Trying to Get the Picture Right (Weekly Photo Challenge: One Shot, Two Ways)

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Good Evening:

Is one shot four ways OK with everyone?

In my post on the Alemany Farmers Market, I mentioned that I would revisit one of my pictures at a later time, and this week’s Challenge is exactly the reason why. Honestly, I had no inside information, but this Challenge is perfect for the revisit. Here once more I present the photograph (Nikon CoolPix S9100).

The original shot, unedited.

The original shot, unedited.

I took pictures, almost non-stop, almost at random, uploaded everything to my computer at home and then studied the shots to see if any had merit. This one arrested my attention as one that potentially had uh, um, potential, but at first, it did not seem obvious why. So the toddler’s looking at me. So what? What makes this shot interesting?

Believe it or not, it’s the light pole in the background. Seriously.

Follow the pole downward, and it points straight to the boy’s mother, his baby carriage, his big sister, and finally to the boy himself, thus capturing a family shopping for produce in the midst of a crowd of people doing the same. A nice little bit of composition! Pure dumb luck, most certainly, but who needs talent, skill, training and experience when pure dumb luck will suffice? But problems with the shot exist. The brights are too bright, the darks too dark, it isn’t quite sharp enough, and at the very left edge of the picture you can see the edge of a car bumper.

So I went for an 8×10 crop with a few more adjustments in iPhoto (Highlights 20, Sharpness 100).

DSCN6728_2

Suddenly I don’t feel so satisfied. This edit shunts the family too far to the left, making the five figures on the right more important than they should be. In other words, the composition has become unbalanced, or whatever the technical term is that they would have taught me in art school if I had ever gone to art school. So let us try a different 8×10 orientation, and different settings (Highlights 30, Shadows 5, Sharpness 100).

DSCN6728_4

Interesting, and satisfying in some ways (especially in how this edit centralizes the boy), but even now I feel unsatisfied with two aspects of the new picture. First, it becomes harder to see that the events take place at a farmers market. Second, the woman in purple and the man in blue become disproportionately more important to the composition. Maybe these constitute legitimate problems, maybe they are merely the products of my imagination. Sigh. OK! New crop, a 4×3 Landscape orientation, with still newer settings (Highlights 10, Shadows 10, Sharpness 100).

DSCN6728_3

Adequate. I like to judge my photography very, very harshly, and the boy could have stood out a little more obviously, but I have done a few things well. First, you might know how photographers like to use four lines to divide their shots into 3×3 grids, as if playing tic-tac-toe? Now the light pole and the family line up exactly with the left vertical line, and the boy’s head aligns almost perfect with the intersection of the left vertical and lower horizontal. Thus, your eye eventually focuses upon him as the subject of the piece (although I would have preferred sooner). Also, that annoying car bumper on the left edge is gone, while still capturing the entire scene so that you know this is a marketplace. Also, a lighter touch on the controls preserves more of the brightness of the summer afternoon light.

Masterpiece?! Oh, heck no. But it looks satisfactory. And tempting. I feel like tinkering with the original shot a bit more.

Vonn Scott Bair

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