Working the Image
Friday, March 15, 2013 10:40 AM
At the February, 2013, meeting of the Cape Cod Camera Club, I entered some prints in a competition for the first time. (That’s a whole ‘nother story--learning to mount and mat and all the other stuff that goes with presenting prints. Ugh!)
Sometimes a photo just captures your imagination in ways you can’t anticipate or even explain (at least with my limited vocabulary for discussing things visual.) “You’ve got the start of something here,” one of the Master Level photographers told me. “Now work it.”
That was the barrels for me. I took the shot (left) over a year ago, behind the Custom House in Salem. They had a quiet and almost solemn mood to them, the feel of something old and weather beaten, and (as I would later decide), abandoned. It was a much wider shot, with more brickwork and almost all the barrels in the shot. Some distracting water spigots, easily removed in Photoshop.
The print took Third Place in the Assigned category (assignment: Abandoned Objects), so I was happy about that. I had brought an earlier version, close to straight out of the camera, for feedback at an earlier review session. I got a lot of good feedback from the people there. Best feedback: the silver-gray unrusted bands on some of the barrels were too bright, too distracting. I needed to make them dark and rusty, which I did in Photoshop, but not very well. It can be done better, but I haven’t learned how yet. That too is another story.
The other bit of advice: crop it down, focus on your “subject,” don’t let the eye wander about the picture looking for something to fix on. So I worked it. I cropped and dodged and burned and uncropped and recropped it. But in retrospect, I think it might have overworked it. Perhaps I just overdid the cropping, or perhaps it shouldn’t have been cropped at all. It has a clearer focus on the barrels, and especially the texture, which I loved. It has, as they say, a subject. But for me, the worked one has no heart, no emotion, no context for what the barrels made me feel.
The evening of the judging I sat next to one of the guys (also a beginner like me) who had been in the same review session with me a few weeks earlier. He remembered my barrels, and noted almost offhand that he preferred the unworked shot with more bricks and more barrels to the print I submitted for judging. His photo took first place.