Author Archives: Edward Kunzelman

PSA Competition Discussion #13

This picture is composed so perfectly that one would think these are plastic birds set up in someone’s garden, kind of like the pink flamingos that were popular 60 years ago. Really, I can’t imagine everything coming together so nicely otherwise.

These are the judges comments for Amy’s photograph “Love Is In The Air.”

Picture as submitted…

Edited for discussion….

My comments:

None of the judges “improvements” make any sense to me, which is not to say that there aren’t any possibilities for doing so. I just think they’re on the wrong track. After having suggested a square crop for about every wildlife picture before this, I like this one exactly as it is. In this case, there is visual interest beyond just the main subject. Lots of it. I like how the upper right corner adds depth, and, of course, the purple flowers make the picture.

The second judge appears to be recommending that the photographer change her camera position in order to separate the bird’s head from the background. Nonsense… the birds’ heads are white and the background is dark green. The birds’ heads are sharply focused and the background is out of focus. What more separation do you need? That suggestion also fails to recognize that by moving camera position, the relationship between the two birds changes too… most likely not for the better. They overlap perfectly as it is.

Here’s what I would improve:

You just can’t brighten this image much without blowing out detail in the highlights. Maybe a really, really small amount, but be careful not to lose detail in the feathers. However, you can remove the ever-so-slight bluish cast in the birds. It’s not much, but if you stare at it for awhile (or measure the color using the Photoshop eyedropper), it’s there. Color casts are like that… they can hide behind our brain’s processing of the scene as a whole. With this picture, you can make a rough selection around the birds using the Photoshop lasso tool, feather the edges, and see what happens with the cyan and blue saturation sliders. If there’s any bluish color cast at all, moving the cyan or blue color slider to the right 100 will expose it. After you decide that it’s really there, moving the color slider way to the left should eliminate it – without losing detail.

One other thing that I think improves this picture: I love the purple flowers scattered throughout the foreground. I would hit a few of them with the dodge tool (set to highlights) just to brighten and make them pop a little more. They are so pretty and add nicely to the scene. I described in one of the earlier pictures (the flower with the black background) how the background is so important to the picture. Technically, these flowers are the foreground, but it’s the same idea. It’s all part of the supporting cast around the main subject, and Amy really nailed it with this picture.

This is the last of the PSA competition entries.

Ed Kunzelman

 

PSA Competition Discussion #12

I really like this image for a number of reasons. I finally got my square portrait crop. And the bird actually looks engaged with something. What that is, we don’t know. Maybe dinner. But the look in its eye could stop time. I love the tension in the pose. It creates motion – unusual for a bird picture where the bird isn’t flying.

These are the judges comments for Marina’s photograph “Snowy Egret.”

Picture as submitted…

Edited for discussion….

My comments:

There’s virtually nothing I would change in this picture. Maybe brighten the eye and remove whatever it is hanging from its beak. Petty stuff. The important discussion in my mind stems from the judges’ recommended improvements. I disagree with all of them. I’ll address them one by one:

“Muted light makes for easy exposure but lacks impact.”

How to respond to that comment delicately? Hmmmm…. rubbish! I could not disagree more. First of all, I’m not sure what is meant by an “easy” exposure. Probably something to do with the effect of the light on contrast, but we could use a little more information. Besides, I didn’t think we took a picture because it was easy, but because the light enabled the photographer to capture a story and express it in her chosen way. Which leads me to the second part of the judge’s comment regarding impact. I love the mood of this picture. The brooding sky complements the look of the bird so perfectly, that any other color of sky would compromise the story. I think it has a ton of impact.

“I wish there wasn’t so much empty space on the left.”

Why? So we can turn it into a vertical format conforming to the rule of thirds? The crop is perfect the way it is. There’s a mostly vertical structure of elements with a shift of the neck and beak to a more horizontal plane, all fit into a square frame for nice balance. That’s one method for creating subtle contrast in the form of lines and shapes.

“Adding more light to the subject will give more contrast to the muted blue-grey background.”

True… but why do we want that? Brightening the bird (adding contrast) changes the mood. The egret needs to look a little cold, angry, hungry, and uncomfortable for this picture to work. Besides, he’s not way underexposed to the point of losing detail. The judge is simply making a subjective assessment disconnected from the mood of the scene. The holy grail of photographers is to elicit an emotional response by the viewer. Altering the mood of this picture in any way risks destroying that response.

Ed Kunzelman

PSA Competition Discussion #11

Don’t get me wrong… I’m really not much into artsy Photoshop filters. If I wanted to make a picture look like a painting, I should learn to be a painter. That said, there are times which have called out to me to slow the shutter, wiggle the camera around, and explore what sort of impressionist pictures would come out of the camera. This is one such time that, had I been there, I might have gone down that path. On the other hand, sunsets over the ocean are so beautiful, I might very well have dumped the camera in the car, nuzzled up to my honey and watched the sun call it another day with her. Lu’s saying… “Sure you would, hahaha.”

These are the judges comments for Dawn’s photograph “Pacific Sunset.”

Picture as submitted…

Edited for discussion….

My comments:

From a photographic point of view, and more specifically a photo competition point of view, the picture invites an extra measure of creativity. Of course we don’t have oceans in Colorado, so it’s an appealing and different scene for those of us here. But if the PSA judging club happens to live by an ocean, I doubt they’ll be impressed. Which is why I think the picture needs something a little extra. A person with his dog getting an evening walk on the beach? A couple holding hands? Something to engage with the viewer. Okay, I’m not inclined to search for people in my picture, so I’d probably have looked at it a different way. The water in Dawn’s picture is really choppy (it’s missing that calming affect) so I think I’d have explored a long exposure to try and smooth it out: 30 seconds or maybe a couple minutes. Something to achieve that impressionist look of a Renoir painting.

Short of an 800 mile return trip to LA, we can simulate the idea in Photoshop. Apply a motion blur, sideways. Since we don’t want a football shaped sun, copy it from the original and paste into the modified image. Blur the edges of the sun quite a bit so that it removes the hard edge and doesn’t look like it’s been copy and pasted. I also used the dodge tool (set to highlights) and brightened a pyramid shaped path of light from the sun on the water. Lastly, I increased yellow and red (orange) in the water to give the overall picture a more monochromatic look. I know… I can hear everyone screaming: “Stop screwing with Dawn’s picture and go take up painting.” Fine, I’ll do that after I learn to play the piano.

In response to the judges’ recommended improvements: “So much water.” Well, oceans tend to be that way. “Sun is the subject, not dark water.” You can’t have more than one subject? “Crop in till the ocean is about 1/4 or less of the image.” Seems to me like the judges miss the point of the picture. You can’t crop significant portions away from this picture and still achieve the same impact. We’re back to that frequently abused rule of thirds, or take the horizon out of the center. Forget that stuff and go with what feels the best way to represent the scene.

Ed Kunzelman

PS. Click on the comment(s) above to read Dawn’s explanation and some of the choices she considered for her picture.

 

PSA Competition Discussion #10

These are the judges comments for Ona’s photograph “Out On A Limb”

The original picture…

And my version edited for discussion….

My comments:

Ansel Adams was asked why there were no people in his pictures. To which he replied: “There are always two people: the photographer and the viewer.” And there the problem begins… the photographer sees the image one way, and the viewer interprets it another.

Take composition, or specifically cropping, for example. There were 13 pictures submitted for competition and three judges… that’s 39 opinions for all of the pictures. A quick survey reveals that 14 of the individual judge’s comments suggest or imply cropping would improve the picture. In only one instance was it suggested that the photographer should have included more of the scene. Why, do you suppose, that is? After all, we have rules and guiding principles for photographic composition. If we all followed the same principles, wouldn’t we all agree on the final result? Why so much cropping? Glad you asked. I’m going to propose an answer which lies in the psychological underpinnings of photography. Here it goes:

At the precise moment when every photographer is pressing the shutter button, he or she is influenced by a whole lot of things to which the viewer is not. The photographer is looking out over the whole landscape… possibly a pond below this eagle in Ona’s picture, or a river running nearby, a larger grove of trees; and then the other sounds and sensations such as birds chirping, the warmth of the sun on the photographer’s back, or the blistering cold, possibly the smell of autumn leaves on the ground, or the hot coffee in hand. All of those things – sights, sounds and feelings – transcend the limited frame of a picture, but impact how the photographer decides on the final composition.

The viewer, however, sees only a tiny cross section of all that; experiencing the photograph with a lot of filters. The viewer doesn’t see the pond below or feel the cold. How viewers read all of those extra feelings and sensations into the picture is up to their imagination, with only a little assistance from the photographer. Therein lies the skill of communication. Photographers naturally want to expand the view of the subject in their pictures, often times as an unconscious attempt to show more of what they felt while watching the scene unfold before their eyes… “context,” if you will. But communication isn’t always as successful as we wish. To the viewer, a tree branch or two or three is enough to show context. A few more branches doesn’t add a pond, so why do we need to see so many branches? Why is half the picture devoted to secondary redundant elements? Well… on the other hand, why not? There is no perfect answer. My point is that the field of view by the photographer is expanded, consciously or not, by a wish to communicate more of the sights and emotions of the scene than what potentially speak to the viewer. It’s how they choose to tell the story.

The same could be said of writing. Writing and photography are two sides of the same coin… one shows what I want you to see, the other expresses through words what I think. Both are forms of communication. And if the reader feels like they got the message after one sentence, then the rest of my essay becomes superfluous, just like the extra branches in Ona’s picture… it means something to me but nothing to the reader.

The important thing that I’ve come to appreciate is that I can’t control how the reader responds to my writing (or picture). I can’t demand of readers or viewers of my work that they respond in the manner that I intended. I can only present it in a way that is meaningful for me. If you want to shorten my essay or crop my picture, fine, but it probably won’t change how I choose to express either one. I highly doubt that it will for Ona either. Ansel Adams was famous for saying to his critics: “My picture either speaks to you or it doesn’t.”  Edward Weston, another famous photographer of the 20th Century, uttered this gem: “The only thing critics do is psychoanalyze themselves.” I think that was in response to having had his pictures rejected for a prestigious art show on the west coast. See, even the best artists get agitated over criticism of their work.

Ed Kunzelman

 

 

PSA Competition Discussion #9

I really like the composition of this picture by Bob Peterson. As one judge said, you could return over and over and see it in different light. I could sit there until it got totally dark and just take it in.

We’re headed down the home stretch this week with the last five pictures entered into the PSA competition. Log in to the TMCC website and post your thoughts on some of the pictures.

These are the judges comments for Bob’s photograph “Grand”…

Picture as submitted…

Edited for discussion….

My comments:

The judges recommend lightening the lower right corner and brightening the rocks. I agree with half of that. The rocks would pop more from the picture if you just touch them with the Photoshop dodge tool. However, I would balance the light in the picture overall by darkening the upper right corner of sky and brightening the trees in the lower left corner. I don’t think the lower right area of trees needs any adjustment at all.

The other consideration is color. The valley in this picture is extremely blue. That’s not unusual. Colors in the shade always tilt toward blue. Snow does the same thing. It’s gonna appear even more pronounced if we increase saturation of the picture overall. If editing the entire picture in one step, and trying to increase saturation in the clouds and trees, blue in the valley follows along with it.

This is where we need to work with the sky and the ground separately. It’s pretty easy to do here because there’s a clear dividing line between the two. Using the Photoshop magic wand tool with a tolerance of about 20, you can click through the sky near the edge of the land in the background. Hold the shift key (Mac) down as you click through the sky in order to add new selections, rather than replace one with another. You might need to refine the selection with the lasso tool on the left side where the difference in colors is very little. Once the selection is made, the rest is pretty easy. Saturate the cyan and blue; leave the reds and yellows alone. Then inverse the selection so that that you’ll be working on the foreground and valley floor. For that part of the picture, simply desaturate the cyan and blue. One tip… push the slider all the way to one extreme or the other just to see where the change in saturation impacts the selection in your picture. In this case, reducing the blue primarily effects the valley floor, but leaks into the trees in the lower right as well. So we need to adjust our selection. Using the lasso tool while simultaneously holding the option key (Mac), draw a loose line around the trees in the lower right to subtract them from the selection. Now go back and lower the cyan and blue saturation.

A couple other minor details: I debated over cloning out the rock in the lower left and branches in the extreme lower right. They don’t really bother me much, but the eye does tend to keep returning to the bright rock in the lower left corner. In a larger print, all of these little things become magnified. And since I got beat up once by judges several years ago for a small rock cut off in one of the corners of my picture, I decided to pass it along. The picture is a bit soft, so adding a little sharpness helps. Also, I counted at least nine dust spots. One judge referred to them as water spots, but I suspect it’s just dust on the sensor.

By the way, Marina has been keeping me busy with asking for a third version…. a happy medium between the original and edited version. How do we do that for those of us who don’t save a million adjustment layers? The quick solution for me is to open the original RAW file, and copy and paste the edited version as a new layer on top of that. Use the opacity slider to create the balance between versions that you want. If some areas require more or less opacity than others, add a layer mask and just brush in areas where you want to fine tune different parts of the picture.

Follow the discussion for all of the pictures:

http://thundermountaincameraclub.org/category/discussion/

Ed Kunzelman

PSA Competition Discussion #8

These are the judges comments for Robert’s photograph “Window Dressing.”

Picture as submitted…

Edited for discussion….

My comments:

This picture is a lot like Debbie’s in terms of our outlook on editing. The big question is whether to increase color saturation. This could be a mine field, as it is with a lot of pictures. I readily admit that I know very little about the natural colors of birds and some of the funky colors in their eyes that we don’t see in humans. I’m sure the light in which they’re photographed makes a difference too. In looking at Robert’s original, there is definitely a hint of yellow in the eyes, and some warm colors throughout their feathers. The birds are sitting in the shade, though, where colors would naturally be muted. I’m guessing the colors could be enhanced without destroying credibility in the picture, so I chose to increase the saturation of just the yellow by itself. But how much yellow do we add before it looks surreal?

The improvement that the third judge recommended to “lighten the eyes and bodies” is a little misleading. That implies increasing exposure, which lightens all tones equally from dark to white. I suggest leaving the blacks where they are, and brightening just the highlights in the birds alone. Brightening highlights in the wood washes out detail there. In Photoshop, draw a loose selection with the lasso tool around the owls, and feather the edge. In “Levels,” you want to scoot the highlight slider on the right a little to the left. That effectively increases contrast… addressing how one judge described the picture as a bit flat. Also, their eyes aren’t really white, so brightening their tonal values results in something different than saturating color. Remember, contrast comes in many forms… tonal values (black to gray to white) and color (such as yellow to blue, or red to green) being the two most common. This is a case of judiciously editing both tone and color to get the results that you want. The color saturation we added in the first paragraph will already increase contrast and help the picture look less flat. Brightening the highlights is a separate step.

As far as the judge’s comment about using fill flash, I’m guessing birds don’t like flash in their eyes any more than humans. But if the judge really wants some catch lights in their eyes, we can do that in Photoshop easier and without pissing off the owls. Personally, it doesn’t look right to me… birds don’t sit in studios equipped with softboxes for a family portrait.

The remaining issue is whether to crop the picture. While that’s almost always high on the list of most judges critique, surprisingly none of them mentioned it here. By now, I’ve made my preferences known for a square crop with portraits. I see the square crop as bringing the viewer “closer” to the owls in this picture. The owl on the right was already wondering about the pose you asked of him, like… “Does this pose make my butt look big?” Crop it a little to make him happy. And ask him to tuck in his feathers next time. Forewarn him, too, that you’re gonna blind him with flash.

Ed Kunzelman

PSA Competition Discussion #7

With today’s picture by Bob Clarke, I’m going to ask another hypothetical question. How would the image look different if it had been shot on an overcast day, instead of bright sunlight? Please note that I’m not asking whether a change in lighting would improve the picture or make it better. I’m only looking to establish how it changes the picture. I consider the answer to that question to be indisputable fact, whereas if I ask whether the lighting improves the picture, the answer becomes entirely subjective.

These are the judges comments for Bob’s photograph “Colorado Four O’clock.”

Picture as submitted…

Edited for discussion….

My comments:

It’s difficult to answer my question by simulating the answer in Photoshop. I’ve done my best in the edited version, but in some cases there’s no substitute for mother nature. However, if I wanted more diffused light outside on a bright sunny day, there are strategies and tools to accomplish that. I could hold something like a white sheet between the sun and the flower. I could even set the camera shutter on a timer of a few seconds and stand between the sun and the flower. If I really wanted to get elaborate, I could set up a diffuser on one side, and another object on the opposite side of the flower to bounce light back into the shadowy dark areas. Something as simple as a silver reflector that you might use on the dashboard of your car would work. It doesn’t have to be expensive stuff out of the B&H catalog. But why the bother?

The biggest reason, and answer to how the picture changes, deals with contrast. With overcast or diffused light, bright spots and shadows are diminished. Light wraps around the subject, the same way portrait photographers use softboxes in the studio. Think of clouds as the great softbox in the sky. In Bob’s picture, the highlights are fairly pronounced on the outer edges of the flower. Shadows get pretty dark and devoid of detail, especially if the camera is pointed down into the inside of the flower. The edges would not be as pronounced in lower contrast images, but shadows and highlights usually show greater detail. Lower contrast pictures typically show greater uniformity of color. The lower-contrast approach can produce a “softer” image, which might also benefit from less sharpening. All of those speckly white spots in the stem and base of the flower, which are accentuated by sharpening, are gone by softening the picture (I used the dust and scratches noise removal filter in Photoshop). Some people like the drama of high contrast images; other people prefer the detail exhibited in low-contrast images.

From a botanist’s standpoint, the solid black background is great. Focus is entirely on the subject… no distractions. From a fine-art perspective, I’ve just seen it done too many times. Sure, it isolates the subject in dramatic fashion, but the more I train my eyes to pay as much attention to the background as I do the subject, the more I want to see a “great” background which complements the subject nicely. Solid black doesn’t do much for me. I’m sure other people will strongly disagree. But considering that a black background is surely added artificially in some form to the flower’s natural surroundings, it is just as reasonable to fake a background by throwing in some greenery – either in the garden, in the studio, or in Photoshop.

As always, I look forward to reading other people’s comments. If you’ve been hanging out on the sidelines, now’s a great time to jump into the discussion. We’re about half way through the PSA entries, so there’s plenty of opportunity ahead, and no law against commenting on some of the older posts. I’m sure the photographers appreciate a diversity of opinion beyond just my comments. If you’re unable to login and comment because you can’t remember a password, contact me or Bob Peterson and we’ll reset it for you.

Ed Kunzelman

ed@edwardkunzelman.com

PSA Competition Discussion #6

For this picture, I’m going to deal with a hypothetical question. How would the image change if it had been shot with a longer focal length lens? In other words, what would have looked different if the photographer had used a zoom lens, say in the 200-300mm range, instead of the 34mm (35mm equivalent) that was, in fact, used for this picture?

These are the judges comments for John’s photograph “Paintbrush in the Park.”

Picture as submitted…

Edited for discussion….

My comments:

Well, first of all, with a longer zoom lens he wouldn’t have been able to capture as much of the fence right in front of him, or been able to focus on it very well. That’s one advantage of a wide-angle lens… it brings much more of the foreground and background into the frame, and with greater depth-of-field (range of focus front to back) too. But there are trade-offs with a wide angle lens. It makes the more distant elements look smaller. In this case, the fence appears right in your face, but the mountains seem to recede almost imperceptibly into the background. And that’s the aspect of this picture that troubles me. The picture is framed strongly by the fence in the foreground but the background sort of wanders off into nothingness. The sky takes up half the space of the picture, but the clouds too, like the mountains, feel like a faraway thing.

The solution for the mountains is to use a longer focal length lens. The effect of which is to compress the scene and bring the background and foreground closer together, where the viewer feels immersed in both. Unfortunately, as I stated in the first part of this critique, a longer zoom lens isn’t gonna be able to capture the fence as it appears in this picture. I’m merely suggesting that we consider our options and the impact that a choice of lenses has on our picture. Standing and looking at this scene, the possibilities for composition are numerous. As one alternative, we could stand back a little further away from the fence and use a longer focal length lens, in order to compress the background and foreground. Again, it’s a trade off… the fence would not appear like you were standing right on top of it, but the mountains would be a stronger element in the picture.

And there’s always the Photoshop solution, which enables the photographer to pick up where the capability of the camera leaves off. It’s a great way of merging a couple of pictures that take the best of both. The reworked image here shows how that can solve the near-far problem of the original.

Keep in mind, too, that clouds are a critical element of every landscape picture that includes a sky. If half the frame is taken up with sky, fill it with dramatic clouds… or, if they’re not there and you don’t believe in Photoshop cheating, then minimize the amount of space in the picture allocated to your sky. Make sure that your clouds contain detail in the large majority of them. In this case, there are too many vast expanses of what are called blown-out-highlights, or pure white areas of the clouds. This, too, is another subject where trade-offs may be required. If exposing properly for the darker shadow areas such as the fence post, the brighter highlights in the clouds are going to lose detail. If choosing a faster shutter speed, the clouds will look great, but the fence and other shadow areas are going to lose detail.

A few solutions: Buy yourself a graduated neutral density filter, which darkens the sky without impacting the foreground. Some photographers also buy a lens attachment for holding the filter. When I’m in a hurry, I just hold it with my hand in front of the lens. Another option is to hope for a passing cloud between the sun and your subject to diffuse some of the harsh light that causes unmanageable contrast and blown out highlights. It’s amazing how quickly clouds move through the mountains, and simply waiting a few minutes can change the lighting enough to create a perfect exposure. Sometimes just the structure of the clouds themselves solve the problem. The ones I placed into your picture are from a sunny day, but there are fewer washed out bright areas. The last option is to combine multiple exposures in Photoshop.

Lastly, I rotated the picture slightly, using the back row of flowers as my “horizon,” and planted a few flowers below the fence, both of which strengthen the right side of the picture. The center of the picture is typically the easiest to compose… it’s the perimeter of the frame, and especially the corners, that we often neglect in our composition.

Ed Kunzelman

PSA Competition Discussion #5

These are the judges comments for Sharon’s photograph “Wild Beauty at Sunset”

Picture as submitted…

Edited for discussion….

My comments:

This is a perfect time to have a discussion about the rule of thirds. Now I’m certainly no great portrait photographer, people or animals. I don’t have the patience to shoot wildlife photography, and I feel guilty asking humans to sit still long enough for me to analyze the pose, lighting and everything else important in a portrait. But it has never made sense to me when the subject of the picture is so clearly the person or animal, why it’s wrong to place him at or near the center of the frame. And then make it a square crop to hold attention on the subject. Everything else mainly provides context, but the horse, the bird, the person, or whatever is clearly the subject. In this case, I placed him just to the right of center. I made pretty much the same crop on Debbie’s fox picture. We definitely need to hear more opinions on this subject.

Orange colors in a sunset like this are dramatic, and I think they could use a little more punch. The horse might be brown, but I’m pretty sure even the horse is gonna look more orange in that light. If not, then I’ll admit to having overcooked him a little in my editing. Regardless, I’d still like to see more pop in the sky and ground. The easy way of doing that is simply adjusting color saturation, but I think there’s a better way which enhances contrast too. Used with restraint, Photoshop’s HDR Toning is an extremely useful tool for enhancing saturation and mid-tone contrast, without blowing out the sky. If anyone’s interested in how that process works, post a comment here and I’ll expand on it.

Ed Kunzelman

PSA Competition Discussion #4

These are the judges comments for Mary’s photograph “Dance Behind Bars.” Log in to the TMCC website to see each of the PSA competition photographs reviewed to date, and contribute to the discussion with your own thoughts about each one.

Picture as submitted…

Edited for discussion….

My comments:

In the very first paragraph of the introduction of Paulo Coelho’s book “Eleven Minutes,” the author writes: “On 29th May 2002, just hours before I put the finishing touches to this book, I visited the Grotto in Lourdes, France, to fill a few bottles with miraculous water from the spring. Inside the Basilica, a gentleman in his seventies said to me: ‘You know, you look just like Paulo Coelho.’ I said that I was Paulo Coelho. The man embraced me and introduced me to his wife and granddaughter. He spoke of the importance of my books in his life, concluding: ‘They make me dream.’ I have often heard those words before, and they always please me greatly.”

I’ve read several of Coelho’s books recently. They’re short novels; he’s best known for “The Alchemist.” I liked “The Hippie” the most of his books that I’ve read so far. If they don’t make you dream, they’ll at least make you think. Really… can we even define what a hippie is, beyond stereotypes and physical appearances? But I’m getting off track.

In 2012, just as I was getting serious about photography and searching for opportunities to sell my work, I went to visit Camille, Director of the Western Colorado Art Museum. I laid out several landscape photographs on a long table as she looked carefully at each one. I was always proud of the work I did, but as the moments passed by I had an uneasy feeling that something was wrong. Finally, she said something to the effect that the prints would go well in some sort of gift shop on Main Street. “So you don’t like them,” I interpreted, thinking they should be exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York; not Alida’s on Main Street in Grand Junction. When I pressed her further on what sort of art she did like, she said, “art that makes me dream.” So began my quest to make images that would make a more profound impression on the art world than a poster in a gift shop.

Well, I don’t know about the idea of invading another person’s dreams with my photography, but one thing I do know for sure… which is that a good photograph takes us somewhere. Just like a good book or song that we get immersed in, and takes us to another time or place, a good photograph can do the same thing. That’s what I like about Mary’s photograph. I can imagine strolling through a gritty back alley of Paris or Casablanca. I would give this picture high marks just for being different, and as one judge described: “mysterious.” I appreciate a creative eye… an eye which looks for interesting things in not so obvious places. The picture causes me to look twice, and holds my attention.

The third judge speaks of removing a few elements from the image. I suppose one’s response to that would depend on whether the photographer considers herself a photojournalist or a fine-art photographer. I am definitely the latter at this point in my life, although my roots in photography date back to the infancy of Photoshop when I worked producing real estate brochures showcasing some of the fanciest homes in Aspen and Vail. The rule was that if it was a permanent fixture, I could not clone it out using Photoshop. If the photographer forgot to move a trash can from the front of the home, I could do that in Photoshop. But I couldn’t remove a power line. I’m glad to be free from that type of work, and can go about creating whatever I care to imagine.

If we’re looking at this picture from a fine art perspective, what about that recessed shelf and light fixture overhead? If you were a painter starting with a blank canvas, would you introduce those elements into the scene? I think not… so I took the liberty of cloning them out to see if it improves the picture. I darkened the top of the picture with a slight vignette which helps push the eye toward the primary center of interest. I also introduced a bit more texture into the wall – I love texture and will photograph something for that reason alone, especially something that I’ll want to print on paper. Of course when it gets to print, I want as much sharpness and detail as I can squeeze out of the image capture and post-processing. The gritty texture here is a big part of the story. The picture brings me to a place that I’ll probably never visit in real life. Thank goodness for photography.

Ed Kunzelman