shots doesn't really do much for me and can be mundane at times. And it's good to know when it doesn't work.
     
  16. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Keith
    Nope, I'm just caveman. I fell on some ice and later got thawed out by some of your scientists. Your world frightens and confuses me!
     
  17. slothead

    slothead Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 14, 2012
    Frederick, MD
    I agree with the "more contrast" comment and I would run it through Nik HDR Efex Pro II (single image tone mapping) to see what it would yield.
     
  18. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Keith
    I see the two on the stairs as a sort of secondary focal point. Again, the primary problem is that I can only see about 2/3 of one face. If you had enough pixels I would suggest a severe crop in which you reframe the image on just these two (retaining some of the leading diagonal lines), but I'm afraid that the picture wouldn't hold together at that level of magnification.

    The size is not necessarily an issue if there were something else to draw the viewer's interest. However, barring a face, a clear emotion in any of the body language, and bright light falling on your subject the scale of the images is all we really have. Given that, I think they're too small.

    Emotional connection to an image shot be someone else is difficult as I was (obviously) not there. I always try to put myself in the photog's shoes to try to "see" what prompted them to capture this particular moment in this particular way. However, that sort of exercise only works to a point...I don't have any way to know the sounds and smells and all of the other senses and emotions that can be brought to mind by am image you shot.

    You're right that much street photography is missing this -- which Henri Cartier-Bresson referred to as "the decisive moment".

    I also realize that my comments aren't necessarily helpful in trying to "fix" this image, but they might be things you can keep in mind (if you choose to) for the next time. The image itself is actually quite good. :smile:
     
  19. The interest in this shot for me is not the human subjects and what they are doing but instead the geometry of the alleyway and the converging lines it creates. The "frame" is the interesting feature here. That's why I wouldn't crop but would instead fix the rotation/verticals.
     
  20. phrenic

    phrenic Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 13, 2010
    I was away for a weekend retreat, but I had the chance to try some edits with the comments from this thread in mind. For those curious, I tried 2 different orientations. To me, they seemed to best accomplish the goals of fixing the verticals, bumping up contrast, improving the middle light highlights, and clearing from visual clutter from the side.

    Hopefully the tighter crops do not detract from the geometry and lines that were the stronger aspect of the original shots. They both exist somewhere along the spectrum. The vertical one loses some of the environmental context, yet trades it for making the people a more significant part of the composition. Not sure which I prefer.

    Thanks for all the feedback folks!
    Original:

    8743172382_fe3b5ebef9_b.


    Edits:

    P1030659-3.

    P1030659-4.