Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Troubleshooting: Lost lighthouse

A friend submitted this photo for a critique and to see if anything could be done to improve it. This is the Crisp Point Lighthouse near Paradise, Michigan on the south shore of Lake Superior. Judging from the shadows, this was probably taken in the early afternoon. The sunlight is quite harsh at midday, and it is always better to try to take outdoor photos in early morning or late afternoon. The light is softer and warmer at those times of day. I know it’s difficult when traveling to make accommodations for early morning or late afternoon shooting, but it’s always worth the effort as far as photos go (this particular lighthouse is way off the beaten path, so you have you take what you get, conditions-wise). My family has come to the understanding that when we’re traveling, dad is going to be out early in the morning and late in the afternoon into early evening taking pictures. The rest of the day is for accompanying the family to shopping or other activities.

But back to the picture at hand. My friend knows enough about composition to put the main subject, the lighthouse, in one of the outer third corners of the picture, but he still came away with the feeling that something may be off. To me, the biggest problem is that the lighthouse seems to be lost in the trees. While my friend established a foreground, middle ground and background in his picture, the trees in the middle ground, through the visual magic of perspective, seem to be as tall as the lighthouse and compete for attention with the tower. So the first order of business is to explore some cropping options to try to isolate the tower and minimize the distraction of the trees.

I explored both a horizontal and vertical crop. I focused on getting the large tree at the left of the picture just out of the frame, keeping as much of the horizon of the lake as possible and minimizing the tall thin pine tree to the right of the tower. I then moved the vertical crop up and down to see if I liked it better with more sky or more foreground foliage. Personally, I prefer the crop with the foliage on the dune, but you can go either way.

A little darkening of the middle tones and a slight boost in color saturation in PhotoShop rounded out my adjustments of the picture. The lighthouse now stands as the undisputed focal point of the photo. By the way, my friend has more photos and some thought-provoking posts at his blog. Check it out.

Do you have a picture you would like critiqued or fixed? Send me an email at jjrdns6[at]aol[dot]com and write "Troubleshooting" in the subject line.

Click on pictures to enlarge.

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