Today’s sunset

Today’s sunset from a decade ago.

Trawling through the archives in search of more throwback Thursday shots, I found this nice sunset from April 27th, 2007: exactly 10 years ago today 🙂 I took a big panorama of the same sunset, which I combined with Autostitch, and was mostly happy with it. Fast forward ten years, and I had another go at processing the images (in DxO this time), and then combined them with Hugin. Now, that didn’t work quite so well – Hugin is definitely a more discerning program when it comes to combining photographs to create a panorama. Since this panorama was taken with our old compact camera (Canon A80), I had little control over things like the focus, and I think Hugin interprets such data at face value, so it’s not surprising that it didn’t work quite as well. I’ve since learned to focus the camera once and then turn off autofocus for any panoramas.

However, you have to look pretty closely to see the errors. Sure, if I were printing this larger, then I’d want to ensure the photos were matched up as closely as possible, but for showing on the Internet, a few pixels here and there aren’t going to show. Despite that, I think it’s still a nice picture.

Vancouver sunset, 27 Apr 2007

Fro Knows Photo critiques

Much to my surprise, I’ve actually started following a few channels on YouTube. It started off with me looking for bass covers of my favourite songs, and then I began to discover a few photographers (sometimes via Instagram) and found myself idly watching their channels too. I soon stumbled upon the channel of Jared Polin, aka Fro Knows Photo, and found myself drawn into his fast-talking and highly opinionated videos.

My attention was mostly drawn by his Rapid Fire Critiques, short segments where viewers send in a small portfolio of ten photos for Jared to look over and give his on-the-spot reaction. His blunt responses elicit quite a few comments, a lot of them negative, mostly wondering why he’s being so harsh, or that his opinion is wrong, or that he’s an idiot (and so is the commenter above), etc etc. You know how it is with comments on the Internet.

In my view, his reactions come across as brutally honest but not malicious. He’s very quick to praise good photos, and offers (mostly) helpful suggestions for improving technique and getting the best from a given camera. (One area where we disagree is that he seems to prefer photos to appear online in their original aspect ratio: but that’s a topic for another post.)

But what the commenters seem to overlook is the fact that he’s not going out and finding random stuff to tear strips off; these are meant to be portfolios of the ten best photographs that each photographer has invited Jared to critique. Think about that: of all the photos that someone has taken, they’re invited to send in their ten very best.

I’ll just reiterate that point: their 10 BEST photos. And in my opinion (for what it’s worth), most of these photos are just plain awful, with poor (over)processing being the number one flaw (indifferent subject choice and composition come next). Camera equipment makes no difference, other than allowing an experienced photographer to capture things with more expensive gear that cheaper equipment might not be capable of. (And the likelihood is that experienced photographers don’t need a live, online critique of their work.) Indeed, a point Jared repeatedly stresses is that you don’t need expensive, top-of-the-line gear to get good photographs: almost any entry-level SLR and lens (or, more generally, ILC) is capable of producing excellent images, especially for online display.

Some might suggest that he picks and chooses which to criticize to make an entertaining video, but I don’t think he needs to do that. As I hinted above, I suspect there is a selection bias at work here too: “good” photographers aren’t interested in such a critique. They’ll have already learned what it takes to get a good photo (though good composition can still be ruined by over-the-top processing). I guess it’s photographers who are still learning, and have enough confidence to show their work, but mostly haven’t yet learned what a “good” photograph is or is not.

Now, I don’t claim to be an awesome photographer; I use entry-level gear and I try to make the most of the fact that I live in a beautiful part of the world. Most of the photos I take are what Jared (rightly) calls snapshots, and I know this. Very rarely have I looked at a scene, identified a composition, waited for the right light, and set about taking the best photograph I can. But I do think that 15+ years of taking snapshots has allowed me to identify what it takes to get a good snapshot 🙂

Mind you, I’m a real stickler for a level horizon…