Photo Critique – Garden of the Gods by Jim Hamilton.

Garden of the Gods by Jim Hamilton

Garden of the Gods by Jim Hamilton

Thanks to everyone who contributed photos for last week’s assignment, Use Your Histogram. From the descriptions some of you added to your photos, it’s obvious you’re getting the hang of adjusting your exposure based on reading the histogram – great job!

For my critique, I chose Jim Hamilton’s photo (above) from the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. Thanks Jim for sharing this photo! Here’s Jim’s explanation of how he made the exposure: “Getting correct exposure with snow, rocks and shadows on a sunny day is definitely a challenge. This image was taken in Garden of the Gods, Colorado without using my usual polarizing filter and without any post-processing. At F22 and ISO 200 with pattern metering in manual mode my Sony A700 recommended 1/40 sec. Per histogram that was overexposed. The above image was taken at 1/100 sec and was somewhat underexposed per histogram but was the best histogram I could attain.”

Jim’s explanation makes a lot of sense. Even without seeing his original capture, we can surmise that the spike on the right side of the histogram would have indicated blown out highlights in the snow, the brightest part of the photo. By reducing exposure by 1 1/3 stops, Jim was able to recapture the detail in the snow. He mentioned that the histogram indicated underexposure, which I assume means there are some clipped shadows – probably just the darker areas in the trees and not a distraction in this case. While you all know I recommend shooting these types of scenes during “golden hour” light, if you have to shoot them in mid-day, minimizing dark shadowy areas while the rest of your scene is in direct sunlight, like Jim did here, will often give you better results.

Since week 3’s tip is on composition, I should probably critique that aspect of Jim’s photo as well. This composition works well – I like how the snow and yucca plants on the left, as well as the rock on the right act as foreground elements that lead your eye to the distant rock formations. Jim also did a good job of tightly composing the image to eliminate any distractions. The main thing holding back this image is the so-so quality of the light. Even when you get exposure and composition right, if the light isn’t special, you’ll just end up with an average record of the scene. In golden hour light, the red rocks would have a deeper, more saturated, and more pleasing look, and the longer shadows would define more of the texture present in the scene while also adding some drama. I know how this goes – I’ve been to Garden of the Gods three times, always during mid-day, and no matter how inspired I am by the landscape, my photos just come out average.

If you have any thoughts on Jim’s photo or my critique, please post them in the comments section below. To see more of Jim’s photos, visit his Flickr page:

For having his photo selected, Jim will be receiving a copy of The AMC Guide to Outdoor Digital Photography. For a chance to win your own copy, check out this week’s assignment, Composition Basics and post your photos to our Flickr Group. I’ll be choosing a photo from this week’s assignment next Wednesday.



P.S. Here’s a look at what’s currently in the Flickr Group:

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