This is another photo from last Sunday's hike to Dry Lake in the San Gorgonio Wilderness. The scene was different from what my edit shows (which is nothing new), in bright daylight, very brutal contrast... but still, I'm a sucker for these somehow "empty" but tranquil scenes, and I saw that absolutely beautiful reflection of the trees on the water, and I somehow knew that I want to capture that, and carve it out at home - somehow. :)
Peaceful Dry Lake (NIKON D700, 1/60s @ ISO 250; f/8, 70 mm (in 35mm)
It is a photo from Dry Lake, not of Dry Lake. I read about that wonderful distinction right in the very first photo discussion in George Barr's book "Why photographs work" (highly recommended!) and it was an eye-opener: I make photo from subjects, not of subjects. It is a simple and yet absolutely complete answer to the usual (and sometimes irritating) questions such as "is it photoshopped?" that one is confronted on a regular basis when showing photos on the internet.
That's one of the reasons why I buy books about photography. They are still a much more solid and concentrated source of knowledge about photography than the random flux of blogs and comments on photo sharing platforms and forums and whatnot on the internet. I know, that sounds a little arrogant and like hypocrisy :P because I'm writing this blog and publish on the internet, but still:
Discussing photos on internet forums and photo sharing platforms has a tendency of becoming what I call "herding your homies" - one gathers a group of followers that add cheerful comments to your photos. But don't you dare to add a word of critique or question the photo of some renowned internet celebrity photographer. It has happened to me, and the reactions often show a surprising amount of arrogance.
On the other hand, as I grow as a photographer, and develop my own vision and style, I also begin to understand them. It is simply rather unlikely that you'll get a comment that is actually useful (I mean, other than petting your ego, which seems to be good enough quite often, at least it seems so) when you post a photo on a photo sharing site.
I notice that the understanding of photographic design and composition on such platforms is often limited to the rule of thirds, and maybe some lines "and stuff" - with little to no attention spent on the distribution of light and dark, color, rhythm, patterns, and the other design elements that contribute to composition, as well as all the tiny little details that keep a carefully executed and processed photo as a piece of art apart from an ambitioned, but somewhat careless (because unaware) snapshot.
I'm not saying that all photo comments posted on the internet are crap, but have a critical look at the comments your photos receive (even the ones that you're not so totally happy with) and be the judge. I'm not saying that I'm an expert on design and composition either - I just notice that it is an ongoing process, and that the knowledge accumulated in books like "Why photographs work" are a great helper to identify them, and continue one's own growth.
Another thing that really helps me is the participation on platforms like Seen.By and 1x - it's just very very different if you post a photo on Flickr, Picasa or 500px and your homies start cheering, or if a group of anonymous editors evaluates your work with focus on what their site represents (which is the reason why I quit 1x - we're just not made for each other I guess) and the chances to sell an image, that sort of thing.
Hell yes, it can be depressing. VERY! In the rush of importing and processing your latest photos you submit that masterpiece and poof, it gets rejected. It's tough. But it has helped me grow my own vision and style, asking myself what I really want to do and show, and work harder on that, than submitting photos to a free and open photo sharing site ever could.
So here's an appeal, a request: more honesty in photo comments. Stop the applause and the cheering, or break the silence, and say what you really like and what doesn't work for you. It's not that difficult:
When I notice that, with my perception, there's something wrong in a photo, for example in a way that it draws attention away from the subject, I just mention it, that's all (but an arrogant answer of denial is just a surefire way to make me stop looking at a persons photos.)