Rocks outlined

Critique Style Requested: Standard

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


On the south coast of Norway there once was a paper mill situated along a river. If I remember correctly, it was operational from 1889 to 1960. Near one of the waterfalls I noticed a bright layer of something white around some of the rocks. The scene I photographed looked to me like leaves on a branch.

I rarely photograph small scenes like this, but it is something I’d like to do more.

Technical Details

52mm, F10, 1/60 s, ISO 500, hand-held.

This is my first draft where I’ve converted the image to BW, adjusted the light and shadows, and removed a few distracting white spots in the water. I suspect I might have to crop it slightly and maybe further balance the lights and shadows.

Hi Julie, this is a fascinating image that engaged my curiosity. I couldn’t quite make out what the true subject was until I read your description. Yes I see why interpreted this as leaves. The part on the right looks like a tree trunk with that bit sticking out like a broken branch and then the “leaves” falling away. Great job spotting this scene. Your edit and composition work well. I hope you discover and record more small scenes in the future.

I get another impression. This could easily be an aerial image of a chain of islands somewhere or it could also be cells dividing at the microscopic level. I bet if you rotated the image various ways, that would leave yet other interpretations. So many ways to interpret this and that is what makes your image compelling.

I like this a lot, Julie. The textures and patterns in the rocks really appeals to me. I could see darkening the open spaces to total black as the slightly mottled look takes away a bit from the rest of the scene for me. I definitely see the tree and leaves that you were trying to interpret and that came across very well.

Thanks @Alfredo_Mora for your input! One thing is finding an interesting scene, another thing is to find a meaning, a vision, or an interpretation. The latter is the one I’m struggling the most with and I’m not sure how I can get better at it. Do you often leave the interpretation up to the viewer or do you voice your own?

I have experimentet more with small scenes and abstracts this year and have found it very enjoyable. It opens up the photographic opportunities closer to home and at the same time the subject matter seems more universal. You can find rocks, trees, water, everywhere, but the typical grand scenes are only found in specific areas. I have maybe one other photo ready, but many more in my backlog.

Very interesting and, as Alfredo said, it is open to many interpretations. I, too see islands or maybe cells being released. The latter was my first impression - that the round shapes were coming from the object on the right. It’s that little twig coming off, I think, that gives me that impression. As if it just opened up. Rotated 90 degrees clockwise gives me an impression of bodies being released upward into space.

I think the beauty of abstracts is that the viewer can make their own interpretation, especially of black & white photos. With b&w we have no color cues, just the shapes/lines/tones/textures to fuel our imaginations. We can put forth our interpretations (maybe with a title), but still we have little control over what the viewer might see.

There are some that think one should never put forth one’s interpretation because they want to know what the viewer sees without any “clues”. There’s another school of thought that says one should put forth an interpretation to guide the viewer. IMO, the latter is necessary if you want feedback on whether you succeeded in getting a certain point across or want targeted input. Of course, if you don’t give any clues, you can always infer that you didn’t get your point across if no one sees what you see. In that case, though, you won’t get any feedback on why.

Julie, I think Bonnie is on point with her response. I provide hints through my image titles and image description but ultimately, the viewer will have their own interpretation. Sometimes it matches my intent but often it does not. I think what’s more important is did the image engage the viewer and did it prompt further questions.


Great find and fascinating image and subject(s). Like the others, these shapes really trigger the imagination. I especially like that the shapes are all different, which also leads me to think of some kind of petri-dish experiment? I don’t know…

Love the blacks and the contrast here as well. I’m a bit undecided on the element on the right. I want to say it’s a tree or branch - but then again it could be a “shoreline.” The one piece that ties it to a tree is the brighter twig/stick in the upper right. That’s the one element that is a little distracting and incongruous with the rest of the image. Then again, it does add some interest and peaks the imagination further.

Thanks for sharing!

@Lon_Overacker @Dennis_Plank @Bonnie_Lampley @Alfredo_Mora

Thanks for your input on this photo and thoughts regarding interpretation of more abstract work. It’s definitely peaked my interest! It’s been a busy few weeks, but hope I can find some time to work more on this photo and to properly reply to your comments :blush: Until then, have a great week!