We had some amazing shots submitted to the Plus Critiques gallery in July: birds in flight (and not), fireworks, gorgeous landscapes, some beautiful candids, and much more. Hudson and I went through all of the images submitted, and selected approximately 20 to showcase. As always, we try to choose a mix of some photos that are darn close to perfect, as well as some that are good, but could use a little bit of help to turn them into great. We also try to mix up the photographers, so that we’re not showcasing the same people from month to month.
You can watch the video above and over at the video library here, but we thought it might be nice to give a shout out to some of the most compelling photos submitted this month:
Our consensus for the most striking photo of this month’s submissions was William Thomas’ Dragonfly Wings: It is a stunning image, and just about perfect in every way. Look at the sharp focus on the dragonfly, and the shadows of the wings, which mirror the actual wings in a wonderful way. Follow the texture and the veins in the leaf, which are echoed so suggestively in the background, with its beautiful depth of field. And, to top it off, you have this amazing yellow edge on the leaf; it separates the foreground from the background, and gives the dragonfly a sense of place in the scene. William, you nailed it.
A variation on the frame-within-a-frame theme, Lines and Light is one of those photos that you just get lost in: start with the parallel lines at the bottom of the frame, contrasted with the perpendicular lines in the gate, and the lines of the stairs going up (with the beautiful shadow of the railing taking you back in. And notice the way the primary concrete block angles up, but tapers off, so your eye doesn’t zip out of the frame. This is a photo waiting to happen; kudos to Werner for seeing it, and building a great composition with great light. (We would back off on the vignette, though — it’s a bit overpowering.)
David Hancock submitted two distinctly different — and both very good — photos this month, but Hudson and I were drawn to his delightful abstract, Savanna. From the thumbnail, it looks like a landscape of some post-apocalyptic desert scene, with a row of trees in the front that seem as if they are being swallowed by a dust storm. When you click to see the image full size, you’ll notice that it’s a close-up of something else entirely (I’ll leave the reveal to you.)
One of the challenges in shooting abstracts is trying to get a good composition, and David did a great job. We would have liked a bit more sharpness at the bottom of the frame, but it’s a lovely photo, regardless.
The pier shot is a classic image taken by many of us who visit the ocean. We’ve seen a lot of great ones, but it can be hard to find a composition that doesn’t, well, look like many of the others. David Boyce’s Lorne Sunset has all the elements of a good pier shot, but he ups his game with a change in perspective and the addition of a solid, interesting foreground. The rocks make a perfect triangle into the frame, without overpowering it, and take you right into the offset line of the pier.
There were two things that Hudson and I really appreciated beyond the excellence of the basic composition. First, there was some real thought—or darn good muscle memory—as David scanned the viewfinder to view how the pier sat on the horizon. Look at the way that the underside of the pier has been presented, slightly above the horizon line; it helps to keep the flow of the image moving with your eye, but also adds definition to the pier. Finally, notice how the two people near the end of the pier help anchor everything together.
We’ve seen lots of good fireworks shots in the galleries, and one of our favorites was George Fletcher’s Hometown Americana. It’s both a simple and a complex shot, captured well. The fireworks fill the frame, as they should, and they’re beautifully exposed. What makes this a great shot, however, is the addition of the people at the bottom of the frame; it brings you right into the photo and gives you a seat. It doesn’t matter that the people (and the trees on the left side) aren’t in focus, nor does it matter that there’s a sole evergreen sitting in the middle of the frame. All of those things are subordinate to the fireworks, which is the star of the show, but they add to the richness of the story.
Tim Crull said that it “wasn’t the best sky, but I only had one morning, so I had to get what I could.” Looking at his photo DC Sunrise, Hudson and I marveled at the understatement. As I said in the video, it is the best sky he could have gotten, and it perfectly complements the scene, with the monument, reflecting pool, and Capitol building in the distance. The gradient in the sky is wonderful, the exposure and focus are spot-on, and the reflection is drop-dead gorgeous. I mentioned that I might like to see a bit more separation between the Capitol and the monument, but that’s a small nit. It’s a great image, and I’d print it in a heartbeat.
There are a bunch more great shots on the July critiques pages, and in the video. Enjoy!
August critique update
As we gear up for the dog days of summer (in the Northern hemisphere, at least), start thinking about your critique images for next month. There won’t be a theme; you guys have been doing a great job of submitting stuff that you’re clearly passionate about shooting. We do ask, once again, that you keep your submissions to two photos. If you want to submit five, take a look at those five and really ask yourself which two best represent what you’re trying to say.
As a bonus in August, Hudson and I will choose two (or three, if we can’t decide) of our favorite photos and print them (up to 13×19) for the winners.
If you haven’t submitted photos for our monthly critiques, we urge you to do so, and if you have been, but we haven’t yet chosen one of your photos, please keep trying. We love this element of serving the Plus community, and we honestly feel that everyone can learn from their peers. We try hard to be constructive in our criticism; our primary goal with the critiques is to showcase some great work, and talk about the things we can all do to make us better photographers.