Photo Review - Dock Peeking by Dan Lambert

On my first ever adventure into the New Zealand countryside, I stopped half way up the hill out of Lyttelton and was presented with a nice little view over the town. I am still relatively new to photography so as part of my effort to experiment more with focus and aperture, I crouched down in the bushes and took this photo.

F7.1, 1/640s, ISO160

First, let’s talk about the composition and framing of the photo:

• The composition of this photo is solid. The circle provided by the plant with flowers serves perfectly to lead our focus to the big ship in the middle of the frame. A circle inside of a square frame is aesthetically pleasing. Although, a photo with the main focus in its middle tends to feel less interesting and our subconsciousness reacts more powerfully to photos whose point of interest is on one of the thirds (“Rule of thirds”), I believe this is one of the cases in which centre focus is done well, mostly because of the circular frame and of the massive main subject.

• Having captured the tops of the mountains in the distance completes our horizon and makes for excellent framing. Without clearing the mountain tops, our view would have been incomplete, as can be seen in the side-by-side comparison below:

Now, let’s read the photo:

• The idea or possible meaning behind the photo is interesting; imposing nature as a frame through which we glance at the busy world of people; this contrast makes the viewer feel distant from that reality and they image themselves as an outsider, coming from the wilderness and stumbling upon something unknown.

• The sea, the ships and boats are giving us a sense that this might be an island.

• The big cargo ship is impressive on its own and the harbour looks busy, making us wonder about the rest of the landscape.

The technical part:

• The aperture is not wide open, and this lets the area visible through the circle be crisp and sharp, which is preferred in a landscape photo. The flowers are still well blurred due to zoom and the big distance between them and the harbour... Well done.

• The light is well captured and it’s pretty good, but it’s not amazing. This is one of the biggest problems of the photo. The light is somewhat uninteresting, and I believe if it was made in a different hour (early morning/dawn light or sunset) it would have been a more dramatic, interesting image.

• The choice to make the cropping 1x1 (square) is not the best one when we are talking landscape photography, in my opinion. In a ratio a little wider than the square (10x8) it would look something like this:

• The wider geometry of the landscape photo replicates a human’s vision which is horizontal (wide), and thus is usually “more pleasing to the eye”.

In conclusion:

• Composition and framing are very well done. Although the square framing makes sense with the circle of flowers, I would have preferred a landscape cropping. That is just a point of personal preference.

• The light is correctly captured, but not dynamic enough.

• The highlight of the photo for me is the experience of peeking through “nature’s veil” to see the “other world”.

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