Image doctor: The critiques!

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A regular part of Australian Photography magazine for more than a decade, the Image Doctors, photo educator Saima Morel and Anthony McKee, can give constructive feedback on your images, with a selection of their favourite submissions appearing in print in AP mag every month.

If you want feedback on your images (it's free!), you can find out the details for submission here. 

This month's winner

Image: Robert A Baillie
Image: Robert A Baillie. Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 24-105 IS lens @ 24mm. 1/60s @ f5.6, ISO 100.

Bushwalking in the Gardens of Stone National Park, New South Wales, Robert. A. Baillie came across this dead tree. "Tentacle like branches radiating out from its base and bleached from the elements. I wondered about how it met its demise, lightning, drought or rot, anything was possible in this harsh environment.

The scene had potential but the light was very flat due to cloud cover so I continued on my way. Sometime later the sun did break through the clouds and revealed the dramatic moody scene that I had hoped for so I frantically backtracked. The light was again about to disappear so no time for tripods, lens changes or setting tweaks. A quick check of shutter speed, camera hand held and raised above my head for composition would have to do. One shot and the light was gone."

Wonderful choice shooting this in black-and-white! It is a lost worlds-type scene. You have it in all in the image from foreground to background: the foreground with the tentacle-like branches, then some branches and that smoky mists and those wonderful "buttes" in the background.  What worries me is the blurred bushes on the left in the foreground, but the rest is so special. What can I say, except but to make it a bit darker to get rid of those grey bits in the middle and accentuate the forms.

Saima's Tip: What a mood, a little bit of rain can make, just as photographers head inside!

Image: Drew Sculthorpe
Image: Drew Sculthorpe, Canon EOS 90D, 18mm focal length, 1/8s @ f11, ISO 100.

In Lightroom Drew Sculthorpe started "by merging three photos. I added a linear gradient to the top third of the image and dropped the exposure, texture and clarity of the sky while increasing dehaze and contrast.

I added a second linear gradient slightly askew to the bottom of the image and increased contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, texture, clarity and decreased dehaze. Next, I added radial gradient to the lights around the dock and street lights to the right of the photo and increased the temp, highlights, shadows, whites clarity and dehaze.

I added an additional radial across the middle of the image and slightly decreased exposure, contrast, clarity and dehaze. A final radial was added to the bench in the foreground with similar adjustments to the above".

Whew! What a lot of details! I look at this and I think the real interest is in the bottom of the scene. It has a heavy and thick sky, which draws down on the interesting foreground. Just crop half of the sky and see what a difference it makes.

Saima's Tip: The rules of thirds is a good reminder when shooting, and could save a lot of cropping later.

Image: Mark Tawton
Image: Mark Tawton. Canon EOS 50D, Canon 17-40mm L lens @ 40mm. 0.7s @ f8, ISO 100, variable ND filter.

Mark Tawton bought this camera from a friend in January 2021 for $50 to start learning photography. He said: "I was taking photos around Bells Rapids, Perth, when I was informed of a “secret” waterfall. This was a little rapid in the creek on the way that turned out to be more interesting than the falls. It was named due to the bolt being in the creek, right in the middle, left behind from construction of the train tracks nearby.

So I was experimenting with different shutter speeds and apertures enjoying this one the most. This is one of the most enjoyable photos I have managed to take, from the journey to actually taking the shot."

So you only have a camera for $50 to start learning, then having to do different shutter speeds and apertures, and are using a ND filter? This sounds like a fast learner indeed! This image is pin sharp, has a good composition and the water is smoky. Darkening the rocks on the right and left of the bolt would be a wise choice, but I am sure that that wouldn't be too hard for you - if you have picked up photography as well as you have!

Saima's Tip: Shadows are a good thing for accentuating curves and textures. 

Image: Tim McTaggart
Image: Tim McTaggart. Nikon Z 6, Nikon Z 14-30mm f4 S lens @ 14mm. 1/50s @ f7.1, ISO 100.

This image was taken at Moogerah Dam, west of Brisbane. Tim said: "I turned up without any shot in mind but saw several tree stumps that had been exposed due to low water levels. The golden-brown tones in the dusty sunset perfectly complemented the ochre lichen that covered the tree and the rock. The result is a strong, high impact image that I now have hanging on my wall!"

I like the great trunk and its branches winding into the rugged stones. The clouds in the sky are quite dramatic and the tones are quite good. However, be careful with the over sharpening lines around the horizon and the trunk. If you ever go back, this composition would be a great candidate for a long exposure with a neutral density filter, so the water on the left was smoky.

Saima's Tip: Take the time to build your composition with points of interest in different parts of the frame.

Image: Thierry Rocchia
Image: Thierry Rocchia. Sony A6000, 16-50mm lens @16mm. 1/640s @ f3.5, ISO 100. Increase contrast, decrease highlights and increase shadows, slight sharpening and increase to clarity.

Thierry Rocchia was walking under the bridge and noticed the panels on the side of the road relating to the construction of the bridge and the Opera House right at the end of the frame. He said, " I thought that would make a great black and white photo!" 

Good luck for shooting in black-and-white when the sky looks so muddy and uninteresting. All the classy matter is on the right and makes the left almost irrelevant! If you added the crop line about third in from the left, you would then have a square format. You would still have a leading format, the Opera House, and the reflection/transparent all in the frame - without having to share the frame with all the sky and road.

Saima's Tip: Look at the object, and crop out the irrelevant.

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