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AskJoeB: So, what do you think?

So, what do you think?

So, what do you think?

Valeriano, a past online student of mine with the BPSOP sent me this image to talk about. I always like to include what each photographer has to say, because so many of you out there have had similar problems or thoughts about one of your photos. Here’s what Valeriano had to say:

Hello Joe,

I’d like your critique about this photo. In particular I’m concerned about the slight motion in the clouds. When I shot this I was not thinking about getting a motion filled shot.

Though I just went with using a small aperture (f/16 or f/22 can’t remember precisely for this particular shot) in order to get everything in focus from foreground to infinity.
I was using a polarizing filter, which obviously cut the exposure of -2 stops, though slower shutter speed.

So what do you think about it? The main subject here is the sky, and the cloud placed on top-left third which is slightly blurred by motion. Is that something which can work for this kind of landscape photography or not?
Thanks for your critique.


In both my online class and my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshop I conduct around the planet, we work on how to incorporate the Elements of Visual Design into your photography. We also talk a lot about matching the light to the shutter speed and aperture combinations so you get the maximum depth of field or the fastest shutter you’re after.

Take a look at this video and it will hopefully demonstrate what I mean: http://www.screencast.com/t/jITnXaeR5LF

It’s a beautiful image with great light and color, so thanks for sharing it.

Here’s the link to the post on giving meaning: http://joebaraban.com/blog/giving-meaning-to-photographs/

One thing I forgot to mention in the video is the placement of the horizon line. Since you wanted to emphasize the sky, you were correct in placing the horizon line in the bottom thirds. when you want to emphasize the foreground, you place the horizon line at the top. If you have a mirror image, you place the horizon line in the middle. Of course I don’t adhere to any rules so forget what I just said and do what you think feels right. Ansel Adams once said, “There are no rules for good pictures, there’s just good pictures.”

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and check out my workshop schedule at the top of this blog. I still have two spots left on my next “Springtime” workshop to be in Portugal next May 21st. My workshops in Myanmar and Provence are full at the moment, but if you’d like to be placed on my waiting list please let me know. My 27th year at the Maine Media Workshop will be next July 26th, and in April of 2016, in conjunction with Epic Photo Tours, I’m leading a workshop to the coastal cities of North and Central Viet Nam. What an incredible photographic experience. Photos that you would see in National Geographic are yours for the taking.

Come shoot with me sometime.

Don’t forget to keep those photos and questions coming to: AskJoeB@gmail.com and receive a video critique.


Let people know you saw it here!
    { 4 comments… add one }
    • Valeriano January 13, 2015, 1:15 pm

      Hi Joe, thank you very much for the critique, as well for the article you linked.

      Ok let’s go by points:

      1) the photo was shot with a medium telephoto. In the scene I DIDN’T have everything at the same focal point, thus I had to stop down the aperture to have everything in focus. I used the DOF button on the camera in order to check that everything was in focus and focused manually. Though maybe I could have used a wider aperture than f/22… which I did when bracketing manually… of course those shots were too overexposed and I had to dump them all!

      2) The main subject in this photo is the cloud. That is why I didn’t use a big stopper filter (which I do have and used that day for other landscape photos where I wanted an exaggerated motion in the water and in the sky).
      So I am not concerned about having some motion in the water, as you can see it only has minimal weight in the composition, but I am concerned about the “slight” motion on the cloud, which can be noticed if looking at the picture at 50% magnification (which the same amount of details people will get by looking at prints).

      3) regarding the meaning etc: for this particular shot, I only wanted this very simple portion of the landscape I had in front of me. That is because I was subtracting rather then adding to this scene.
      Thus I didn’t wanted anything else than this: no balloons, no flying unicorns, no people padding in the water, or anything else.
      Just that: the cloud slightly reflected in the water, in magic light conditions and the shore with that hill in the background.
      Now, in a perfect world I’ll had only that cloud in the sky and some others in far distance; maybe I’ll have it placed on the top right third to counterbalance that hill in the background. Thus creating a visual triangle of compositional elements. That’s my perfect world for this particular landscape photograph.
      In a uber-perfect world (in need of a magic wand…), the cloud would also be subtly shaped as a human face.
      On a different day, when the lake water was not churning but rather calm, I’ll have this shot with the horizon line in the middle and mirror-reflections in the water: let me tell you this… that was what I originally went there for! Mirror reflections in the water. But I had no luck because of too much wind making the lake water churning. Thus I had to go for something different.
      Regarding the lens choice: I’ve been only using a wide angle lens in these past 4 years. That day I just brought with me a moderate telephoto lens cause I wanted to force myself to go for a different kind of photography I’d usually do (find a great background, then make up or find a very interesting foreground element, as the old landscape school dictates).

      • Joe January 15, 2015, 11:54 am


        Photography is the “art of subtraction”. When your painting, you start out with a blank canvas and proceed to fill it in until you get a finished work of art. Conversely, when you’re taking pictures, you start out with everything and proceed to take things out until you get that work of art. That said, I agree with your reasoning.

        What I disagree about is only taking one lens. It would never cross my mind to limit myself and my imagination to one way of seeing. That reminds me of a saying…”If you have a hammer in your hand and every thing looks like a nail, you have a problem.

        To me, it’s like having the complete box of every color crayon they make and then just using the red one…or blue one…etc.

        As far as the slight movement of the cloud goes…it just doesn’t bother me. That said have you ever used a ten stop ND filter? That will REALLY make the clouds look like they’re moving…if you’re into that kind of look.


        • Valeriano January 16, 2015, 6:25 am

          Hi Joe,
          I understand it might seem limiting just bringing one lens on a first look. But sometimes we have to force ourselves to do something.
          In my particular case in these past years I’ve been practically only using a wide angle lens, despite bringing with me all the lens when out shooting. As I’ve realized I was losing vision with other lens, I understood I had to take some sort of action to re-gain that vision.
          I referred to Bryan Peterson’s methodology, and understood I had to force myself to use just one lens.
          By the way, since it’s a zoom lens, I was still having some options, but the wide angle.
          You are right with your analogy: sometimes we don’t need to bring the whole box of color crayon, and just work with shades of the same one, especially if we are focused on improving with something in particular, we need to cut out “distractions”.

          Regarding the 10 stops filter, I’ll send you an image I took that day using it. Unfortunately it’s not what I wanted to get because of the lack of reflections in the lake, thus it’s not something I even thought about submitting for a critique.

          • Joe January 16, 2015, 10:18 am

            Cut out distractions?????????? You’ll wind up missing out on things in life developing all around you. To each his own. Btw, I could not disagree more with Bryan. “Forcing yourself”…really?????


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