Call for Critics: "Above the City"

Discussion in 'Scenic, Architecture, and Travel' started by quatchi, May 9, 2013.

  1. quatchi

    quatchi Mu-43 Veteran

    326
    May 17, 2012
    Munich, Germany
    Hey,

    I am glad the 'Call for Critics' series is catching up.
    Here is another image of mine I, would be happy to hear your comments about. I took it quite a while ago not long after I started into photography. I took the picture from the observation deck of Munich's 72' Olympic Tower.

    <a href="http://500px.com/photo/674734"> 4. "Above the City by quatchi on 500px.com" border="0" style="margin: 0 0 5px 0;"></a><br/><font style="font-size: 80%;"><a href="http://500px.com/photo/674734">Above the City</a> by <a href="http://500px.com/olli_muc">quatchi</a></font>

    The pink hue is out of camera so to speak, as it was slightly foggy and the tower has a big red signal light on top. In post I adjusted something (can't remember what) so that the yellow light from the staircases pops more out.

    Personally I am quite fond of the picture. Reactions from others, however, never were that enthusiastic. So the question is: What could have improved the image, what is bothering you - or do you simply find it plain boring?
     
  2. szanda

    szanda Mu-43 Regular

    I really like that you included railing and stairs, not the usual "city lights" shot. I will only adjust railing contrast, to give more punch to lights behind, composition is great, overall, I really like it, go out and shoot some more :)
     
  3. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    I am in the "not enthusiastic camp." I find in my own shooting that there are often times "environmental" pictures that trigger memories of special places for me, bringing back the sense memory of certain smells or sounds, or that muffled quietness that sometimes early morning or early evening or even fog can bring. But it never translates to others, who don't have the sense-memory of the scene like I do. Just a guess -- but maybe that's what's happening here??
     
  4. Djarum

    Djarum Super Moderator

    Dec 15, 2009
    Huntsville, AL, USA
    Jason
    The bright stairwell is very distracting to me. I like the concept though.
     
  5. dnightingale

    dnightingale Mu-43 Regular

    131
    Oct 12, 2012
    Sydney, Australia
    Darren
    I also like what you are trying to achieve here. I would like to see the same image from a slightly higher perspective, showing the city lights a little higher in the frame (Perhaps difficult given the location). I actually don't mind the stair lights.
     
  6. RevBob

    RevBob Super Moderator

    Jun 4, 2011
    NorthWestern PA
    Bob
    I agree. The pink tone is interesting but the fog obscuring details of the city renders the scene rather "bland" for me. I suspect the sense-memory concept is at work here.
     
  7. caimi

    caimi Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 13, 2012
    middle US
    Caimi caimiphotography.com
    I have to disagree with the comment about this being a trigger of personal memories that doesn't translate. The more I stare at the image the more I am there. It is so generic and so deliberately includes the more mundane parts of a famous scenic overlook that it places me there even though I have never been there. I like the bright but unfocused stairwell which to me, again, brings attention to the mundane in a subtle way. I don't know if all of this was intended by the photographer but I have to think it was to some degree. The normal view from this place would probably leave all of the props out and just be a scene of city lights. The image sends me back to a vacation I never attended. I like it.
     
  8. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    I don't see a story here. The lack of a landmark keeps it unmoored.

    I might -- emphasis on might -- agree that it is a good "anywhere" shot if the colors were more pure, but the noise in the colors is overall very distracting, leaving me with a low quality image (from a technical perspective) and a lack of story/landmark.

    Just my opinion, though.
     
  9. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    A compelling photo needs to tell a story or give people a focal point through framing (leading lines, shapes, colors, etc.). Essentially, the photo should point the viewer to what it is that drew you to the composition originally - why did you stop and take the shot?

    When I look at this, that's what's missing here. Was it the color of the light that was interesting to you? The contrast between the yellow stair light and the pink overcast light? The foggy cityscape? The railing + binocular/telescopes? I'm not sure which element in the scene I'm meant to be interested in or what drew you to take the photo originally. If the answer is "all of the above" then I think the problem is simply trying to include too much in the frame.

    As far as how to improve it, it's largely a question of framing first and foremost, and then the post-processing afterward. If the staircase and it's light is the interest, then I would have gone for a vertical/portrait orientation instead of landscape and probably removed the second stairwell from the frame. If it's the railing, I'd have probably moved the railing out of the center of the frame, e.g. to higher in the frame so it fills the view more, or lower in the frame to emphasize the contrast with the empty skyline.

    Then in post you have the opportunity to emphasize specific colors, or perhaps choose B&W if your interest is tonal or texture. And of course, you can crop differently in post to draw the eye where you want the viewer focused.
     
  10. caimi

    caimi Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 13, 2012
    middle US
    Caimi caimiphotography.com
    Does a compelling photo have to tell a story?
    Not in my opinion. A compelling photo can engage the viewer with a mere idea or even a suggestion of movement, light or color, but it need not tell a story. In my opinion a compelling photo may only suggest a kernel of an idea that then may become the viewer's story. I think quatchi's image here is successful in that regard. Look at some of the more abstract photos of Man Ray. They don't tell a story in the traditional sense but who can deny that they are compelling?
    Of course, I am assuming quatchi decided to forego the cliche shot of city lights, which he could have easily seen by looking over the rail. Instead he gave us mundane, seemingly inconsequential details that he saw as he approached the tourist viewpoint and in that manner he makes an image that draws the viewer in to where he was and where the viewer may have been in the past. So it becomes the viewer's story.

    Am I assuming too much? There's no way to answer that without asking the photographer but, again, he could have easily taken and shown us a more traditional, overdone image and he did not.

    Is it a home run? They're not all home runs but sometimes a base hit can win a ballgame too.
     
  11. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    I think maybe you're reading too much into the literal semantics here. When I say 'tell a story' I just mean direct the viewer to *something* - that can be as simple as an interesting shape or color (including abstract), it needn't be a 3-act play in a single frame by any means :tongue:

    Clearly you're seeing a point of interest to the photo, whereas I'm just not seeing it personally. But of course that part comes down to viewer's opinion :smile:
     
  12. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    I think if I wanted to divert the eye to go down the stairway, I would want to crop the right hand side to the first wall (first from the right).

    Right now, I find my eye is drawn to the telescopes, which are uninteresting to me.

    Again, IMO it's pretty personal, and that's just my reaction.
     
  13. caimi

    caimi Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 13, 2012
    middle US
    Caimi caimiphotography.com
    jloden,

    I think what you are saying is that you simply don't find the image interesting. That's fine. When I hear the criticism, "a photo should tell a story" I know the critic doesn't mean it has to have a coherent beginning, middle and end. But I hate that criticism anyway because it implies (not necessarily intentionally) that the photographer is either lazy or inexperienced. To the contrary, I think quatchi intended this picture, not some other picture that a given viewer might have preferred to be looking at, for the reasons I previously gave. I find the image interesting precisely because it is not the postcard view one might expect to see from this particular vantage point.

    There is another good example of this sort of image in the tulips thread in the Nature section. The OP posted some beautiful, traditional photos of tulips. Another member responded by posting some unconventional images of tulips against a backround of buildings in Brussels. I found the latter more compelling for their bug's eye view of the tulips in their urban environment. The photographer asked the viewer to see the tulips from a completely different perspective than he might otherwise have expected and in that way invited the viewer to imagine something untraditional rather than telling him what the story should be. I think quatchi does the same with his picture here.
     
  14. quatchi

    quatchi Mu-43 Veteran

    326
    May 17, 2012
    Munich, Germany
    Thank you guys for your helpfull comments as well as the interesting discussion which evolved from them!

    Unfortunately I am on the road tonight. I will post my reply tomorrow.
     
  15. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    Interesting discussion... I think you're creating a false dichotomy though. Making the photo visually interesting or meaningful doesn't by any means require you to use the postcard view or "standard" compositions. On the contrary, I completely agree that sometimes presenting a view of a subject different than the traditional can be more interesting & successful as an image.

    The question I have is what about that vantage point is interesting. The juxtaposition of unusual elements? The light, color, shapes, action? My suggestion wasn't that quatchi should have taken a standard cityscape shot instead; there's nothing wrong with breaking out of the pack and doing something different :thumbup: My feedback is I'm simply not sure which element(s) in the frame was what he wanted to draw attention to or capture. Minimalism or unusual framing can be very effective at letting the viewer fill in the gaps with their own imagination, but it still uses something as a focus even if it's negative space.

    Anyway, as I said I think that ultimately it's just a difference of opinion (beauty being in the eye of the beholder).

    Oh, and for the record, I wasn't implying - intentionally or unintentionally - that quatchi was being lazy or inexperienced here :wink: I'm just imparting my reaction as to what I think was missing for me to connect to whatever it was that drew the photographer to this scene originally.
     
  16. RevBob

    RevBob Super Moderator

    Jun 4, 2011
    NorthWestern PA
    Bob
    Interesting discussion. If nothing else this photo has provided an opportunity for good conversation about composition. Good stuff! :thumbup:
     
  17. quatchi

    quatchi Mu-43 Veteran

    326
    May 17, 2012
    Munich, Germany
    Sorry for the long wait guys. Have been a bit busy lately. Well, one of those 'busy days' was a day out shooting... :)

    Ok, so what was my intention when I took this picture?
    As I mentioned it was in "my early photography days". This means that by then (and quite often still today) I took the picture not because of any design rules or a specific story behind the picture in mind. It simply "felt" right when I pressed the shutter. I, however, remember that the deserted observation deck with the tilted telescopes and the contrasting staircases attracted me.

    Thinking about the picture now, I find that the real "sightseeing attraction" (the city lights) out of the view in the back add to the atmosphere of the picture.
     
  18. Buster

    Buster Mu-43 Regular

    27
    Apr 28, 2013
    Black & White w/ NIK SilverEFX = winner.
     
  19. yekimrd

    yekimrd Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 14, 2012
    Cincinnati, OH
    Mikey
    I previously tried to post a thoughtful critique on the "It's About Time" photo while waiting at an airport but gave up after I lost an entire 2 paragraphs I had typed up due to poor internet connection.

    I certainly appreciate what compelled you to take this photograph. The perspective is certainly interesting and makes the viewer feel as if he/she was there. I also like how the stairs serve as leading lines to the telescopes. The pinkish hue of the sky does contrast well with the yellow staircase and city lights.

    While understandably not easy, it would've been ideal if you were able to shoot from a higher perspective (safety is always first but was it at all possible to get on top of those stairs for a better shot?). The reason I suggest this is because the railing unfortunately occupies the same visual space as the city lights down below. Also, composition-wise, while the viewer is treated to a pleasantly colored sky, it appears empty and occupies half of the frame. There's also a fair bit of noise in the sky which gives an impression of poor IQ -- I'm certain you can tidy this up some more in post.

    Good for the nostalgic value and pleasant colors but lacking in IQ and compositional value. I wonder if maybe a more straightforward approach of shooting over the railing would've been good as well to show off the same color contrast between pink sky and yellow lights. Just my humble critique.
     
  20. Crdome

    Crdome Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 11, 2011
    West Central Indiana
    Chrome
    IMO the photo has too much dead space detracting from the subject. Here is my quick stab to remedy. The crop provides the powerful geometric forms space to dominate.

    -Chrome

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/95688968@N02/8732570779/" title="4 by FotoCrit, on Flickr">"500" height="244" alt="4"></a>