REVISED (with crop)


Critique Style Requested: Standard

The photographer is looking for generalized feedback about the aesthetic and technical qualities of their image.


Even when I was taking this picture I remember wondering whether there was enough to it for this image to be compelling. The light was low and what I saw, both water and rock, was mostly brown. Nonetheless I was able to see below the water’s surface just enough that it stirred my imagination. When I downloaded the image, I still wasn’t sure whether it was compelling enough to spend time on it. My impulse was to dismiss it, but I found myself coming back to it and finally flagged it as a possible. Almost a year later I realized that my draw to this image wasn’t going away, and that I wanted to see what it might become. But it wasn’t until I processed it (through DxO Pure Raw) that the colours really began to reveal themselves. After that, there really wasn’t much more to do besides finetuning the colour, deciding on a crop, a little dodging, and getting rid of a few minor distractions.
This is not a picture that tells a story. It is all about mood (here I go again😁). The mood I wanted to convey was that of emergent mystery, which is what drew me to take the picture in the first place. There are several aspects of this photograph besides composition that help to evoke that mood I think, namely colour, light, and contrast. The contrast was, for me particularly interesting because it isn’t just the contrast of dark and light but also colour contrast, especially between blue and yellow/gold, as well as the contrast of above and below – what is seen clearly and what is obscured. I have titled the image, “emergence” because I wanted this to feel as though something mysterious was arising, emerging from the depths and only just breaking the surface to reveal itself.

Specific Feedback

This might be considered an abstract because even though it is obvious what it is, there is almost no context especially in terms of scale. But I feel more at home here in Landscape and so I’ve posted here. I would be very interested whether the mood I have attempted to evoke has anything to do with what you experience as you read this image. Naturally, I am also interested in any other feedback you may have or suggestions for improvement.

Technical Details

Screenshot 2024-07-07 at 4.00.42 PM

Critique Template

Use of the template is optional, but it can help spark ideas.

  • Vision and Purpose:
  • Conceptual:
  • Emotional Impact and Mood:
  • Composition:
  • Balance and Visual Weight:
  • Depth and Dimension:
  • Color:
  • Lighting:
  • Processing:
  • Technical:
1 Like

I see most of the things that you wanted to show (the subtle play of the colors and light/dark areas). I feel a deep sense of mystery. I don’t get a sense of emergence, though. The sense for me is of stasis, of things (feelings? ideas?) lying quietly and still beneath the surface, with only the merest glimpse of what those might be.

1 Like

This image grabbed my attention as I was scrolling through the latest post. Your control of the mid-tones beautifully accentuates the minimalist quality.
To me, the image has a Zen feel.

1 Like

Interesting. I made a very similar picture about 3 years ago and faced the same dillema as yours - post it or not. I eventually decided to not post it but now the question rises again. What I do remember in working on it is that I decided that the main point of interest was the contrast between the known and the unknown. That is - below the surface and above the surface. I therefore gave the above the surface just a little more prominance than you did. Thusly -


I realize this isn’t an initial impression request, but I’m going to put mine here anyway then go back and read your post.

As a kayaker I spend a lot of time on the water and often gaze down into it wondering at what might be there. Like this rock, some things do break the surface while most of their structures and entities remain below, unseen by us, they are intriguing. Our imaginations are our greatest strength. I keep saying I will buy an underwater compact camera and one of these days I will. In many ways that will satisfy my curiosity and expand my horizons, but will there still be mystery and wonder? Probably, but of a different sort.

Your placement of the exposed bit in the center makes me feel isolation and loneliness. The view below piques my curiosity and makes me think of what creatures call this rock home. I wonder at the algae bloom and dragonfly nymphs and turtles that need some sun. Conversely, the slight reflection on the surface reminds me of cloud cover on a mountain; as if I’m higher still.

Now I’ve read your piece, the arising aspect is certainly there, but for me the literal rocky nature of the scene reinforces the fact that boulders seldom move, and never of their own accord. Instead they are acted upon and subject to outside forces, water maybe greatest of all. It can be revealed, but only at the water’s dictates. Darn splendid in execution. Thanks for deciding to give it life.

1 Like

Loving this, Kerry and I agree - mystery was one of teh first things I thought about seeing this. I also agree that it is about mood (and obviusly beauty). I wrote about how I don’t think photographs tell stories, but I have an emotional reaction to this, memories of places and people in days gone by pop up and I do thank you for that. Thanks for sharing.

1 Like

Woh. This is really nice.
I find it very relaxing, very moody.
What I like most is the apparent simplicity but then there are a ton of detail to check around the picture.

@Bonnie_Lampley - thanks for you considered reply. Interesting that you see stasis, which I completely understand, while I have the sense of something rising to the surface from below.
@Steve_Rosendahl - I like that you get the Zen feel, that certainly resonates with me. Thanks for taking the time to look and comment.
@Igor_Doncov - Your take on the picture was helpful. Yours feels a little cramped on the right side for my taste but it also turned my attention to the right side of the frame to where I decided to crop a little from the right and the top (retaining the 1:1 ratio) and I think it improves the image overall. You can see it as the revised edition at the top. Does that improve it do you think?
@Kris_Smith - your response is so thoughtful and much appreciated. You seem to be in agreement with Bonnie’s take, so that is interesting (i.e., static rather than dynamic). Actually, I’m not terribly concerned how anyone interprets my photographs - only that it has some sort of impact, hopefully at a feeling level.
@holgermischke - Thanks for your feedback. I read your article and agree, that yes, while some photographs do tell a story, that is far from always being the case. So glad that this image touched into memories and experiences.
@joaoquintela - Always appreciate your feedback - “relaxing and moody” works for me.