I entered the photo below for the last B&W print competition and got some unexpected comments from the judge. I know what I thought was wrong with it but he didn’t mention those and said something I completely didn’t expect. Please tell me how you really think this image could be improved. If you don’t recall his comments I’ll post them later. I just want to see if anyone notices the same thing the judge did…
For what it’s worth, Peter, my personal impression is that it’s rather busy, visually – loads of detail in every part of the picture, so not much figure-ground separation of a clear ‘subject’. Apart, perhaps from the lady sitting on the ground in front of the road roller, because her coat separates her from the pale roller behind her; and the nearest of her dogs ditto: pale against the dark end of the roller behind.
Othewise – and being much more pernickety – there are various disembodied legs, feet and heads about the place; and a various shape distortions due to the wide-angle lens (e.g. the verticals of the Old Hall on the left of the frame, and the jaunty tilt of the shapes in the traction engine in the bottom right corner) which seem rather arbitrary pictorially in an otherwise realistic depiction, and so are a little distracting.
(Was the judge a historian, agitated by the incongruity of 19th century / early 20th century traction engines set against a 17th century Jacobean building?)
Thanks very much for your comments Ian. I agree with you that it is quite a busy picture and there isn’t a definite subject. It’s more of a general scene. The legs growing out of the centre traction engine do look a bit odd as well. The wide angle lens does introduce a bit of distortion but that doesn’t worry too much.
The judge, Terry Hewitt, did note that the engines got lost a bit amongst the black and white timbered building. What surprised me was his comments that the photograph might be better without the people in it. Perhaps I misunderstood him, but I thought he meant all the people. For me the people in the foreground make the picture adding human interest to the atmosphere. I especially liked the dogs. Without the people I think it would be little more than a record shot. I took the photo to summarise a typical Sunday morning steam event of people enjoying their day out in an appropriate surrounding.
Perhaps the people further away – the bloke in the boiler suit and the woman + dog – could go without loss. But, like you, I think the sitting woman with two dogs in front of the roller are pretty essential to the picture.