Rooftops Revisited

When I posted ‘Rooftops‘, quite a few days ago, I said that I would be revisiting it.  This was because I wanted to discuss its ‘likeability’, either to photographers and the public in general or to trained photographic judges.  I kept that post intentionally brief, apart from inviting readers to state any reservations that they may have had about the image.  So far, maybe disappointingly, I haven’t spotted any really negative comments, but that is probably because you are all too polite.  That said, I liked the image before I captured it, and I still like it now.  Here it is again.

Rooftops

When I spotted the different textures and colours of the houses and their roofs, I felt that a photo had to be taken.

The photo was shot from Portland Heights, on the Isle of Portland, looking down over the village of Fortuneswell.  It was taken with my Olympus E-520, 40-150mm, f4.0-5.6, at 110mm.

Now I hope anyone who has read my previous posts will recognise that I am a pretty humble amateur photographer who knows that he has a long way to go to achieve the skills of many of you who post here.  This post is very definitely not searching for praise.  It is to try to explore what it is that makes an image ‘likeable’.

As I already said, I liked it.  My wife Dee liked it even more, in fact she liked it enough to ask me to print, frame, and hang it, albeit only in the downstairs toilet, and this may have been only because the colours matched the decor.

Encouraged by my wife’s enthusiasm, I decided to enter it in one of the Camera Club competitions.  Now Photographic Judges always admit at the start that it is only their opinion, so don’t be disappointed if they do not score your image highly.  They may sometimes admit to their favourite genre, and sometimes this may show in their judging, but generally this is not the case.  Unlike some of my fellow club members, who are always grumbling about judges, I generally hold them in high esteem.  This is because I have learned a lot from them since joining the club and entering competitions.  They are usually pretty consistent in their critique, but normally let us down kindly by finding something positive to say about our pictures, even when they are not great.  That’s enough about judges though, back to this image.

On the night this image was judged, there was not much discussion about any merits that it might have had.  From memory, I think that the judge’s critique went something like this:  “Nice enough photo, but no real focal point”.  I can remember being somewhat disappointed at the time, but because of my regard for judges, I took note of his comments and vowed to try harder.

A while later, while I was browsing the internet checking out the reviews of some of the latest cameras, I was looking at dpreview.com, which I think is one of the best sites for detailed camera reviews.  I spotted that they also set photography challenges, and as one of the the challenges at the time was titled Roofs and Covering, I thought I would enter this image.  Imagine my complete surprise when I received an email saying that my image had been placed 1st.  These challenges are not, however, judged by trained judges, they are judged by dpreview member votes and some clever statistical algorithm is used to take account of the fact that not all voters will view all images.  In other words, not necessarily a valid result.

I sometimes buy the magazine ‘Practical Photography’ and their website, Photo Answers also provides some quite useful tutorials.  For these reasons I joined their forum and uploaded a few of my images to their gallery.  Rooftops was one of those images.

When I was browsing the September 2011 copy of Practical Photography, I found on pages 28-29, in an article titled ‘Creative Viewpoints’, an image that to say the least, looked very familiar.  It wasn’t mine, but it was so similar that I had to do a ‘double take’.  The rendering of colours was a bit different, the time of day and maybe the weather were different and some of the houses seemed to have been repainted, however the viewpoint and crop were nearly identical.  This article was teaching us how to choose a viewpoint, so I thought that maybe I hadn’t done so badly after all.  I was prompted to write to the magazine, but I received no reply or inclusion of my letter.

Was it worth writing this?  I don’t really know.  Quite a few people like the image.  One judge, and a knowledgeable reader of the original post, have identified the lack of a focal point as a shortcoming.  My still unanswered question is “does an image like this really need a focus?”.  Ironically, there was a red van in front of the garage, nearly at the intersection of the lower thirds, but I removed this at I thought it out of place.

I guess that the only conclusion that we can draw from my experience with this image, is that if you like a picture yourself, then that is a good start.  By all means listen to critique from experts, and try to follow their advice, however don’t be hidebound by it.  Even the experts at a magazine like Practical Photography can get it wrong!

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20 thoughts on “Rooftops Revisited

    • Thanks. My answer is basically be the same as yours, but I suspect that many of us also seek to improve our skills and this means that we do need to listen to critique as well. This is particularly true if, like mine, one’s photographic skills still have a long way to go.

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  1. You have a great attitude about it all ! It’s just one judge’s comment (or even two or three). And you can decide what to do with it. Maybe next time with a similar image you can take photos “with focus” or “without” and maybe you’ll decide you don’t even want a particular focus on anything, or etc And your idea of focus would probably be different from someone else’s idea anyway (e.g. clear that the main point of interest/focus is one particular rooof? or one row of roof etc). Keep enjoying yourself and having fun!

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  2. The view from that terrace changes with the light but underlying any critique must be what is being seen at the particular moment. The need to look and see the differences the weather makes as each roof displays how well insulated it is; warmer roof, more moss seems to be the suggestion here. But it’s not the practical that I look for it is answering the question – is it worth putting on my wall???? Quick answer – YES.

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  3. First let me say that I like this image very much. I saw it in my “read blogs” list and clicked to get a better look ( always a good start I think !!) When you mentioned about the red van I found myself wondering a couple of things.. What would the photo have looked like with the red van left in? but also what would the photo look like if you took out all the colour exceot the yellow tones?

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    • Thank you Lynne. Your advice is good, but somehow my competitive nature kicks in and fuels a desire to please the judges as well. In the end though, we should produce what we like. I’m really not ‘hung up’ on this image, but thought it might just prompt some discussion.

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  4. Interesting post Dave with a lot of valid statements. With reference to your comments on critique, I believe that it is helpful in improving one’s photo skills. It is usually beneficial to have a second opinion from a fellow photographer who was not present at the time that the photo was taken. They can sometimes see the scene in a different light and offer advice that may improve the image. Obviously, the advice might not always suit the takers style or eye. I think that I commented on your photo when you first published it and after seeing it again and reading your blurb I would like to offer a little critique. I took the liberty of copying your photo and loaded it into lightroom as I thought that it might suit a square crop. Although the image was only 178Kb, and therefore not a lot to work with, I think that to my eye, it did improve the image. I added a little more saturation to the coloured roofs as well. I cropped vertically from the first green roof bottom left, then horizontally along the top row of green roofs. Try it and let me know what you think. Hope you don’t mind me copying the photo. I can email the crop if you wish.

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    • Thanks David, for you interest, time and trouble. No, I don’t mind you experimenting with it. I will have a look at your suggested crop. I think your detailed description of what you did will allow me to get the crop. I may not get your saturation adjustment right though. It was a while ago that I produced this image and at the time I was probably trying to get the biggest print that I could out of my A4 printer, so that may have influenced my original crop.

      As this spot isn’t too far away, and I’m always looking for excuses to take the new car out, I might well revisit the scene again soon,to see whether there is a better composition. As the Practical Photography picture was so similar, there may not be.

      Whatever I do, it will probably be worth another post. Thanks again. Dave

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  5. Nice post, Dave, good discussion! I was reading something recently by a professional photographer, in Amateur Photography magasine, and he made the same point as you have here, which is absolutely right >>> that if the photographer likes the photo s/he has taken, then that certainly is a very good start.

    And the point that we are all different, all with different visual likes / dislikes >>> such that I must say that the thought of submitting any of my images to a judge, no matter how well “trained” s/he may be, turns me right off! To me, photography is not any sort of competition, its all about self expression and creativity.

    And I get edgy when the word “expert” starts to appear! Experts in gear and technique there certainly are, but for me the enjoyment of photography comes from something far more nebulous, something far less easy to be an expert on.

    The rereating patterns with a focal point thing can go two ways. I used to think that just the repeating patterns are enough – human eyes really like them – but now I’m more towards having something strikingly different in there. Adrian

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