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Globe Critique: Deirdre Wingell of Worcester

Posted by Teresa Hanafin  January 20, 2010 02:07 PM

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In applying for a Globe Critique, Deirdre Wingell of Worcester said she wants to embrace different types of photography genres, but isn't sure if she's being successful.

"The main reason I am asking for a critique is I've started branching off in new directions with my photography," she wrote. "I enjoy working with children and taking informal portraits. That has always been my strong suit.

"In the past year, I've stepped out of my comfort zone and tried to work on other areas of photography, but I'm not getting any sense of getting better. I have attached five photos that I consider 'successes' from the past year and was hoping to get an impartial eye to look at them."

That's exactly what Globe staff photographer Joanne Rathe did when she chose Deirdre's portfolio to critique.

Joanne, who joined the Globe in 1985, has received multiple prizes from the National Press Photographers Association, as well as the World Press Children's Award for post-apartheid South Africa, the World Hunger Award for Rural Poverty in New England, and many Boston Press Photographers Awards.

You can see a portfolio of her work here.

Her critique:

By Joanne Rathe
Globe Staff

I appreciate your efforts to get out of your comfort zone, Deirdre. As photojournalists, we have to do every type of photography, from still life to portrait to action -- it’s important for us to be well-rounded. For the amateur, eventually you may find yourself zeroing in on one genre, such as portraits, but while you're learning, it's important to shoot as many different types of situations and subjects as possible.

Overall, your photos are graphically compelling. I like how three of them work together with similar aqua blue color hues. Your composition is very strong; you have a good eye, and show a variety of reference points or shooting angles.

Let's look at your photos.

DeirdreWingellStatueOfLiberty608.jpgThis is a beautiful, impressive shot. It has nice elements of composition and a good use of scale. The clouds are beautiful, and it's nice that the horizon is in the bottom part of the photo.

I will say it's a photo I've seen many times before; it's the widely seen view from the boat to the island. I always encourage amateurs to always look for surprise elements, a different vantage point, a new way of showing a familiar scene. In this situation, it's hard unless you had your own helicopter or boat!

You did a great job, considering you were "trapped" on the boat. You came out with a beautifully composed photo with dramatic lighting that worked to your advantage. It would make a beautiful poster.

Just remember that if you have the opportunity, change your position or look for the different angle.

DeirdreWingellBoats600.jpgThis is another beautiful composition, with nice saturated colors. Your focal length of 75mm served to compress the boats together, which is a nice effect and fills the frame from top to bottom. I'm not sure if you intentionally used Aperture Priority for this, but your choice of f/7.1 kept all of the boats in focus while compressing them.

To make this a better photo, I'd crop out the three white boats at the very top of the image, and a little bit of the dock on the left; it's a bit distracting.

Here's how this photo looks cropped.

DeirdreWingellRock608.jpgThis detail of what I assume is a rock has beautiful composition and color. It's a surprising picture because you have to study it to figure out what it is. The out-of-focus background lends texture to the blue swath, creating a hard and soft feel at the same time.

My only suggestion is to improve the contrast; it's a little flat. Even basic photo editing software, such as Photoshop Elements, has an auto levels or auto contrast setting that could make the photo more vivid.

Here's an example of what I mean.

DeirdreWingellWorcester600.jpgThis is a beautifully composed photo of downtown Worcester, looking down Walnut Street at Mechanics Hall. It's great to take a nice photo in a town that's familiar to you. I feel as though I'm falling into the photo: The perspective, the height, the double line in the road -- all bring your eye right to Mechanics Hall and keeps you moving through the photo as all of its different architectural elements come together.

Again, this photo would benefit from higher contrast, with whiter whites and richer blacks.

Here's an example.

I might even try to burn the street a little darker. That takes a little bit more skill with an editing program, but it's not difficult. Check your local community education programs to see if they offer any photo editing classes.

I feel fortunate that I was trained in a darkroom where dodging and burning and adjusting contrast were basic principles for creating a good photographic print. In fact, in today's computer programs, many of those techniques have the same names we used in the darkroom.

DeirdreWingellFighter608.jpg This is my favorite photo. It's so different from the rest; you caught a great moment with peak action and emotion. Plus all the elements around the frame support the fighter in the center, who is lit in such a way that he stands out. I particularly like the movement of people in various positions around the ring while he's frozen over the edge in his moment of triumph.

It was obviously a low-light situation where you had to crank up the ISO to 1600 and shoot with your lens wide open at f/2.8, but your focus is right on, and the higher ISO did not hurt the photo. Today's digital cameras are so advanced that using a higher ISO usually won't add grain to your image the way it used to with film cameras.

The composition is terrific. Including the screen, which has a view of the fighter from another angle, just adds to the whole wonderful composition of the photo. You nailed it!

Here's a case where the 50mm view is perfect. You definitely came out of your element here.

Overall, Deirdre, I would say you have a great eye for composition. You would benefit from learning some photo editing techniques -- cropping, or using contrast to improve the look of a photograph. I also recommend that you continue seeking more of "this moment" photography as you exhibited in the fighter photo; you captured what Henri Cartier-Bresson called "the decisive moment" and it served you well.

Good luck!

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