Hellfire Pass

Forums Critique Requests Hellfire Pass

This topic contains 7 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  Peter Robinson 5 years, 8 months ago.

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    Peter Robinson

    I took this shot a few years ago while on holiday in Northern Thailand. It’s Hellfire pass where World War II prisoners were forced to build a railway line to Burma by the Japanese. The visible railway has been relayed as a memorial for the thousands prisoners who died in building the railway. I wanted to try and show the present in the foreground and the history in in the background, so I used a graduated mask to fade a colour foreground to a black and white background. What I’m not sure about is the composition. Does the gang think I should have got closer to the railway and eliminated the gap between the railway and the bottom of the photo. Would it be better by having each rail radiate from the bottom corners? The scene has a lot of photographic potential and I don’t think I made the most of it. How do you think I could have improved this picture?




    Its a good poignent “record” photo Peter. I could  never critique your photography Peter—just remove that flood light  lying there. Taking the rails to the base would make it “pictorial” and it should be what it is-a very important historical record.



    i like it Pete, but maybe a small crop off the bottom


    meg cumming

    As Ken says its a good record shot,but I know thats not what you were aiming for Pete. If you look at the work of Don McCullin who was a war photographer you might see how he now does his landscape images. Dark,brooding feeling of ominous bearing. To me it feels as though you were  wanting to try and give a feeling of gravity and let the image have some empathy with the history of the place.

    You’ve already begun this by using a graduated  filter to turn it to black and white. I think it feels to clean,does that make sense? Doesn’t Thailand have a sticky jungle feel to it? Perhaps that graduated filter needs to feel heavier. Its only my view Pete because it is such a beautiful image and to try and give it gravitas or that feeling, may be a litter harder. What do others think?


    Ian McNab

    On the basis of how you describe your intentions about the image, Pete, I agree with other comments here that the section of railway line should enter the frame at the bottom edge (as if it’s coming from behind us), and come to an abrupt stop at the upper third of the image, as it does now.

    The idea of representing the foreground ‘present’ with colour and the more ghostly background ‘past’ with BW is sound enough – but maybe it should be a bit more obvious in the photograph (though of course you wouldn’t want to go too mad and overdo it). At the moment, because of the fairly uniform brown/grey colour of the whole image, I hardly noticed that part was colour and part BW. Increase the saturation in the coloured area a bit?

    I wonder if lowering the contrast quite rapidly after the point where the track ends would add to the effect? You’d have to play around with that sort of effect to see whether it didn’t just look naff!

    Meg has some interesting thoughts about ways of making the distinction between present and past stronger, too.

    • This reply was modified 5 years, 8 months ago by  Ian McNab.

    D. Williams

    This image does have huge potential Pete.  As ken said I would take out the spotlight to the right of the fifth rail as it really spoils it for me.  The light brown dried leaf is pretty distracting at the start of the left hand rail but that wouldn’t matter if you were going to have the rails enter the frame as this would be cut off.  Why not play with perspectives in photoshop just for fun?  Like Ian I didn’t even notice that the image was part mono and part colour until he pointed it out so maybe a little further drama needs to be added with increased saturation of the coloured parts and maybe a little dodging and burning.  Whatever criticism I have come up with I would still be beside myself with joy if I had managed to take this.  Damn you Robinson! 😉



    Peter you have ample responses–Itrust you will ignore those who miss the point- as it is it “IS” a piece of history  not to be made a pictorial picture. The rails have been placed there as a stark reminder!!!  the mind does the rest of imagining a continuas track of 3000 miles. That piece of track “IS” the memorial.


    Peter Robinson

    Many thanks for everyone who took the time and trouble to comment. There’s some interesting suggestions for me to try out and it’s interesting to see how the opinions vary. This is what I like about forums. So many different opinions.  The ‘lamp’ is actually a plaque but I agree it is a bit distract and will clone it out and I’ll try cropping the foreground so the rails enter the picture just to see the difference. Thanks.

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