Photography by J.D. Magers

Let's Self-Critique the Ice Images

Added on by J.D. Magers.

On Monday I posted one my favorite images from the previous weekend, when I went over to the South Platte River and ended up shooting the hoar frost on the ice of a man-made lake at the Adams County Regional Park. I shot at the lake for 30 minutes or so, capturing around 80-90 different frames.  While I posted one of my best and most interesting compositions, I wanted to also share with you some of the frames that looked good in camera but didn't appeal so much when I got them home.  This is a public self critique of these images.  Self critique is an exercise we should all go through with each of our photoshoots.  That we we can learn from our mistakes, because as much as we want them to be, they're not all keepers.  All of these images are jpegs of the raw file.  I haven't touched them in any way.  


This first one is kind of bland.  While it shows the detail of what the hoar frost looked like, and how it was clumped into these little puffballs on the ice surface, I don't like how my eye is drawn to the empty space in the lower left hand corner.  I think the image does have good depth of field.  Trying to imagine what it would look like without the lower left, I think the image would just turn into a white photo of nothing special.  

Negative space

Moving on to the second image, there is no clear subject.  This is because there is not enough separation between the in focus clump and the out of focus clump in the background.  My eye doesn't know what to look at.  I want to say that the frost right there in the middle that looks like a tree leaf was intended to be my main subject when I composed this image, but it isn't strong enough.  The shadow area in the upper right doesn't do anything to maintain my interest either. I took other images that isolated one clump against the dark ice, and those work much better.  I will say that I am intrigued by isolating the in focus clump by itself in a square crop. That could have potential, as that might make the height of the puffball a little more evident.

Hole in the Ice

This depression in the ice I am still trying to figure out actually.  I took a lot of Chemistry classes in school, and never once did we learn about water freezing in a man made lake with a six inch diameter depression magically appearing in the ice.  I'm not sure how this is even physically possible, as this was three feet from the shore and there were no rocks around it for a wind blown wave to cascade over and freeze.  It's almost like somebody put a bowl in the water, and then came back after the lake froze and removed the bowl.

But I digress.  I made this image mainly because of the oddity of it.  The subject is clearly the hole.  The little bits of frost clinging to the side of it give a little bit of visual interest. There is some potential here, but I'm wishing I would not have let the hole dominate the frame.  I feel that it needs a little something more.  I should have shot it with my wide angle lens on the full frame camera.

Crooked Horizon

This is what happens when it's 25 degrees out a few days after a big snow storm, and the ice patterns you're trying to photograph are right at the shore line.  Of course you don't want to kneel down in the snow to get as close as possible with your wide angle lens because your tripod needs an upgrade and doesn't go below 18 inches. So you hold the camera down as close to the front element of the intended composition as possible, and hope for the best.  What this leads to is a shotgun approach and crooked horizons and a lot of not good photographs.  This is another one that might look decent with a square crop cut off right at the depth of field boundary, but I have much better images that isolated the patterns.

Overall, I got four or five images out of this expedition that I like and will try and process.  That's about average.  When I self critique my images, I try and be pretty hard on myself.  I have never shown my not-my-favorite images publicly before, but I really enjoyed this exercise.  Describing in words what I don't like about these shots made me be even more critical.  

That being said, what did I miss?  Am I being too hard on these images?  Do you agree with what I said?  Please let me know in the comments sections how you would critique one or all four of these images.  I really appreciate you reading today.  Have a great weekend.  See you on Monday, and Happy Shooting!